If you’re wondering what singer/actor/dancer Gabriela “Gaby” Tortoledo is really like, I asked one of the students she taught as an adjunct professor in the Theater Department at Miami-Dade College.
“By far the best teacher I have EVER had,” said the young learner. “She is kind, caring, inspiring, and hilarious. She motivates you to grow and keep pushing. She revived my dim fire in the performing arts. Now, my fire burns bright. I will forever be grateful to her.”
Nearly three years after earning her own Master of Fine Arts degree in Theater Performance at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton (a step she found personally essential to hone her acting skills), Venezuela-born Gaby Tortoledo has happily found a niche on stage and in front of cameras in South Florida, and elsewhere. The “hilarious” lady laughingly posted a message on Facebook saying she is now “old enough to play teenage roles.”
South America-born Gaby has packed a lot of living into the span of a few decades. She’s pursued educational opportunities on three continents, including a stint at the City Academy London along with FAU, the Boca Raton-based education center she chose out of many potential venues to complete her stage studies. After dabbling with several possible vocations – graphic design, visual communications, and business administration among them – she unexpectedly got “the calling” that directed her to a career as an actor, singer, and dancer.
While in the U.K., her “moment of awakening” came as she watched a performance of the musical, Wicked, a mystical tale focusing on the witches from the story, The Wizard of Oz, and how they developed into the sorceresses they became. “It was so magical,” the auburn-haired, brown-eyed daughter of a ballerina mother and architect father said of her in-theater epiphany. “After that, I didn’t want to do anything else.”
The idea of a career in performing arts might have occurred to her sooner. “The arts were always in our home,” she said. “I was in a tutu before I could walk.” She learned classical ballet, jazz, hip-hop, and Latin urban dance in her home country as her learning level grew. Her resume also cites abilities to sight-read music, perform stage combat, articulate cockney, Spanish, French and Italian dialects, and – yes, even yodel.
Gaby Tortoledo, age 10, Venezula
Coincidentally, as a youngster growing up in Caracas, she didn’t spend a lot of time at the theater, but rather, “I consumed American television. I was addicted to the escapism.” But she did recall seeing the musical, The Lion King, at age 12.
“As long as I can remember, I always wanted to be on stage and tell stories,” she said. “I can’t tell you why I didn’t pursue it right off the bat.”
In fact, during childhood, she sang and performed mini-dramas in her room. Still, her quest for success has come with something of a personal toll. For 14 years, starting in 1999, her home country was ruled by a Socialist dictator Hugo Chavez.
“That’s when things started to go downhill,” she said. During his iron-fisted tenure, he turned a once affluent nation into a country riddled with severe crime – including nighttime “express kidnapping,” a constant threat that made Gaby afraid to drive alone after dark. The perpetrators “would travel around the city at night, stopping people and demanding a ransom. Either they would take you home with the trauma of the experience or do their worst.”
“Fortunately, we never went through that,” she said, referring to herself and her then-boyfriend, Gabriel Delgado, whom she married in December 2020. With no small measure of terror, she recalled how Delgado was “pursued by another vehicle” one potentially deadly evening. The operator of that vehicle drove off, unable to see through Delgado’s dark-tinted windows. Today, the South American nation’s inhabitants continue to deal with significant shortages of food, electricity, water, and medical supplies and are listed as a “Do Not Visit” location on the US Travel Advisory list.
Gaby’s parents, who continue to live in Venezuela, are considered safe in a gated community. But they expressed concerns early on about the safety of their daughter and two sons. “My dad was very aware of the crisis,” she said.
“He told me when I was a senior in high school that ‘I want you and your brothers to go live elsewhere.'”
Gaby Tortoledo, age 15, Venezula
By 2008, at the height of Venezuela’s political turmoil, Gaby said her father repeated his plea for them to leave. “I started researching schools,” she said. And using her English-Italian citizenship,
“I was able to work and attend school in the U.K. I enrolled in college and was taking singing lessons with Pippa Duffy at City Academy. “One day, she came up to me and said, ‘Gaby, do you like this? Why don’t you pursue it?'”
She intended to. But upon returning to Venezuela for winter break, she encountered a “life – interrupted” situation. She met Delgado, the man she would marry about eight years later when both had finished their schooling. During that interim, he, Gaby, family members, and friends also had to deal with an immigration system that often left them wondering if they would be forced back to Venezuela.
That fear, Gaby said, still haunts her today, not only because of her homeland’s troubled existence but by the difficulty, expense, and uncertainty of maintaining a student visa. That angst remains evident when she is on stage.
“I just did a reading of Vanessa Garcia’s new play, Ich Bin Ein Berliner at FAU’s Theatre Lab. The story hit home with me about how the author dealt with the effects of a communist regime. The rest of the cast wondered why I cried so much, and for so long. My years of uncertainty and deep fear are very tangible.” Gaby also drew comfort from her fellow students in the MFA program at FAU. “You become a family. That allows you to create and perform.”
They were also aware of her on-stage displays of emotion. Gaby said she performed in close to a dozen plays with her FAU classmates. Among her favorite roles and shows were Sally Bowles in Cabaret, Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility, and Shelby in The Spitfire Grill. The vibrant brunette with sparkling eyes and a buoyant personality has racked up impressive regional credits, including Tara in the world premiere of Compensation (Island City Stage), Antonia in Man of La Mancha (MNM Theatre Co.), Elaine in The Graduate (Michael Leeds) and Polly in The Gingerbread Lady (Primal Forces Theater). She also boasts a role in Amazon Studios’ series, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
Gaby Tortoledo as Sally Bowles in Cabaret at FAU Theatre and Dance
Gaby Tortoledo as Greeter in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon