many Latin pop singers do you know that get to play Susan B.
Anthony?" the entertainer Jade Esteban Estrada
asked in a recent phone interview from the road. The answer, of course, is
only one, and that would be Estrada. The Texas native brings his turn as
the women's rights pioneer (and other historical figures) to Houston on
June 22 for a performance of his one-man musical "ICONS:
The Lesbian and Gay History of the World Vol. 1." The
Houston premiere of his show is appropriately a fundraiser for the Gulf
Coast Archive & Museum of GLBT History.
Then, as part of his
whirlwind Pride barnstorming of Houston, Estrada is one of the headliner
acts for the June 25 pre-parade Pride Festival. In between, he performs in
a June 24 show at Club 1415. Estrada also rides on the AVES (Amigos and
Volunteers in Education and Services) float in the Pride parade and hands
the trophies to the best-float winners at the June 26 awards ceremony at
the Guava Lamp. "Wherever you perform becomes a holy place, whether
it is a subway, school lunch room, or a stage," he told New York
Arts magazine last year.
Estrada, who has
performed excerpts from "ICONS"
on "The Graham Norton Effect" on
Comedy Central, is an actor, writer, singer and recording artist, dancer,
and choreographer. When asked which form of entertaining he enjoys the
most, he answers, "It's funny. That kind of question makes me think
about how categorized everything has become. People need to have things
fit in a way that they understand it. Back in the '50s, '40s, '30s,
entertainers were expected to do everything. If you didn't sing, it was
weird. If you weren't able to tell a joke or two, it would be strange. Of
course you had to dance. And these days people are surprised ... When
[they see] my CDs [they say] 'oh, you sing, too?' People are
been multitalented from a young age. Born in San Antonio, he won a
scholarship to the American Music and Dramatic Academy in New York. He
went on to play major roles in European productions of musicals,
including "Starlight Express" join a hip-hop group (with Mario
Vasquez, who later popped up
on "American Idol"), win awards for his stand-up comedy, and release two
solo pop albums, including the recent "Angel" (on his
own Vicarious label).
currently performs two volumes of "ICONS" in which he transforms himself
into gay and lesbian figures from history. In the first volume, he appears
as Michelangelo, Oscar Wilde, Gertrude Stein, Sappho, Sylvia Rivera, and
Ellen DeGeneres. In the more recent
second volume, Estrada becomes Susan
B. Anthony, Alexander the Great, Queen Christina of Sweden, Billie Jean
King, Harvey Milk, and gay 9/11 hero Mark Bingham.
How does he
prepare for the task of becoming a one-man musical cast? "For "ICONS,"
I like to immerse myself in any one of the characters," he says.
"For instance, Susan B. Anthony is someone that I've really been
targeting this past week. It's really important to keep a performance
fresh, and how I do it is by continuously finding out new things about
her--new things she did, memorizing dates or special events in her life
that I might not have been aware of when I first wrote the piece. There is
a sense of you being deeper into the character for yourself. It's tastier
for the audience when there's more of a depth and richness to it."
been performing "ICONS"
on a cross-country tour (after Houston, he takes the show to Charlotte,
then to Austin and Lubbock). "You never know what your show is about
until you get it in front of people. "ICONS
Vol. 1" as not what I thought it was going to be when I
started to perform it around the country. I had no idea the need people
had...this was something that the people needed post-Bush election. I
enjoyed being there and feeling all these people going, 'Oh my God,
that's my history.' What "ICONS"
became as a show for me was different from what I started. I grew with
the people who were there. "ICONS
2" is actually me growing
with these iconic figures of history.
When not exploring famous
historical figures, Estrada also performs as a singer and comedian and
tours with another one-man show, "Tortilla
Heaven," written by Celeste Angela Estrada, his sister. He
appears in the new French documentary "Quoi? L'eternite!" celebrating the 150th birthday of
the gay poet Arthur Rimbaud. Other movies he appears in are
Fit," "The Legacy of Walter Frumm," "El Hombre de las Tortugas," and the
German film "Erwachsen Werden." This month, he will skip across the
country, performing at Pride events in Las Vegas, Nashville, and
Milwaukee, in addition to Houston. Estrada is currently working on a new
music CD (he also has a track on "Being Out Rocks", the all-star
2002 CD released by the Human Rights Campaign for National Coming Out
Day). And he is looking toward the third chapter of the "ICONS" series.
Estrada demurs when asked
if he could reveal any information about the next
"Yes [long pause], but I won't, because I really want it to be
special in the sense that it's the last one in the trilogy. It's been a
wonderful run. Once the three of them get put to film, then I will be
done. Life is very short , and there are many things I want to do."