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Estrada demurs when asked if he could REVEAL any information about the NEXT 'ICONS'.

"YES...(long pause) but I WON'T..."

  FINDING JADE
   
  OutSmart Magazine
  By ANNA POMEROY
  Photo by FADELA CASTRO
  June 2005

 

  "How 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 shocked."

     Estrada has 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).

     Estrada 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."

     Estrada has 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 "A Perfect 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 "ICONS" . "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."

 

2005 OutSmart Magazine

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