put it best when she sang, "If I Could Turn Back Time." International
Jade Esteban Estrada took a cue from the pop
diva and actually peeled back the hands of time to portray a half-dozen
important gay and lesbian historical figures in each of his one-man
"ICONS: The Lesbian and Gay History of the World, Vol.
2." Estrada begins each section portraying a pivotal gay
or lesbian character from long ago. From there he moves forward in time
picking out other key individuals in gay history.
Estrada 'travels through time' to become the next
Estrada prides himself on these transitions between characters,
noting that for some actors that can be the most difficult part of any
production, but it comes easily to him.
"Transitions--that's my thing," he says.
Estrada begins with history's 'first' lesbian, Sappho,
admitting the character is one of his favorites. From there he treats us
to days in the life of esteemed artist Michelangelo, authors Oscar Wilde
and Gertrude Stein, Sylvia Rivera, the teenage transgender warrior who
threw the first shoe in the Stonewall Riots, and finally, Ellen
DeGeneres. Writing and choreographing the show himself,
really quite convincing when in character. Once he begins, the
characters seem to take on a life of their own.
"Oh, I'm gone. I'm in the back smoking a cigarette," he says. "They
become their own people."
Estrada has a particular fondness for Oscar Wilde.
"I can walk onstage with a 105 degree fever, I can be just waking up, or
I can have not slept for 4 days and he is always the same in energy. I
love that about him."
The inspiration for these one-man, one-act plays came about from a love
of history that
Estrada incorporated with his other passions: music,
comedy and performing.
"I got the idea for "ICONS" because I have always loved history. I had the
opportunity to do a show at the Columbus National Gay and Lesbian
Theatre Festival. I come from musical theatre so I thought I'd put the
things I love all together in a fun way. In Spanish we say, "Ensename
con quien andas y te digo quien eres," (show me who your friends are and
I'll tell you who you are). Well, I started to meet people from GLAAD
and the Human Rights Campaign in my touring and I could not help but
care after a while about the gay movement around the world. So with the
history I already had and my history as a singer, I came up with this."
"They say that nothing you do in life is ever wasted and I believe that
to be true. I hated tap class. In my Harvey Milk segment, I tap all the
time. I used to always sing the girl part in 5th grade (before my voice
changed) and here I am with Sappho remembering what it is like to be
that young in my head. With Oscar Wilde, I used to live in England, so
when I put this together it was like, 'If I hadn't done and experienced
these particular things, I would have no clue how to do some of this
Although they have not met, Ellen DeGeneres is aware of
portrayal of her-her mom told her all about it.
"I'm friends with Betty DeGeneres. We met working together with the
Human Rights Campaign. She is really into it. You know how moms can be.
She's a sweetheart and a great activist in the community."
Estrada began his career in comedy and music. Dubbed "America's Prince
of Pride" by NBC News, he has participated in 168 Pride celebrations
around the world in the past five years.
"As a Latin pop singer, I love my job, but I do plan to return to
stand-up comedy once "ICONS 3" opens and has had its run."
He has performed in seven languages and in 33 countries to date. In
1995, he was awarded "Funniest Amateur Comic in New York" and has had
this music featured on FX's "The Shield." He spent some time as Charo's
lead dancer and has shared the stage with Madonna, Jennifer Lopez, Ricky
Martin, Margaret Cho, RuPaul, Jody Watley and Jimmy Somerville. Genre
Magazine calls him "the most exciting Latin pop artist ever to emerge
onto the music scene."
"ICONS" was produced by Gypsy Productions at the Suncoast Resort Theatre
last year. In honor of St. Pete Pride and was brought back in May,
accompanied by "ICONS 2" which begins at the funeral of Alexander the Great's lover and rifles through time and characters like Billie Jean
King, Mark Bingham, Harvey Milk and others. "ICONS 3" is on the
horizon-Estrada plans to debut the production in the fall in Columbus,
Ohio. He described "ICONS" as being in the format of "a happy cabaret."
"ICONS 2" is a little darker.
"It is the middle child so it's going to be a little different. For
"ICONS 3," I'd like to put the best of what I've learned together. It is
going to be a big splashy show. It's the last one in the trilogy so I
want to go out with a bang."
When in comes to the creative process,
Estrada says "it" just comes
naturally for him.
"Sometimes as an artist, we don't have a choice with
these things. We have to do it. It haunts us in our sleep. It pushes you
off the bed until you write it down and capture it. An idea flies around in the
air and searches for a place to live…it wants to live in your head. With
"ICONS 2" I learned so much about myself that I look
forward to finding out what is behind 'ICONS 3.'"
Estrada says he loves playing the Tampa Bay area and will definitely
bring "ICONS 3" here next year.
"I am happy to have come back to this area so many times. We have a
great time. The people are awesome and very progressive in this
particular part of Florida. You guys really care about equality and
diversity and it's obvious. My show is interactive so I can always tell
exactly where I am by the way people react. Politically or emotionally
you can always tell. I always get a quick, clever audience when I come
©2006 Tampa Bay Gazette