burst of original talent lit up recently over at the Contemporary Arts
Jade Esteban Estrada
performed his one-man musical, "ICONS:
The Lesbian and Gay History of the World, Vol. 1" -- for which he also wrote the text
and the lyrics and composed the music. Here's review of
Decafest (a weekend-long round robin
of celebratory events) presented "ICONS." The icons were Sappho, Michelangelo, Oscar Wilde, Gertrude Stein, Sylvia Rivera and New
Orleans' own Ellen DeGeneres. This list includes a wide gamut of
personalities, and part of the fun of the show came from the stunning
transformations that actor/singer/dancer/writer/composer
off before our very eyes -- for he changed costumes and wigs right up
there in the spotlight.
The set was an attractive, somewhat arbitrary conglomeration of costumes
and wigs, lying on a long table and some chairs. The music (mostly
keyboard and voice harmonies) was piped in -- but the action was timed
carefully so that the music often seemed to punctuate, propel or even
obey a gesture.
Sappho (who gave us "sapphic" love) lived on the isle of Lesbos (which
gave us "lesbian") around 600 B.C. She was one of the most acclaimed
lyric poets of ancient Greece.
Then, all of a sudden, wham!
Estrada changed into a stern, intense man
-- a painter. Now, he was Michelangelo. Camp went out the window. From
here on, the grasp of character was strong, idiosyncratic and purposeful
-- as well as immensely entertaining. The characters all explained who
they were and sang a signature song about their life and struggles.
Oscar Wilde did a sort of music hall turn with a bowler hat, cape and
cane. Gertrude Stein in a black dress and sensible shoes scowled at us
from a chair. She scolded and lectured and won us over with her
truculent pomposity -- for she graciously conceded that her friend
Picasso was also a genius, perhaps even her equal.
Sylvia Rivera was a Nuyorican hustler in sparkling green short shorts,
with a scarlet blouse tied across the midriff. Rivera also ricocheted
between truculence and charm, though in her case the tone was decidedly
"street," rather than aristo. Rivera lost her cool in a police raid (one
raid too many) at a Greenwich Village gay bar. In fury, she threw her
silver slingbacks (with 12-inch acetate heels) at one of New York's
finest, thereby starting a riot and unintentionally launching the gay
Finally, Ellen DeGeneres put in an appearance and -- despite the
pressures and perils -- boldly "came out" as a lesbian in a national
Estrada -- who has worked as a dancer, choreographer (with Charo, no
less) and has scored hits as a pop singer -- held the stage effortlessly
and put on a slam-bang performance. I hope the rumors that he will
return with volumes two and three of his "ICONS" series are true.
©2006 Gambit Weekly