you don't know who Sylvia Rivera is, or
moreover, don't know the cultural
significance of Stonewall, then
Esteban Estrada's show might be for you.
Part history lesson, part politics, part
musical and all entertainment,
"ICONS: The Lesbian and Gay History of the
World, Vol. 1" takes an insightful and
seriously funny look at several gay icons
throughout history. The 29-year-old Texas native
performs the one-man, six-character show at the
Adams Avenue Studio of the Arts through Sunday.
Volume 1 of "ICONS,"
channels Sappho, Michelangelo, Oscar Wilde,
Gertrude Stein, Rivera and Ellen DeGeneres. Part
of the fun of the show is watching
transform into each character on stage,
stripping off the garments of one person to step
into the clothing of the next. With the donning
of a wig and the beat of a drum,
in persona is complete, absolute -- and in some
cases, radical. When he becomes Stein, for
Estrada's body stoops into a slow
shuffle and his face twists into a curmudgeonly
old woman's. It's just as dramatic when Stein
dons Rivera's ultra high heels and struggles
into a tight-fitting outfit.
Even during the singing
Estrada stays strictly
in character, modulating the style and his
robust voice to fit each personality. So
classical poet Sappho is lyrical and sweet,
Michelangelo is passionate, Oscar Wilde is
Vaudevillian, Stein is solemn and severe, Rivera
is a defiant diva and DeGeneres is wacky
Gay Latino pop star
Estrada is also a dancer,
choreographer, actor and writer. He penned the
lyrics and music used in "ICONS." He
regularly appears in Comedy Central's "The
Graham Norton Effect" and has performed in
Pride festivals worldwide, including San Diego's
own in 2003.
Estrada gets to use all these
talents in "ICONS."
He is also a history buff that says if he hadn't
become an entertainer, he probably would've gone
"It's always important to understand where
you've been to understand where you're
Estrada in a recent interview.
"But there's a huge bunch of history that's
been lost" to the gay community, he said.
Rivera and Stonewall, for instance.
A bit of history: In 1969, policemen raided New
York's Stonewall Inn, hoping to arrest
individuals for engaging in then-illegal
homosexual acts. A 17-year-old Puerto Rican drag
queen threw a high-heeled shoe at the cops.
Rivera's single act of rebellion triggered riots
that lasted for days and an uprising that had
profound cultural and political implications.
But even many people within the gay, lesbian,
bisexual and transgender community are
unfamiliar with Rivera and what's often
considered the turning point for the modern gay
Because of its content, "ICONS" is an
inherently political show, said
with entertaining audiences, he hopes to educate
them to the struggles and triumphs of the GLBT
community. At the very least, he aims to make
gays more visible within mainstream culture.
"I'm not holding signs in front of
churches; I'm not getting married -- I'm having
a show. You come see my show, you don't see my
show, it's all good," he said. "But if
you know that my show is listed in your city,
and you know that its present, that's a tiny,
tiny little thing in the mind of a straight
person who's never met a gay person that goes,
'Oh, there they are.'"
But the show isn't just about gay identity and
history. It is also about humanity, diversity
and finding balance in our lives, said
In one of the performance's most poignant
moments, Stein delivers the line: "Don't
get caught up in this gay activism; we're all in
this together. It's not a gay thing, it's a
Estrada's take on it, too. "My show
is for everyone. Gay, straight, old, young,
black, white," he said. "It's a
reaffirmation that the more you look at people's
differences, the more you realize that we're all
Estrada will be back in San Diego in 2006 with
Volume 2 of "ICONS," covering
Alexander the Great, Queen Christina of Sweden,
Susan B. Anthony, Billie Jean King, Harvey Milk
and Sept. 11, 2001 hero Mark Bingham. And if
you're still musing on Susan B. Anthony's
inclusion on the list, you'd better see that
show as well.
©2005 San Diego Daily Transcript