LA PRESA DE SAN ANTONIO
'TORTILLA HEAVEN' JUST LIKE HOME
By ALEJANDRA L. UGARTE
Read it online:
Playwright Celeste Angela Estrada wrote "Tortilla Heaven." Photo by JAMES
This week, the very friendly, jovial Jade Esteban Estrada spoke with the
Entertainer about what got him into acting, his role in the play "Tortilla
Heaven," and what the production means to him.
"I was a scratch vocalist for the Back Street Boys, said Jade, "and I got
into acting because I would sing all the time."
Because of his love for music, he eventually got into musicals, starting
dancing and acting. "Everything else," he said, "just kind of evolved."
"Tortilla Heaven" follows three Mexican-American generations who share the
richness of what it means to be a Latino family. The story takes place in San
Antonio, and tells the story of a grandmother, who doesn't speak much English
(actually she just prefers to speak Spanish). The grandmother has one very
successful daughter who is an author. Elvira Ruiz, or as she prefers to call
herself, Vera Mae Ruiz, has become famous for encouraging other Latinos around the
country to strictly speak English and nothing else. She believes that "this is
the true means to success in America."
Jade Esteban Estrada plays seven characters in the solo play "Tortilla
Heaven." Photo by ANGEL HESS.
At one point, Vera Mae has the opportunity to become even more successful and
come back to San Antonio for the first time in 11 years. Vera Mae says she is
traveling to San Antonio with her 11-year-old son, Charles so he can get to
know his family. She really, however, has other plans.
"Vera Mae eventually leaves Carlitos with the family in San Antonio and you
never really see her after that," said Jade who plays an older Carlitos in the
Carlos grows up with the family and the Mexican culture and becomes a
professor at UT Austin. There he writes a book titled "Tortilla Heaven" which takes
the best of his mother and the San Antonio family.
"What's beautiful about the Latin culture is that we have a very close-knit,
loving, forgiving family relationships," said Jade. "I remember when we worked
with a full cast in New York; we ended the play with everyone joining for
dinner. As all the cast members come onstage, grabbing for tortillas, and getting
the chilito, one of the vecinas (neighbors) comes in with a picture of Vera
Mae and plops it onto the table. This was a very beautiful message that sea lo
que sea (no matter what), Vera Mae is still family."
Jade goes on to say that the play is trying to tell everyone that they need
to hold on to their culture, to acknowledge the changes that happens in
families and allow people to be who they have to be.
David Miguel Estrada directed "Tortilla Heaven". Photo by ANGEL HESS.
"I'm gay and I'm also Latino, said Jade, "and very few times in my world do
the two mix. When I do "Tortilla Heaven" it feels so wonderful for me. I feel
very much a part of my family with Celeste, my sister who wrote it and my
brother David who directed it and that's a beautiful thing."
Jade added that with "Tortilla Heaven" he feels like he's continuing his
culture and keeping it alive in a modern way.
"This is important because we are the young generation," said Jade. "We have
to do it because if we don't our culture is going to die. We can't let that
happen. We can't let America do that to our culture."
Tortilla Heaven will play again in San Antonio in 2006.
If you go:
Starring Jade Esteban Estrada
Written by Celeste Angela Estrada
Directed by David Miguel Estrada
Monday, October 3, 2005
Collins Garden Public Library
200 North Park
Admission is Free
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