Jade Esteban Estrada-actor, musician and comedian who has appeared on Comedy Central’s “The Graham Norton Effect”-portrayed seven characters in the one-man show “Tortilla Heaven” Monday, Nov. 7 at Washburn University.
The play was brought to Washburn by the multicultural affairs office and Hispanic American Leadership Organization [HALO] as a way to involve and educate students about Hispanic and Latino culture. The play also served as a way to involve members of Topeka’s Hispanic community with the students and events of Washburn.
“One of our [HALO’s] main goals is to mix our organization within the Hispanic community,” said Gabriel Munoz, junior accounting major and member of HALO. “We have done things like car shows and dances, but wanted to do something different to aim at an older crowd and bring them on campus. I was very impressed with the turnout we had tonight.”
“Tortilla Heaven,” written by Estrada’s sister, Celeste Estrada, is a tale of three generations of a bilingual Mexican-American family. The first generation lives a humble life while trying to make their new home more like their old home. The second generation discards their roots in order to conform to the American way. And the third generation tries to understand it all without knowing the language of their people.
“I was interested in doing something Latino oriented,” said Jade Estrada. “There is a whole generation of people like me-descendants of native Spanish-speakers who understand Spanish but don’t speak it. There are a lot of subtle issues that can get lost in translation. I wanted to address this issue.”
The play primarily focuses on an 11-year-old boy’s relationship with his mother and grandmother as they try to balance cultural differences while delivering dialogue that shifts back and forth between Spanish and English.
“You don’t have to speak Spanish to understand this show,” said Jade Estrada. “It’s something that has to do with assimilation, something that has to do with anyone who comes from another country and feels the need to be successful in America by speaking English only. That is the point of this show.”
“Tortilla Heaven” earned playwright Celeste Estrada the 2004 Gertrude Stein Literary Award. The play is directed by David Miguel Estrada, brother of Jade and Celeste.
“I thought it was a great show,” said Traci Nigg, freshman from Wichita, Kan. “It was a great job of showing what happens when people from other countries try to conform to mainstream America and turn their backs on their own culture.”
Jade Estrada’s performances have earned him several points of recognition, including a 2005 Spotlight On Off-Broadway Theatre award nomination for his solo show “Icons 2.” In 1994, he was named Funniest Amateur Comic in New York by Stand-Up New York. In 2004, Jade Estrada received the 2004 Audience Favorite Award in Solo Performance in New York theatre. He has released several CDs including “Reggae Twist,” “Angel,” “Being Out Rocks” and his music has been featured on the cable police drama “The Shield.”