The award-winning solo play “Tortilla Heaven”, featuring 2005 performance artist of the year Jade Esteban Estrada, is coming to West Chester University on Saturday, Feb. 10 at 8 p.m. in Sykes Student Union. Tortilla Heaven is a play based on family and tradition, and sheds a comedic light on the struggle that many second and third generation Mexican Americans go through with trying to hold on to their culture.
Jade Esteban Estrada plays seven characters in order to show the different types of people and personalities that make up a traditional Mexican family in today’s society.
The play is bilingual, but Estrada uses his hands and face to express himself so that everyone can understand the Spanish parts.
One of the characters that Estrada plays is a young boy named Charlie whose mother Vera Mae Ruiz becomes ashamed of where she came from and is a writer whose books encourage Latinos to speak English only.
While she is focused on her career, Charlie is left with his Grandmother, also played by Estrada, is an old-fashioned, traditional, mainly Spanish speaking Mexican woman.
These characters, combined with other colorful characters such as Nena, a woman who is not related but is always in someone’s business, allow Estrada to find hilarious ways to raise awareness of a realistic issues among many Latinos.
Each character has their own unique struggle with trying to find the balance between assimilation into the American culture while still holding true to their roots, culture, language and ultimately themselves.
“In the college experience, there is a lot pressure to become something different from what you were raised to be whether it be smarter, more Americanized, more fashionable, or more affluent. But when we go back home, who are we going to decide to be? I think that’s one of the most interesting questions this production raises,” Estrada said. According to Estrada, the show has been so successful because it focuses more on what people have in common instead of focusing on differences. “Tortilla Heaven” appeals to all kinds of people because we all have a home. We all have a culture. We all have our own language and we all have a family of some kind,” Estrada said in an interview with The Quad.
Estrada calls the play a family affair because it was written by his sister Celeste Angela Estrada and directed by his brother David Miguel Estrada. The idea for the play originated from a memory of when Estrada and his sister would sit at the table while their grandmother would make tortillas and offer words of love and guidance.
Ever since then the scent of tortillas gives them a sense of home and family. This keen memory was what led to the title of “Tortilla Heaven.”
“‘Tortilla Heaven’ is a way to keep everything the way it used to be. It’s definitely a nostalgic journey for the audience,” said Estrada.
“Tortilla Heaven” has made its way around the country and has been performed at numerous colleges and universities. The play has been called “a story of life, love and making tortilla’s the American way.”
Estrada confessed to The Quad that his favorite part is when he can meet and greet the audience members after the performance.
When asked if he had anything to tell the West Chester community, Estrada responded that, “We can look at ourselves in the mirror all day long and miss something very important about who we are and where we are going. I think that’s why it’s easier to see oneself in characters onstage and at the movies. I’m very excited to see the people of West Chester come out to celebrate the show with me. But they should be warned that if they do come, they might just catch a glimpse of themselves in my mirror.