Former O’odham Action News reporter and Gila River Indian Community member Claude Jackson Jr. wrote a play called “Cashed Out” that will be performed at the San Francisco Playhouse this winter. The play will make its world premiere there and run from January 26 through February 25.
Jackson is currently an attorney and the director of the Gila River Public Defender’s Office. He started writing short plays more than 10 years ago, frequently entering them into the Native Voices Short Play Festival, a project of The Autry Museum of the American West in Los Angeles. “Cashed Out” was the 2019 festival winner.
“I have been a finalist for the last five years. They [Native Voices] give you a subject to write a short play on, such as the trickster, water or environment. In 2019, the subject was about gambling,” said Jackson. “I did a short play about a fictionalized family that lives out here on the west end [of Gila River]. The main character is a woman in her 30s who is addicted to gambling; she is a part of a family who are basket makers and is pulled between family and progressiveness. The story is about addiction and how the family tries to help her through all of this tragedy. It’s not like the happy ending or anything like that, but I think it’s a very good story.”
After Jackson’s short play won at the Native Voices festival, it was staged for a few people in the theater industry, which is how it was picked up by the San Francisco Playhouse. Jackson was asked to add more to the story so it could be made into a live production; it went from 10 pages to more than 100 pages.
“I did like three drafts of the play and worked pretty fast,” said Jackson about getting the play ready for the live production.
The play went into rehearsals during the last two weeks of December. Jackson recently had heart surgery and was not up to flying to San Francisco to help start the production, but he was included through Zoom. He plans to be there a week prior to the first show, which will be on January 26.
“I never imagined something like this could happen. I did a movie [screenplay] back in 2015 and started writing these short plays. I am ecstatic over it; it’s hard to describe how awesome this feels,” said Jackson. “Hopefully it does well and it gets out there and I can bring it to Arizona.”
The play will have a majority Indigenous production team and actors. It is directed by Tara Moses, and actors include Rainbow Dickerson, Lisa Ramirez, Louisa Kizer and Matt Kizer. The play will be shown January 26 through February 25 at the San Francisco Playhouse. For tickets and more information, visit www.sfplayhouse.org.