"Cashed Out" - Stories from Gila River Indian Community Reservation
By Catherine Barry
World Premiere by Native American playwright at San Francisco Playhouse
“Our theater is an empathy gym where we come to practice our powers of compassion. Here, safe in the dark, we can risk sharing in the lives of our characters,” say Susi Damilano and Bill English, co-founders of SF Playhouse say of their theatre company.
Upholding its mission, the company presents a World Premiere of a bold new work by award-winning Native American playwright, Claude Jackson, Jr.
Opening Wednesday, February 1 (previews from January 26), “Cashed Out” tells the story of three generations of women who live on the Gila River Indian Community Reservation (O'otham) in Arizona.
Five of Jackson’s plays have been featured in Native Voices at the Autry Short Play Festivals, the country’s only Equity theatre company devoted to developing and producing new works for stage by Native American, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian and First Nation playwrights.
The setting of the play, the Tohono O'odham reservation south of Phoenix, is also where Jackson grew up, and where his lifelong interest in storytelling began. Later, the theater bug took root in his college years when he got involved in the improv scene. The Autry festival helped showcase and launch his work, and the 2019 short version of this “Cashed Out,” won Jackson the Excellence in Playwriting Award.
The play tackles difficult themes of addiction and issues upholding tribal traditions and family struggles, but the main character Rocky Camu’s personality brings light relief.
“By nature I’m a pretty funny guy who likes to laugh and joke, but the original theme in this play is dark, and something that I dealt with in early life and affected me personally." Jackson told SF/Arts. "I take addiction seriously and in this play I didn’t hold back. The central character, Rocky, deals with the darkness of a gambling addiction but her character is also peppered with humanity and humor.”
Controversy continues to surround the flourishing Tribal gaming world, but Jackson, a working attorney and director of his tribe’s public defender’s office, is grateful to have reaped the benefits.
“I’m a product of the positives of the Indian gaming business. I would not have had an opportunity to get a great education and attend law school without the funding through my tribe, where I now hold a great job.”
As a public defender, Jackson says he is passionate about advocating for individuals in his tribes. In the middle of the run of "Cashed Out" at SF Playhouse, the busy attorney has a major trial back home that he has to tackle.
Jackson first interacted with the play's director Tara Moses (who he refers to as “a wonderful spirit”) when they both had plays at Autry. Moses helms an outstanding cast of acclaimed actors of Native American and Indigenous descent.
Award-winning actor Rainbow Dickerson makes her San Francisco Playhouse debut as Rocky. Featured in Netflix’s upcoming live action adaptation of “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” Dickerson’s work in the feature film “BEANS” earned her a Vancouver Film Critics Award and TIFF Rising Star and a nomination by Quebec Cinema for the Prix Iris Revelation of the Year Award.
Returning to San Francisco Playhouse where she recently performed in “Water by the Spoonful,” award-winning actor and playwright Lisa Ramirez plays Virginia Camu. Matt Kizer makes his Playhouse debut as Buddy, Rocky’s father. Matt is a proud member of the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California. Chingwe Padraig Sullivan makes their Playhouse debut as Levi Tashquinth, a close family friend to the Camus. Sullivan is a two-spirit Indigenous actor (Shinnecock and Montaukett nations).
As Bay Area theatergoers we are accustomed to acknowledging the land on which we gather belongs to Native peoples of past, present, and future. Now we have a rare opportunity to take our sentiment to another level. Let's support this work.
San Francisco Playhouse (450 Post Street, San Francisco)
Previews: Thursday, January 26 – Tuesday, January 31, 2023
Opening: Wednesday, February 1, 2023
Closes: Saturday, February 25, 2023
Childhood friends Levi (Chingwe Padraig Sullivan) and Rocky (Rainbow Dickerson) share a memory in "Cashed Out." Photo by Vita Hewitt