‘Crawfish: We the Invisible’ tackles homelessness in a theatrical production

Gamal-Chasten-from-the-play-Crawfish-1400x933, ‘Crawfish: We the Invisible’ tackles homelessness in a theatrical production, Local News & Views News & Views
Gamal Chasten from the play “Crawfish”. – Photo by Mikki Shaffner.

by JR Valrey, The Minister of Information

“Crawfish: We the Invisible” is a theatrical production written by the lead actor Gamal Chasten that will be featured in this year’s San Francisco International Arts Festival on Saturday, June 17, at 6 p.m. and on Sunday, June 18, at 4 p.m. at the Brava Theater, 2781 24th St. in the Mission District. The production centers around homelessness, which is currently a catastrophic social ill locally in one of the richest cities in the United States and, for that matter, the world. I talked to the writer and lead actor Gamal Chasten about his inspiration as well as the purpose behind the theatrical production of “Crawfish: We the Invisible.” 

JR Valrey:  What inspired you to write “Crawfish: We the Invisible?”

Gamal Chasten: I am a playwright and actor. This piece was inspired by the character which I had developed for another play about Hurricane Katrina. The play was named Amerivlle. I then revisited the character for my theater company’s follow up play, Americus, in 2020, which premiered at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park in 2020.  It was then that I realized the character Crawfish had more to say.

JR Valrey: How long were you homeless? Where?

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Gamal Chasten: I have almost been homeless. There were two occasions where I came very close to being homeless, but I have never been homeless. It is because of those close calls that I learned how fragile things are and how easily it can happen to almost anyone.

JR Valrey: What is the San Francisco International Art Festival? How did you become a part of it?

Gamal Chasten: The SFIAF is run by Andrew Wood, who has known my work for a long time and approached me about wanting me to be part of the festival as a way to support my work.

JR Valrey: What do you want people to get out of seeing you and your castmates perform?

Gamal Chasten: I want people to not blame the victim. I want to attach a face and a life’s history to a growing human condition. The hope is that the next time an audience member passes a homeless person in the street, they think of them as human and someone with a story rather than an annoyance and someone who makes them uncomfortable.

JR Valrey: Where did the production get its name?

Gamal Chasten: The character was born in New Orleans, and a crawfish is a bottom feeder, so it spoke to me for those reasons. Because that is how the homeless are viewed.

JR Valrey: How long have you been writing for theater? How did you get started in that?

Gamal Chasten: I have been writing for theater for 30 years. I began as a poet and co founded my theater company Universes in the late ‘90s, and we started writing plays for off-broadway after being nurtured by poets from the Nuyorican Poets Cafe; poets like Willie Perdomo, Reg E. Gaines, Dael Orlandersmith and Miguel Pinero.

JR Valrey: How long have you been a thespian? How did you start?

Gamal Chasten: I’ve been an actor for 30 years.  My career as an actor and playwright started at the same time.

JR Valrey: When do you perform next with Crawfish at the Brava?

Gamal Chasten: The performances are June 176-7:15 p.m. and the 18 4:30-5:15 p.m at Brava Studio Theater.

JR Valrey: How do people keep up with you online?

Gamal Chasten: Gamal Chasten on Facebook and Instagram. My website is https://gamalc.wixsite.com/website-1

JR Valrey, journalist, author, filmmaker and founder of Black New World Media, is also the editor in chief of the San Francisco Bay View newspaper. He teaches the Community Journalism class twice a week at the San Francisco Bay View newspaper office.