Gamal Abdel Chasten
Gamal Chasten is a founding member of the acclaimed poetry/theater ensemble Universes. As a playwright Chasten has presented Slanguage, The Last Word and God Took Away His Poem. As an actor he has been seen in Slanguage, Reg E.Gaines TIERS, In Case You Forget, You Can Clap Now, God Took Away His Poem and in the film Jails, Hospitals and HipHop.
1. What was your inspiration for The Last Word?
The initial inspiration for The Last Word was, knowing my father would soon be passing. And as a writer I addressed it the only way I knew how; to write about it. Although the family in The Last Word does not resemble my own they helped me to cope with my greatest fear at that time. The idea of losing one of my parents.
2. How has your work with The Universes (a spoken-word and hip-hop theater ensemble), influenced The Last Word?
First off, before Universes can be labeled a Hip-Hop ensemble, we must first be labeled a Blues, Jazz, Salsa, Funk, Soul ensemble. The work we do is multi-layered and non-traditional theater. Working with four amazing and talented performers has helped me to understand that fusion in art is as necessary and inescapable as it is in life. Most of us are more than just one of anything. And through that process of working with Universes I have cultivated my many voices and ideas. And I hope to continue exploring many voices throughout my career as a Playwright.
3. Music is a significant element of The Last Word, what appeals to you about working with music in theater?
As corny as it may sound, I do look at music as being a Universal language. When dialect fails us it is the one medium through which we can all find common ground. Through its vibration, emotion and soul it is an effective way to say what is on your mind and to be understood.
4. What has been the most exciting or challenging part of creating this show?
The most exciting part for me has been collaborating with other artists (actors, stage managers, lighting technicians, musicians, singers, and comedians.) It has also been very rewarding to know that people are actually interested in what I have to say. The most challenging thing has definitely been approaching this piece as a producer/actor. I thing acting is one of the most challenging professions a person can undertake. God bless anyone who chooses to get on stage. And I hope to make enough money one day as a playwright so I never have to produce my own work again
5. What is next for you?
I have started writing my next work, which will be a story about where the blues comes from. I would like tell stories of the men and women who sang field hollers, and of those men on the chain gangs, in Texas and the Mississippi Delta. Not much has been done on stage about the music that gave birth to the Blues. Singing has always helped to make oppression and pain tolerable.