Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Luna Stage will present Gabriel Jason Dean’s Heartland in April

Luna Stage will present Gabriel Jason Dean’s Heartland from April 4-28. The intercontinental love story directed by Ari Laura Kreith will be the fourth production of Luna’s 2018-2019 Season. Set in Nebraska and Afghanistan, it has been described as "a magical new play about family, grace, and the consequences of defending an American Empire.”

“One of the things I love about Heartland is that it invites us to ask questions about our own responsibility, both to the people we love and to people we have never met,” says director Kreith. “And it asks what we do when something we once thought was a moral action turns out to have had dark consequences.”

“In 1984, USAID and the CIA commissioned the University of Nebraska's Center for Afghanistan Studies to create textbooks for Afghan schoolchildren. The textbooks are filled with violent images and militant Islamic teachings… subtle, coercive propaganda meant to stimulate resistance against the U.S.S.R. Heartland,” writes playwright Dean “is inspired by these true events.”

“Yet Heartland is not a violent play,” adds Kreith. “It’s a play about how we come together. It explores how we move forward with grace and love in the face of a past that may not be the one we would have chosen.”

The story of Heartland moves from Nebraska to Afghanistan, and travels backward and forward in time. Nazrullah, a young Afghani mathematician, arrives on the doorstep of Omaha literature professor Dr. Harold Banks, carrying a copy of The Old Man and the Sea. Across the world in Maidan Shar, Harold's adopted daughter Getee teaches The Diary of Anne Frank and questions her identity while living and working in her birth country. Together, the three examine love, loss, and what it truly means to take care of one another.
In conjunction with the production, Luna Stage is sharing the work of Australian photojournalist Richard Wainwright, who works with the NGO Act for Peace to document and support girls' education in Afghanistan. 

Heartland is the final play in Luna’s 2018-19 season, which has featured four plays exploring how we bridge cultural divides. The season has included J.Stephen Brantley’s Pirira, set simultaneously in Malawi and Manhattan; Camilo Almonacid’s The Assignment, exploring gun violence and reconciliation; and most recently the World Premiere of Christina Gorman’s Roan @ The Gates, a cybersecurity love story.
Tickets are $16-39, and are available at or by calling 973-395-5551. A limited number of premium Opening Night tickets are available for $59, which includes the post-show party with cast and creative team.

About the Artists
Gabriel Jason Dean’s plays have been seen or developed throughout the U.S. at theatres such as New York Theatre Workshop, Manhattan Theatre Club, McCarter Theatre, The Flea, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and American Theatre Company. In Bloom was a finalist for the Laurents/Hatcher Award, received the Kennedy Center’s Paula Vogel Prize, and was runner-up for the Princess Grace. His play for children, The Transition of Doodle Pequeño received the AATE Distinguished Play Award, the NETC Aurand Harris Award and has been anthologized numerous times. Other notable plays include Terminus (2016 Austin Critic’s Table “Best Drama”) and Qualities of Starlight (2016 Broadway Blacklist, Kesselring Nominee). Fellowships include the Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University, the Dramatist’s Guild Fellowship and the Sallie B. Goodman/McCarter Theatre Fellowship. Dean is currently an affiliated writer at The Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis and a usual suspect at New York Theatre Workshop. He earned his MFA at the University of Texas at Austin’s James A. Michener Center for Writers.

Ari Laura Kreith recently directed Luna’s production of Pirira. She is also the founder and Artistic Director of Theatre 167, where she conceived and directed The Jackson Heights Trilogy — three full-length plays collaboratively written by 18 playwrights featuring 37 actors in 93 roles in 14 languages. NYC World Premieres: Mourning Sun (Theatre 167/Uganda), Pirira, Tina Howe’s Singing Beach. European premiere: Adam Guettel’s Myths and Hymns. Immersive, site-specific: Queens Museum, NY Transit Museum; touring excerpts of Marina Budhos’ novel Watched. Commissions: New Ohio; Queens Theatre. LPTW Lucille Lortel Visionary Award; NYIT Caffe Cino Fellowship. BA: Yale, MFA: UC Davis, Member: SDC.

About Luna Stage
Luna Stage develops and produces vibrant plays about local and global experiences. Luna brings communities together for artistic events that spark conversations and create understanding and change. Firmly rooted in New Jersey's Valley Arts District—a crossroads of cultures—the Company celebrates the diverse voices that surround us. Luna Stage is dedicated to eliminating barriers to participation and nurturing the next generation of audiences and artists.

Luna’s classes for children and adults, and its developmental programs for early career artists, inspire community members to nurture their own creativity and vision.
Luna Stage has contributed to the development of over 80 new works for the stage, earning a reputation for artistic excellence. Some of those plays have gone on to productions in New York City and beyond. Luna’s unique approach to producing, as well as the work itself, fosters an environment of inclusivity, understanding, and infinite possibility.

Heartland by Gabriel Jason Dean
Directed by Ari Laura Kreith
At Luna Stage, 555 Valley Road, West Orange, NJ | 973 395 5551
Begins: Thursday, April 4 | Opens: Saturday, April 6 | Closes: Sunday, April 28
Performance Schedule: Thursday at 7:30 pm, Friday & Saturday at 8 pm, Sunday at 3pm
Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission

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