Saturday, January 6, 2024

Announcing World Premiere Play "RIFT or White Lies" @ Luna



Two brothers--one a progressive novelist, the other a convicted murderer and high-ranking member of a white supremacist prison gang–are united through their traumatic childhood. Now adults, these men navigate the edges of their brotherly bond. Are they truly so different? Is it possible to love someone whose beliefs you hate? RIFT is a story of estrangement, ideological divide, and the fight to change one another.

A work of fiction, RIFT or White Lies is inspired by playwright Dean’s relationship with his brother, a currently-incarcerated high-level member of the alt-right. The two had been estranged since Dean’s discovery of his brother’s affiliation in 2010. In creating the piece, Dean reconnected with his brother to explore the roots of their ideological differences and try to find common ground.

The play is the live culmination of a two-part project commissioned by Luna. Part 1, #RIFT: A Play Over Text Message, an eight-week interactive virtual experience blending text message conversations, audio files, and images, was delivered to subscribers’’ cell phones across the country during the height of the pandemic. The project was awarded grants from the Venturous Theatre Foundation’s Plays For Now program and the New Jersey Theatre Alliance STAGES Festival, and was featured as part of the National Day of Racial Healing.

This is Dean’s second in-person production at Luna Stage. His play Heartland, also directed by Kreith, explored familial estrangement across geographic and cultural boundaries, and was selected as one of NJArts Top 12 NJ Theater productions of 2019.

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GABRIEL JASON DEAN (playwright): Dubbed “feisty as hell” by the New Yorker and “a great modern American playwright” by Broadway World, Gabriel Jason Dean is an award-winning playwright and screenwriter whose critically-acclaimed plays for children and adults include HEARTLAND (Austin Critic’s Table David Mark Cohen New Play Award), IN BLOOM (International Risk Theatre Modern Tragedy Prize, Kennedy Center Paula Vogel Award); QUALITIES OF STARLIGHT (Broadway Blacklist); TERMINUS (B. Iden Payne Awards for Outstanding Drama & Best Original Script), ENTANGLED (New York Innovative Theatre Award Nomination), THE TRANSITION OF DOODLE PEQUEÑO (American Alliance forTheatre & Education Distinguished Play Award, Kennedy Center TYA Award); and others. He has written book and lyrics for the musicals MARIO & THE COMET (NYU Plays for Young Audiences) and OUR NEW TOWN (Civilians R&D Group). His plays have been produced Off-Broadway and regionally at places such as New York Theatre Workshop, Manhattan Theatre Club, 59E59, The Cherry Lane Theatre, The Flea, McCarter Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare, The Kennedy Center, Geva Theatre Center, Interact, Seattle Children's Theatre, Dallas Children’s Theatre, People’s Light and Theatre and many others. Gabriel is the recipient of the Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University and the Dramatist’s Guild Fellowship, is currently Writer-in-Residence at Muhlenberg College and on faculty for Spalding University’s Brief-Residency MFA Program. He is an Affiliated Writer at The Playwrights’ Center and a Usual Suspect at New York Theatre Workshop. MFA: UT-Austin Michener Center for Writers.


ARI LAURA KREITH (director) is the Artistic Director of Luna Stage, where her directing credits include MRS. STERN WANDERS THE PRUSSIAN STATE LIBRARY (World Premiere), HEARTLAND (NJ Star Ledger Top 10 Productions of 2019), PIRIRA, and the pandemic play-via-text-message #RIFT. She conceived and directed the site-specific THE GROUND ON WHICH WE STAND, centering the first home owned by a formerly enslaved person in Montclair; conceived and co-created the interdisciplinary VOTING WRITES PROJECT; and launched SECRET CITIES, commissioning history-based, community-inspired plays. Under her leadership, Luna launched a Teen Conservatory, received two National Endowment for the Arts grants, and has been voted Favorite Small Theatre in New Jersey. Ari is also the founder of Theatre 167, where she conceived and directed THE JACKSON HEIGHTS TRILOGY (167 TONGUES, YOU ARE NOW THE OWNER OF THIS SUITCASE, and JACKSON HEIGHTS 3AM)— three full-length plays collaboratively written by 18 playwrights featuring 37 actors in 93 roles in 14 languages, inspired by the world's most diverse neighborhood, which premiered in Queens as individual productions, transferred in rotating rep as a 6-hour epic in Manhattan, and then adapted as I LIKE TO BE HERE: JACKSON HEIGHTS REVISITED, OR, THIS IS A MANGO at the New Ohio. Other directing highlights include MOURNING SUN (World Premiere, Theatre 167 @ West End Theatre/Kampala International Theatre Festival, Uganda); Tina Howe's SINGING BEACH (World Premiere, HERE Arts Center) and immersive commissions for Queens Museum and NY Transit Museum. A recipient of the League of Professional Theatre Women Lucille Lortel Visionary Award, Ari received her BA from Yale and her MFA from UC Davis. She grew up in 27 countries.



LUNA STAGE is a professional regional theatre dedicated to developing and producing vibrant plays about local and global experiences. Firmly rooted in New Jersey's Valley Arts District – a crossroads of cultures – Luna brings its communities together for artistic events that spark conversations and create understanding and change.

Luna received the JerseyArts People's Choice Award for Favorite Small Theatre in New Jersey and has contributed to the development of over 100 new works for the stage, many of which premiered at Luna and have gone on to be produced in New York, regionally, and internationally.

As producer, innovator, and educator, Luna is dedicated to eliminating barriers to participation and allowing all community members to nurture their own creativity and vision. Luna offers classes for children and adults, as well as opportunities for early-career and established theatre artists to develop and incubate new work.

All programs and productions at Luna are pay-what-you-choose to support equity and access to professional arts experiences in our region.

For more information, visit or email

Luna Stage | 555 Valley Road, West Orange, NJ 07052 | Instagram @luna.stage