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Luna Stage Explores What It Means To Be American In 2019-20 Season

originally published: 07/03/2019

Luna Stage Explores What It Means To Be American In 2019-20 Season

(WEST ORANGE, NJ) -- What does it mean to be American? Luna Stage will explore that question throughout its 2019-20 season.  The six-play season includes two World Premieres, the 2019 Lucille Lortel Award-winner for Best New Play, and the launch of Luna’s new American Voices Series. These plays will examine the power of independence, the value of freedom, and what it means to be ‘American.’ 

(October 17 – November 10, 2019) Jenny Lyn Bader’s Mrs. Stern Wanders The Prussian State Library is a fantastical new drama about one of our deepest thinkers, inspired by real events. Johanna Stern will become one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century. But at the moment, no one has heard of her, or even of the name she writes under, Hannah Arendt. She is merely a graduate student with one book under her belt. Karl Frick is a young officer, recently promoted from the criminal police force to the political police force, a new division in 1933 Berlin. His first interrogation in this new job promises to be his most challenging one. A World Premiere

“The story of (Arendt’s) arrest and imprisonment and how she first became ‘stateless,’ not widely known even to readers and fans of Arendt, feels especially relevant to re-imagine today,” says playwright Bader. “And the insight and courage she showed in those dark times made it possible to survive then and leave us a legacy of wisdom and inspiration now.” 

(February 6 – March 1, 2020Antoinette Nwandu’s Pass Over exposes the unquestionable human spirit of young black men who dream about a promised land they’ve yet to find.  Moses and Kitch stand around on the corner talking smack, passing the time, and hoping that today a miracle will come. They stand by a lamppost in a present-day ghetto, but it’s also a plantation, and it’s also Egypt, a city built by slaves. A provocative mashup of Waiting of Godot and the Exodus saga.  Winner of the 2019 Lucille Lortel Award for Best Play

Nwandu wrote the play in an effort to "keep engaged in the American experiment as a citizen of this country who is feeling so angry and betrayed by what the country is." In Pass Over she asks, "Are we a nation that feels that we can change this dynamic? Are we a nation that values these young black men's lives? Is this part of the conversation that we are having about who are we as a nation?"

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(April 16 – May 17, 2020)  J.Stephen Brantley’s comedy Shruti Gupta Can Totally Deal is a Bollywood-tinged romance that explores what it means to be ‘American’ in the months following the 2016 election. Shruti is a Dreamer (i.e. a DACA recipient) in her senior year of medical school at CUNY. She lives very efficiently in the apartment above her uncle's jewelry store in Queens, and leaves the drama to her brother Raj, the soon-to-be-married prince of the family. Then an unexpected encounter with Irish actor-musician Liam threatens all of Shruti's practical plans. As their romance blossoms, they navigate cultural traditions, ICE raids, and newly unfettered racism.  A World Premiere

Playwright Brantley says, “I’m so excited that Shruti will make her debut at Luna Stage, a place devoted to timely new plays that take on urgent issues with complexity and compassion. We live in complicated times and I can think of no place better to premiere a contemporary multi-cultural activist rom-com than Luna.”

In conjunction with these MainStage productions, Luna will inaugurate the American Voices Series, featuring three solo pieces which will be presented in the newly-renovated Luna 2 theatre. These dynamic performances include Susan Hyon’s Soo Jin Pretty Nail (opening Sept. 20) and Dipti Bramhandkar’s American Rookie in January 2020. A third soon-to-be announced production is slated for March.

Season passes are on sale now.  Luna Stage is located at 555 Valley Road in West Orange, New Jersey. Luna Stage is a professional regional theatre that develops and produces vibrant plays about local and global experiences. Firmly rooted in New Jersey's Valley Arts District—a crossroads of cultures—Luna celebrates the diverse voices of its neighbors and brings its communities together for artistic events that inspire dialogue and build understanding. 

Luna is committed to eliminating barriers to participation and nurturing the next generation of audiences and artists. In addition to its Equity MainStage and Studio productions, the company offers classes for children and adults, and developmental programs for early career artists.

Luna Stage has contributed to the development of over 80 new works for the stage, earning a reputation for artistic excellence. Luna’s unique approach to producing, as well as the work itself, fosters an environment of inclusivity, understanding, and infinite possibility.

Luna Stage Explores What It Means To Be American In 2019-20 Season

About the Artists (alphabetical)

JENNY LYN BADER Plays include None of the Above (New Georges), In Flight (Turn to Flesh Productions), and Manhattan Casanova (Hudson Stage). One-acts include Worldness (Humana Festival of New American Plays), Anniversary Season (Mona Bismarck Center, Paris), and Beta Testing (Symphony Space). Her play Equally Divine, presented in New York Society Library’s new work series, will be featured in the 2019 United Solo Festival. For This Is Not a Theatre Company, she wrote The International Local (Subway Plays app/2018 NY Int’l Fringe Festival) and co-wrote Café Play (Cornelia St. Café). Her work has been published by Dramatists Play Service, Smith & Kraus, Vintage, Applause, and The Lincoln Center Theater Review. A Harvard graduate, Jenny Lyn has received the Edith Oliver Award (O’Neill Center) and a Lark Playwriting Fellowship (nominated by Wendy Wasserstein) and was a frequent contributor to the New York Times “Week in Review.” She is a 2019 Athena Theatre Playwriting Fellow. For more, see

J.Stephen Brantley’s award-winning Pirira opened Luna Stage’s 2018-19 season under the direction of Ari Laura Kreith. His other work includes Billy BaalThe EmiliesEightythree Down, Furbelow, and The Jamb. Brantley’s acclaimed one-man autobiographical ‘recovery cabaret’Chicken-Fried Ciccone: A Twangy True Tale Of Transformation, directed by Obie-winner David Drake, played to audiences in New York, Dublin, Provincetown, and East Hampton. He has also written in collaboration with Theatre 167 on The Jackson Heights Trilogy plays. Brantley is an eight-time NYIT nominee, a member of the Indie Theatre Hall Of Fame, and recipient of the 2017 Doric Wilson Independent Playwright Award. Visit for more.

Ari Laura Kreith is the Artistic Director of Luna Stage, where she recently directed Gabriel Jason Dean’s Heartland and J.Stephen Brantley’s Pirira and conceived/co-directed the site-specific Secret Cities. She is also the founder and Artistic Director 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. Other directing highlights include Mourning Sun, which premiered at Theatre 167 and toured to Uganda; the world premiere of Tina Howe’s Singing Beach; commissions for Queens Theatre and the New Ohio, and the European premiere of Adam Guettel’s Myths and Hymns. Ari has developed immersive, site-specific projects for Luna Stage, Queens Museum and the NY Transit Museum. A recipient of the LPTW Lucille Lortel Visionary Award and the NYIT Caffe Cino Fellowship, Ari received her BA from Yale and her MFA from UC Davis. Ari grew up in 27 countries.

Antoinette Nwandu is a New York-based playwright, who was born and raised in Los Angeles. Her play Pass Over had its New York debut at LCT3/Lincoln Center. A filmed version of the Jeff-award winning, Steppenwolf production—directed by Spike Lee—premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival and at SXSW, and is currently streaming on Amazon Prime. Victory Gardens produced the World Premiere of her play Breach: a manifesto on race in america through the eyes of a black girl recovering from self-hate in February. Antoinette is a MacDowell Fellow, a Dramatists Guild Fellow, and an Ars Nova Play Group alum. Honors include the 2018 Whiting Award, the 2017 Paula Vogel Playwriting Award, the Lorraine Hansberry Playwriting Award, the Negro Ensemble Company’s Douglas Turner Ward Prize, a Literary Fellowship at the Eugene O’Neill Playwrights Conference, and spots on the 2016 and 2017 Kilroys lists. Her work has been supported by the Sundance Theater Lab, Space on Ryder Farm, Ignition Fest, the Cherry Lane Mentor Project, the Kennedy Center, Page73, PlayPenn, Southern Rep, The Flea, Naked Angels, Fire This Time, and The Movement Theater Company. Antoinette has a bachelor’s degree in English, magna cum laude, from Harvard College; an MS from The University of Edinburgh; and an MFA from NYU Tisch. Antoinette is a writer on the second season of Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It for Netflix, and is under commission from Echo Theater Company, Colt Coeur, Ars Nova, and Audible.

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Event calendar
Wednesday, Aug 21, 2019


CAVEART @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

Roots of Creation @ The Wonder Bar, Asbury Park - 8:00pm

Uptown Girls @ Avenel Performing Arts Center, Avenel - 8:00pm

Beck and Cage the Elephant @ BB&T Pavilion, Camden - 6:00pm

El Caribefunk @ Lizzie Rose Music Room, Tuckerton - 7:30pm

Remember Jones @ Parker Press Park (Woodbridge), Woodbridge - 7:30pm


Romeo & Juliet and Othello in Rep @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 8:00pm


CRAIG SHOEMAKER @ Howie Mandels Comedy Club at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City, Atlantic City - 8:00pm


Wayback Wednesday: Dirty Dancing @ Hopewell Theater, Hopewell - 7:00pm

Free Summer Movie: Bohemian Rhapsody @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 7:00pm

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