Luna Stage reopens with ‘#RIFT’ this December

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WEST ORANGE, NJ — Luna Stage will reopen its building for in-person performances with “#RIFT: The Live Culmination,” by Gabriel Jason Dean, directed by Luna artistic director Ari Laura Kreith.

Through the lens of two real-life brothers — one a convicted murderer, the other a playwright; one a member of the alt-right, the other a progressive on the left — “#RIFT” explores whether it is possible to bridge fundamental political and ideological divides.

This performance is the culmination of a three-part work that began with an eight-week virtual experience delivered to audiences via text message this past spring. Due to popular demand, the text message experience will relaunch with a new cohort on Dec. 1. Registration for this virtual performance is free at

“#RIFT” deals with mature themes, including violence, sexual abuse and racism, and is intended for audiences 16 and older. Participation in the first and second parts is not necessary to experience the third part.

Dean navigates a deeply personal landscape with this production; his brother is a currently incarcerated member of the alt-right, and the two had barely spoken in 10 years. In creating this piece, Dean reconnected with his brother to explore the roots of their differences, to see if there is any way to find common ground, and to try to understand what love means in this context.

“In these divided times, when truth has become commodified and weaponized, I think maybe it’s the best thing I can do as a writer,” Dean said. “Just tell the true story. And in doing that, I think people will see themselves and their own truths in the story of my estranged brother and me.” 

This is the second collaboration between Dean and Kreith. Kreith previously directed Dean’s “Heartland,” and the production was named one of New Jersey’s Top 10 Productions of 2019 by 

Kreith reached out to Dean after reading a story in the New York Times about twins on the opposite side of the political divide. “It made me think of Gabriel,” she said, “not only because of his personal history but also because I so admire his passion for grappling honestly with moral and ethical ambiguity.” 

“Writing the truth is frankly terrifying, because it means I have to be honest with myself,” Dean said. “I have to be willing to listen for truth even if it’s coming out of the mouth of someone with whom I fundamentally disagree. I have to be willing to call myself out when necessary too — own my mistakes.”

Part 1 of “#RIFT” consisted of images, audio files and texts delivered to audience members’ phones over the course of eight weeks. Originally designed as a way to respond creatively to the pandemic, Dean and Kreith quickly realized that this mode of delivery mirrored the interrupted communication between Dean and his brother. Audience members engaged with this deeply personal story, sharing back experiences with the creative team. 

The second phase of “#RIFT” invited audience members to explore how they might reach across divides in their own lives and to share back these experiences via a virtual platform. Audience reflections about rifts in their own lives will be interwoven into the design of Part 3, which incorporates both Dean’s personal story and that of the audience. 

“You also don’t have to do Parts 1 and 2 to experience Part 3, or you can do them out of order,” Kreith said. “But we have a hunch you will ultimately want to do all of it. This piece invites you into a theatrical exploration of family, love and political polarization in this country that is unlike anything Luna has ever done before.” 

Part 3 of “#RIFT” runs from Feb. 10 to March 6. For more information, visit Luna Stage is located at 555 Valley Road, West Orange.