From Luna Stage:

Rabbi Elliott Tepperman, Author Marc Aronson, and Islamic Networks Group at Luna Stage’s HEARTLAND
New play “folds complex matters of international diplomacy and Western imperialism delicately into a tender, fraught father-daughter story,” says The Star-Ledger

Rabbi Elliott Tepperman of B’nai Keshet, the Islamic Networks Group’s Seham Abdala and Zainab Alam, and Maplewood author Marc Aronson will lead pre- and post-show conversations at Luna Stage’s Heartland this weekend. Now extended through May 5, Luna’s production has received audience and critical acclaim. Broadway World called it a “heartfelt masterpiece rife with comedic brilliance and the triumph of the human spirit.”

More information and tickets here.

Set in Omaha and Afghanistan, Heartland weaves back and forth through time, unraveling a mystery that illuminates the cost of defending an American Empire. NJ Arts Maven described Heartland as “about compassion, responsibility, regret, redemption, forgiveness and, above all, love… [an] examination of the human heart…one you will talk about for days afterward.”

Upcoming special events include:

4/25 at 6:45pm | Pre-show LunaLit discussion of Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West with Rabbi Elliott Tepperman

4/26 | Post-show conversation with Seham Abdala and Zainab Alam of NJ Islamic Networks Group

4/28 at 2pm | LunaLit: Marc Aronson on his new Young Adult book Rising Water about the Thai cave rescue

The Star-Ledger, affiliated with, praised Heartland as “a play that folds complex matters of international diplomacy and Western imperialism delicately into a tender, fraught father-daughter story.” The play is appropriate for family audiences. 12-year-old Maplewood Middle School World reviewer Jarrett Jackson wrote: “Heartland is filled with twists and turns that toy with your emotions, and has a powerful message about love, betrayal, and forgiveness.”

Rabbi Elliott Tepperman has been the spiritual leader of Bnai Keshet, in Montclair, NJ since 2002. His rabbinate embraces spiritually courageous Judaism and loving pursuit of shalom (peace) and justice for all people. He believes that Jewish practice is most transformational when deep internal work becomes a springboard for building community and engaging with the world.

Tepperman will facilitate a conversation about Mohsin Hamid’s novel Exit West. In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair, and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through.

Islamic Networks Group (ING) is a non-profit organization with affiliates and partners around the country that are pursuing peace and countering all forms of bigotry through education and interfaith engagement while working within the framework of the First Amendment’s protection of religious freedom and pluralism. Founded in 1993, ING reaches millions of individuals and hundreds of groups a year at the grassroots level by building relationships, understanding, and peaceful communities.

Zainab Alam is an American Muslim currently pursuing her PhD at Rutgers University in political science. Zainab also holds a Master of Science in Global Affairs from NYU. She is a peacebuilding consultant, a freelance writer and a social science researcher. Zainab lives with her family in Central New Jersey and enjoys painting and traveling in her spare time. She is a certified speaker for NJ-ING.

Seham Abdala is an American Muslim and an engineer by trade. She is married, and has three children who were all born and raised in the USA. She worked at Ortho Clinical Diagnostics, a Johnson & Johnson company, for over twenty years. She was one of the leaders who launched the first fully automated blood bank instrument in the world. She visited most European countries and worked with many colleagues from Europe, Asia, and Japan. Seham took early retirement from Johnson & Johnson and is focusing her efforts on NJ Islamic Networks Group. She is a volunteer acting as the executive director, serving on the board, and a certified speaker.

Marc Aronson is the award-winning author of more than 20 non-fiction books for children and teenagers. His works range from introducing readers to the latest discoveries in human evolution to how the story of sugar links together the histories of many peoples to the international effort to save the members of a Thai youth soccer team. Aronson has a doctorate in American History and teaches courses for future youth librarians in the Rutgers Master of Information program.

Aronson will discuss his latest book, Rising Water. On June 23, 2018, twelve members of the Wild Boars soccer team and their coach were exploring the Tham Luang cave complex in northern Thailand when disaster struck. A rainy season downpour flooded the tunnels, trapping them as they took shelter on a shelf of the dark cave. Eight days of searching yielded no signs of life, but on July 2 they were discovered by two British divers. The boys and their coach were eventually rescued in an international operation that took three days. What could have been a terrible tragedy became an amazing story of survival.

Heartland runs through May 5 at Luna Stage, located in West Orange’s Valley Arts District, close to Montclair, Maplewood, South Orange, Livingston, Verona, Orange, Short Hills and Millburn. Tickets are $16-39, and are available at or by calling 973-395-5551. The full schedule, including the schedule of talk-backs and events, is available at

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

Now Running | Closes: Sunday, May 5

Performance Schedule: Thursday at 7:30 pm, Friday & Saturday at 8 pm, Sunday at 3pm


Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes, no intermission |