Photo Flash: FIrst Look at the NJ Premiere of PIRIRA

Luna Stage will launch its 2018-19 Season with J.Stephen Brantley's award-winning play Pirira, directed by Luna's new Artistic Director Ari Laura Kreith. Set simultaneously in Malawi and New York, the play explores the challenges of international aid across interpersonal borders, and how we bridge seemingly impossible cultural divides.

Inspired in part by Brantley's experiences as a writer for Madonna's NGO Raising Malawi, the play is set amidst riots that took place in the city of Llilongwe on July 20, 2011, as American aid worker Jack and MBA auditor Ericka are unexpectedly forced to take shelter in the storage room of Jack's struggling NGO. Meanwhile, half a world away, Malawian college student Gilbert and his gay co-worker Chad begin another day in the back room of a Manhattan florist. By day's end, the foursome discover that their lives are connected across geography, language, and time.

Pirira runs Thursday-Sunday from October 4-28. Tickets are on sale now at www.lunastage.org/pirira. A number of special events are also planned in conjunction with the production, including a multigenerational community read of William Kamkwamba's autobiographical The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, which inspired elements of the play.

Luna's production marks the regional premiere of Pirira, and is the play's second production. The first, directed by Kreith at Theatre 167 in 2013, transferred OffBroadway and received the New York Innovative Theatre Foundation Award for Outstanding Premiere of a Play. In the five intervening years, Kreith and Brantley had discussed reviving the piece but the timing never seemed right. When choosing her inaugural season at Luna, Kreith felt Brantley's play would be a perfect first production. "Bringing this play to Luna allows us to frame our first season as a series of powerful cross-cultural conversations about central issues that affect us all," says Kreith.

Now a Montclair resident, Kreith comes to Luna from Theatre 167, the company she founded in Jackson Heights, Queens and named for the number of languages spoken in the neighborhood, which has been called the world's most diverse community. At Theatre 167, 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, performed by 37 actors playing 93 roles in 14 languages, which she produced at multiple locations in Queens and as a 6-hour epic in Manhattan. Kreith's other directing highlights include Mourning Sun, which premiered at Theatre 167 and toured to Uganda, two collaborations with Pulitzer-finalist Tina Howe, commissions for Queens Theatre and The New Ohio, site-specific work at Queens Museum and the NYC Transit Museum, and the European premiere of Adam Guettel's Myths and Hymns.

Photo Flash: FIrst Look at the NJ Premiere of PIRIRA
Naja Selby-Morton and John P. Keller

Photo Flash: FIrst Look at the NJ Premiere of PIRIRA
Kevis Hillocks, John P. Keller, David Gow, and Naja Selby-Morton

Photo Flash: FIrst Look at the NJ Premiere of PIRIRA
Kevis Hillocks

Photo Flash: FIrst Look at the NJ Premiere of PIRIRA
John P. Keller, Naja Selby-Morton

Photo Flash: FIrst Look at the NJ Premiere of PIRIRA
John P. Keller, Naja Selby-Morton

Photo Flash: FIrst Look at the NJ Premiere of PIRIRA
David Gow, Kevis Hillocks, John P. Keller, Naja Selby-Morton

Photo Flash: FIrst Look at the NJ Premiere of PIRIRA
David Gow, John P. Keller, Naja Selby-Morton

Photo Flash: FIrst Look at the NJ Premiere of PIRIRA
David Gow, John P. Keller, Naja Selby-Morton

Photo Flash: FIrst Look at the NJ Premiere of PIRIRA
David Gow, Naja Selby-Morton

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