Presented by The VORTEX & The National New Play Network

Dr. Harold Banks, a retired University of Nebraska professor of Comparative Literature and Afghan Studies, is reeling after his adopted daughter Getee is killed by the Taliban while teaching children outside of Kabul. When Afghan refugee Nazrullah arrives at his door carrying Getee's prized books, the two men form an unlikely bond. Heartland draws a line from the “Cold War” to the “War on Terror” and demands that we reckon with the consequences of defending an American Empire. Set in both Maidan Shar, Afghanistan and Omaha, Nebraska, and inspired by true events, Heartland is a story of healing, grace, and connection.

Heartland was conceived and written by Gabriel Jason Dean as a direct response to the true story of the US government’s textbook propaganda contributing to the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan. With the longest war in US history still ravaging Afghanistan with US involvement since 2001, we must continue to be engaged in public discourse on this devastating conflict.

The VORTEX is committed to producing "urgent, unashamed art," and Heartland is Gabriel Jason Dean’s most urgent piece. He excavates stories of race and class at the heart of our fractured country. In Heartland, he focuses on how we have spread a history of violence across the world. Government choices change the lives and break the hearts of ordinary folk from the fields of Nebraska to the hills of Afghanistan.


Starring Lowell Bartholomee, Kareem Badr, and Kacey Samiee.


Directed by Rudy Ramirez, VORTEX Associate Artistic Director. Scenic Design by Ann Marie Gordon. Lighting Design by Patrick Anthony. Costume Design by Delena Bradleyl Sound Design by David DeMaris. Prop Design by Helen Parish. Dari language coach, Hasti Ahmadi. Stage Management by Tamara L. Farley. Photography by Errich Petersen. Video Documentation by Jose Lozano of Magic Spoon Productions. Monica Kurtz and Tim Ervin, American Sign Language Interpreters. Bonnie Cullum, Producing Artistic Director.

Heartland was first produced as a National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere by Geva Theatre Center, Rochester, NY, New Repertory Theatre, Watertown, MA, The VORTEX, Austin, TX, and InterAct Theatre Company, Center City, PA.

About Gabriel Jason Dean (Playwright)

Gabriel Jason Dean is an award-winning playwright and screenwriter from Atlanta, GA who currently lives in Brooklyn, NY. His critically-acclaimed plays include IN BLOOM (Kennedy Center Paula Vogel Award, Laurents/Hatcher Award Finalist, Princess Grace Award Runner-Up), QUALITIES OF STARLIGHT (Broadway Blacklist, Kesselring Nomination, Essential Theatre New Play Prize, B. Iden Payne Awards for Outstanding Comedy & Best Original Script), TERMINUS (James Tait Black Prize Finalist, B. Iden Payne Awards for Outstanding Drama & Best Original Script, Austin Critic’s Table Award Best Production), HEARTLAND (National New Play Network Smith Prize Runner Up, InterAct 20/20 Commission), THE TRANSITION OF DOODLE PEQUEÑO (American Alliance for Theatre & Education Distinguished Play Award, Kennedy Center TYA Award, New England Theatre Conference Aurand Harris Award); and others. He has written book and lyrics for the musicals MARIO & THE COMET and OUR NEW TOWN. Screenplays include PIGSKIN and D'ANGELICO, TV Pilots WE BELONG, HOBOHEMIA, and animated series TENDERFOOT.

Funded and supported in part by Bloomberg Philanthropies, National New Play Network (NNPN) Rolling World Premiere, VORTEX Repertory Company, and by the Cultural Arts Division of the City of Austin Economic Development Department.