Gabriel Jason Dean doesn’t have problems performing in plays for large audiences.

But when he “puts something personal out there,” such as plays he’s written, “it’s scary,” said Dean, a 1998 graduate of Murray County High School who lives in Atlanta.

Dean faced those nerves this weekend as his new play, “Iron Moon” — based on his family from Whitfield and Murray counties — opened in Lawrenceville at the Aurora Theatre’s Discovery Studio Point Theatre. It runs through Sept. 8.

“It is terrifying to put this story out there because it is so intensely personal,” Dean said.

The play is based on stories told by his grandmother, Rosella “Eller” Wade, who suffered from early signs of dementia before her death in 2006, Dean said. She was from Resaca, grew up in Dalton and later moved to Chatsworth.

“It’s all true — according to my grandmother,” Dean said.

The story, which Dean describes as “50 percent drama and 50 percent comedy,” weaves in and out of the present and 1939.

“We meet her (Eller) in a psychiatric ward,” Dean said. “We jump in and out of her stories and the ward. There are a lot of twists and turns, unexpected turns,” he said, adding that he doesn’t want to elaborate so he doesn’t ruin the plot.

In the play, Eller’s father, a white man, catches Eller’s mother, a white woman, with a black lover, which in 1939 would have been taboo and grounds to kill the black man, Dean said.

“As warped as it was, they were in love with each other,” he said. “It challenges stereotypes of the South. It’s about seeking redemption.

“The play has a religious tone, but it is by no means a religious play,” he said. “It challenges conservative Christian thought.”

Dean wrote the first draft of the play about five years ago but was reluctant to go public with it. He changed his mind when his former teacher and director from Murray County High School, Troy Beasley, died earlier this year.

“I was being reminded of who I was and where I came from,” Dean said. “It makes you think. I decided to do a personal story.”

He said his nerves are eased somewhat because his wife Jessie is directing the play.

This is Dean’s third professional production in the Atlanta area.

His first was an adaptation of the classic epic tale “Beowolf” in 2004.

His second was another biographically-based play called “Riffed,” which debuted in 2005.

Dean says “Riffed” is “roughly based” on the life of his half-brother Danny Joe “D.J.” Dean, who was convicted of murder in 2000 in Murray County. He is now serving a life sentence in prison.

Gabriel Jason Dean wrote his first play in fourth grade. It was about a child who was dying of leukemia and his last Christmas.

“I guess I always write sad,” Dean said. “But I’m working on a comedy right now.”

Dean has been acting since he was 7 as he performed in a Dalton Little Theatre production of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” by Tennessee Williams.

He also performed in several plays while in high school.

After graduating, Dean went to New York University for a year, but transferred to Oglethorpe University in Atlanta.

“I wanted to study writing with a focus on playwright,” Dean said. “NYU wasn’t what I needed. I had a scholarship, but if I didn’t do acting as a major, I would have to pay tuition. I couldn’t afford it, and I didn’t want to do acting (as a major).”

Since “theatre in Atlanta doesn’t pay the bills,” Dean works as a real estate agent.

Dean admits that sometimes being involved in theatre is “annoying.”

“You don’t get time with your spouse. Your house is never clean,” he said. “But it’s like the other arts. You have to do it. You have a desire to express yourself.”



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Murray County native Gabriel Jason Dean’s newest play “Iron Moon” runs Thursday through Saturdays at 8 p.m. until Sept. 8 at the Aurora Theatre’s Discovery Studio Point Theatre in Lawrenceville. There is also a Sunday performance scheduled for Sept. 2 at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets are $19 for general admission, $16 for seniors and groups of 10 or more, and $13 for children and students.

The play contains adult situations and might not be suitable for young children.

To reserve seats or for more information, contact the Aurora Theatre at (678) 226-6225 or visit the Web site www.ironmoontheplay.com.

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