Two Pianos: Playing for Life Performance
Untermyer Gardens, Yonkers NY
(L to R) Varshavski, Levins, Shapiro, Hoffman
14 September 2022
Stolpersteine (Stumbling Stones) Installation
for relatives Ruben, Civia and Dina Suwalski
Nora Jean Levin with Niece Stephanie Haftel
Click here for Levin's remarks
WELCOME to PAPERS, PLEASE -- a Washington D.C. nonprofit arts / education corporation which re-creates an extended Jewish family's first-person journeys through tumultuous cultural, political and economic events -- the Great War, the Russian Revolutions, the rise of fascism, World War II, the Holocaust, the creation of the State of Israel -- that shaped the West's 20th Century. Our overall mission is to highlight the relevance of this past to today's headlines. We work (and sometimes partner) with local officials, institutions, museums, libraries and non-profit organizations to educate, reconcile with and memorialize vanished lives and times.
The core of these linked individual journeys is resilience that overcomes desperation and the life-or-death need for proper identity, residence, citizenship or travel documents -- "Papers, please?" -- our characters face at every border they reach. This question shapes their ability to work, study, live, and secure new lives. It's a theme that echoes for millions of refugees and immigrants on the move today.
Time Frame: c. 1890 - c. 1990
Countries: Romania, Poland, Russia, Germany, France, Austria, Lithuania, British Mandate Palestine, Denmark, Latin America, Israel, the U.S.
Scope: Papers, Please brings together a linked series of odysseys in a panoramic canvas. At its core are first-person narratives we collected from our principals, their families and their friends. That's thanks to Hirsch Bieler, who recognized his story had a broader context that could be grasped only if unfamiliar times, places and characters were made familiar. He convinced us too -- though mastering the who, what, when, where and how of this adventure in life-long learning took us four decades.
We bring these tales and their times to life through nonfiction books; a series of multi-media Two Pianos 'concert documentaries' with narration plus live classical music, presented around the world; a curated traveling exhibit with numerous artifacts; educational materials; and video performance highlights or full-length DVDs. Highlights videos are on our Two Pianos You Tube Channel. Highlights videos and performance reviews also are on our Two Pianos website.
Our books are published under the imprint Penn Convoy Press, in memory of the oil products company Hirsch Bieler founded in 1939 after he reached the States. They are illustrated full-length nonfiction volumes centered on first-person oral histories of the main characters and their circles, backed by letters, photographs, travel documents, and historical context.
Books, performances and related activities also help us build bridges between past and present, across borders and cultures.
-- Nora Jean and Michael H. Levin, August 2023
Firebird: The Musical Life and Times of [Classical Pianist] Rebecca Burstein-Arber
To order this creative nonfiction book,
please click here
A Border Town in Poland
Nora Jean and Michael H. Levin
Oak Bluffs Library, Martha's Vineyard MA
Nora Jean and Michael H. Levin
Chilmark Library, Martha's Vineyard MA