"In view of our present societal situation, not only in Germany but worldwide --
both the renewed growth of nationalism
and right-wing radicalism but unfortunately also anti-Semitism -- it is of paramount importance that we take an
Our today's event is to
show this stand."
Gisela Kallenbach (Event Sponsor; Director, Synagogue & Jewish Community of Leipzig; former Member, E.U. Parliament) -- June 2019 remarks introducing Two Pianos Leipzig events
Germany 1933: a beautiful spring marks Hitler’s 100th day in power. His regime already is working through its kill list. Its targets include trade unions and German Communists. But the bulls-eye is Jews -- starting with cultural icons like conductors Otto Klemperer in Berlin and Bruno Walter at Leipzig’s Gewandhaus Orchestra. Brown-shirts agitate on streets and in audiences. Concert halls connected with Jewish conductors are padlocked or vandalized. Jewish musicians are attacked in print, even by mainstream newspapers that seek to please the new government. Klemperer and Walter leave Germany.
In Berlin a group of dismissed Jews petitions for a separate
self-supporting organization that will allow unemployed Jewish artists
to perform for Jewish-only audiences. The “Culture-League of
German Jews” -- Kulturbund Deutscher Juden -- is approved. By 1935 it's the sole public access to culture
for Jews in Germany. Goebbels’ Ministry of Enlightenment oversees its administration,
performers, audience and programs. Certain
‘German’ composers -- Wagner, Strauss, even Beethoven -- soon are off limits. Still dozens of Kulturbund chapters form, including Leipzig's. Its early members include three young Jewish
concert pianists and their music-loving businessman husbands.
Two Pianos highlights the tenacity, passion and devotion to craft shared by Anna and Halina. As talented student “alien residents” in Leipzig they mastered new languages and cultures. As young Jewish mothers they maintained professional careers while juggling child-care and shrinking life-choices. As naturalized American citizens, teachers and performers Halina (1908-1999), Anna (1908-2003) and Tanya (1907-1988) shared their art while celebrating life. As the pianists who portray them in Two Pianos note in the Premiere highlights video, their story "reminds people that they need to appreciate being a human being and being allowed to breathe and lead a dignified life . . . Everyone has something that helps him or her to go through everything. In our case it’s music. In somebody else’s case, it could be literature, art, whatever. . . .We need to know what keeps us alive."
After the Philadelphia premiere we formed the arts/education company Papers Please Inc. to develop new video/print materials while bringing Two Pianos to additional audiences in the U.S. and abroad. With help from our dedicated backers we successfully found local partners for our initial performance goal -- live events in Leipzig Germany and Newark NJ, two main stations of our characters' lives.
In June 2019 venue-specific Two Pianos events were part of Leipzig's "Schalom Week," a bi-annual welcome for exiled Leipzig residents and their descendants. In October 2019 the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University/Newark sponsored a venue-specific Two Pianos concert documentary/Q & A at its Paul Robeson Campus Center. These events also produced new Two Pianos materials to start extending the events' reach beyond the concert hall. In Leipzig our German sponsors connected us with an English-speaking videographer and provided on-site logistics support to print programs, program inserts, and an illustrated 32-page German-language brochure that took the place of a full exhibit. At Rutgers our local videographer donated his services to help produce a new highlights video plus a full-length program DVD. The new Rutgers materials detailed the dark journey of Halina and her daughter Jola from their 1938 deportation to Poland, to their eventual NJ home. A new English-language brochure and tabletop Notepad video loops became parts of the Two Pianos package for the first time. In October 2020 we added a "sizzle reel" video overview of all past performances (above) to this site.
2021 (and beyond)
COVID suspension of live performances has sharpened our focus on alternative ways to bring the Two Pianos experience to audiences. While new venue-specific performance opportunities are emerging, we also aim to integrate our 2018/19 video and print materials in a menu of host options that does not necessarily require live performances. This next step includes educational products already in process -- for example, a Two Pianos "Catalogue of Exhibit Items," and publication of additional booklets or books drawn from life stories in Papers, Please: A 20th Century Odyssey. The Catalogue will support revolving loans of Exhibit items requested by interested venues; background videos could be part of these loans. The new publications can serve as curriculum units for secondary-school or college courses, and be provided to the emerging Two Pianos fan club.
The Two Pianos Project is a "sponsored project" of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. This relationship allows Papers Please Inc. to receive tax-deductible contributions for specific Project-related activities. All such charitable contributions to the Two Pianos Project must be made payable to Fractured Atlas, and may be made by clicking this link.