Michael H. and Nora Jean Levin:
Co-Authors, Co-Producers, Narrators
Kenneth Hoffman: Narrator,
Exhibit Materials, Collaborator
Stanislava Varshavski and Diana Shapiro: Pianists
and Main Character Portrayers
(Vanessa Briceño Photography)
TWO PIANOS: BIOS
Nora Jean Levin earned political science degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, where she met Michael. The two have been married for 57 years and collaborating on this life-long project for over four decades. For the Two Pianos:Playing for Life project Jean expanded her range of communication and networking skills, adding new A/V video editing and production management to her experience as writer, public speaker, entrepreneur and non-profit manager. From 2004-18 she directed and managed Caring From a Distance, Inc., America's only non-profit organization supporting long-distance caregivers. She authored How to Care for Your Parents: A Handbook for Adult Children (Storm King Press, 1987-1993), later How to Care for your Parents: A Practical Guide to Eldercare (Norton, 1997). Jean has been a high school social studies teacher, Nader's Raider, and research associate at the Brookings Institution and National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA). She co-founded The Workplace, Inc., Washington DC's first shared-office suite for writers, consultants and non-profit staff (1976-1985). With Janet Dempsey Steiger, she co-authored To Light One Candle: A Handbook for Organizing, Funding and Maintaining Public Service Projects (ABA Press, 1978-1979). Her public service included stints on a U.S. Department of Education Advisory committee on Accreditation and Institutional Eligibility, participation in the 1995 White House Conference on Aging, and terms on lifelong-learning advisory committees, synagogue, mental health and women business-owner boards.
Michael has been writing creatively all his adult life, legal deadlines notwithstanding. He brings to Papers Please lessons learned as advocate, negotiator and renewable energy developer. He has degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard Law School and Oxford University (U.K.). Pursued by a Vietnam-era draft board he declined graduate play-writing fellowships, likely saving American theater. Before private practice Mike served as an appellate lawyer and executive in three federal agencies; in the Carter White House as Deputy Director of a Cabinet-level Task Force; and as legislative aide to former Rep. Andrew Maguire (D-NJ) and the late Sen Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA). His third poetry collection, Falcons, was published July 2020; a fourth collection, Watching Bees, is due to be published mid-2023. He is "as told to" co-author with Jean of A Border Town in Poland, the first-person memoir of Anna's husband Hirsch, and Firebird: The Musical Life and Times of [Pianist] Rebecca Burstein-Arber. Some of his work is at www.michaellevinpoetry.com
Kenneth Hoffman, Halina Neuman’s oldest grandson, brings to Papers Please a deep commitment to the healing power of art based on his psychiatric and family backgrounds. Halina and Ken’s mother Jola survived exclusion, displacement, and labor / DP camps largely because of music. Ken had a devoted relationship with Halina, who took him across the U.S. at age 11 to visit Tanya and Walter Ury in California. Neither Halina nor Jola told Ken much about “before America.” His involvement with Two Pianos has brought their stories to a special conclusion for him.
Ken has a BA from Cornell University, an MD from Eastern Virginia Medical School, and an MPH from Harvard. He is board-certified in psychiatry, preventive medicine and addiction psychiatry. He established the Center in Addiction Medicine at the Uniformed Services University, served as the Army’s primary alcohol and drug consultant, and was senior medical officer at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and Clinical Director for Mental Health Services at the U.S. State Department. Ken has a consulting private practice in Rockville MD. Since 2009-10 he has served on the Board of Directors of Oxford House (https://www.oxfordhouse.org/userfiles/file/), a national network of over 2400 self-supported substance-abuse recovery homes, and by gubernatorial appointment on the Montgomery College Board of Trustees (http://www.montgomerycollege.edu/).
Stanislava Varshavski and Diana Shapiro began playing together in 1998 and have captured top prizes at numerous competitions including the most prestigious competition for piano duos, the Murray Dranoff International Piano Competition (Miami). A winner of Astral Artists’ 2012 National Auditions, they hold Bachelor and Master degrees from the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, where they studied with legendary Israeli duo Alexander Tamir and Bracha Eden. They continued their education under renowned American pianist Victor Rosenbaum. In 2011 they each received doctoral degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Shapiro is an Assistant Professor of Piano at U. Minnesota-Duluth. Varshavski is Director of Education at the Holy Family Conservatory of Music, Manitowoc WI.