top of page



Papers Please Inc. was founded after the Premiere by Two Pianos narrators to make the characters' power-of-music story more accessible in the U.S. and abroad. Within a year the Two Pianos site is live and Papers Please Inc., with major commitments from local sponsors, brings our Concert Documentary package to the other main stations of the characters' lives.


Papers Please Inc. is a District of Columbia non-profit arts/education company. Our Board and Advisory Committee include representatives of the Levin-Hoffman families, a former Director of Planned Giving for the Metropolitan Opera (NYC), and a former board member of the Raoul Wallenberg Committee (U.S.).  Our goal: bring Two Pianos creations to broader audiences in the U.S. and abroad.  Our mission: design, produce and present historically Jewish-themed educational performances, programs, exhibits and publications.




In January 2018 we contact the Varshavski-Shapiro Piano Duo with an "unusual request." We want to stage the story of Jean’s mother Anna and her friend Halina, who met at the Leipzig Conservatory and played two-piano concerts in Leipzig for the segregated "Jews only" Judischer Kulturbund under the Nazis. We want to re-create parts of those concerts, with pianists reading the parts of Anna and Halina and playing music they played. The Duo's stories parallel the characters'.  All four are female Jewish emigres who met at a foreign conservatory, whose art is their bridge to freedom. All four juggle family, teaching,  practice time, performing. Our story resonates. The Duo agree. 


The result is our multi-media concert documentary with companion exhibit: Two Pianos: Playing for Life,  a unique mix of classical music, first-person immersion in world-changing events, archival/video projections -- and resilience, friendship and passionate commitment to craft during perilous days. As one 9-year old attendee notes, "The show was about how art and music are really important, even in the darkest times." ,

Forty-five years earlier, naturalized Philadelphians Hirsch and Anna Bieler -- Jean's parents -- revisit Leipzig, where they met, married and prospered.  We start to record their stories, then those of their surviving European friends. Five years later these transcripts are the start of a lifelong learning project that takes us to Germany, Poland, Denmark, Israel, Soviet Russia and Chile, in an effort to grasp the cultural/political tides that shaped their journeys. Along the way we inherit Hirsch's vital documents, Anna's Kulturbund membership cards, reviews of concerts by Anna and her siblings. In 2014 we compile our accumulated knowledge in a private 1200-page source-book, "Papers, Please: A 20th Century Odyssey." 


Two Pianos is drawn from chapters in that source-book. Other Papers Please products and resources are now collected on our new public Papers Please website,


                                                          -- Nora Jean and Michael H. Levin, January 2023

bottom of page