Press Releases

2011 Discussion with Dr. Jan T. Gross

August, 2011
Contact: Johnny Van Heest, Public Relations Manager
215.893.9456 x102

The Wilma Theater is proud to host author Dr. Jan T. Gross for a free discussion of his work, Neighbors - The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland - Sunday, September 18, 2011

 Onstage Discussion kicks-off series of ancillary events associated with the United States Premiere of ‘Our Class’

Philadelphia – The Wilma Theater will host a free Onstage Discussion on Sunday, September 18, 2011 at 7pm with author Jan T. Gross, a scholar of European history at Princeton University, who will discuss his book, Neighbors, a National Book Award finalist and major inspiration for the play Our Class, which will have its United States Premiere at the Wilma Theater in October, 2011. Dr. Gross will be interviewed on the Wilma’s stage by Agnieshka Baumritter. The event is free and open to the public. Limited seating available; for tickets, call 215.546.7824 or e-mail

Members of the press are invited to attend the Onstage Discussion. To make arrangements, please contact Johnny Van Heest, Public Relations Manager at 215.896.9456 x102 or Please note: there is no performance of Our Class on this date.

Interview opportunities are available with Dr. Jan T. Gross. To arrange an interview, please contact Johnny Van Heest, Public Relations Manager at 215.896.9456 x102 or

Neighbors – The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland (Princeton Press, 2001), which chronicles the massacre of Jewish residents in the small Polish town Jedwabne in 1941, partly inspired playwright Tadeusz Słobodzianek to write Our Class. The New York Times Book Review states that “[Gross] has written a thoughtful mediation on the Jedwabne affair” and Andrew Nagorski of Newsweek states, “In Neighbors, a slim, carefully researched book [that] has guaranteed that Poles will never see their wartime history in the same way."

This event kicks off a series of ancillary events associated with the United States Premiere of Our Class including a special event on November 1, 2011 at the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia.

Sunday, October 16 (Immediately following the matinee of Our Class): Author Timothy Snyder, a scholar of European history at Yale University, discusses Our Class as well as his book Bloodlands, a recent New York Times bestseller also named a book of the year by The EconomistThe Atlantic and numerous other publications. Dr. Snyder will be joined by Dr. David Engel, a scholar of Polish Jewish History at New York University, and Dr. Benjamin Nathans, a scholar of Soviet History at the University of Pennsylvania, in a conversation led by Wilma Dramaturg/Literary Manager Walter Bilderback.

Monday, October 24 at 7pm: Join the Wilma for a viewing and discussion of Agnieszka Arnold's Neighbors, a documentary film that first brought attention to the pogrom in Jedwabne. Completed in 1997, the film inspired Jan T. Gross’s book of the same name but was hugely controversial and not shown publicly until after Gross’s book was published to wide acclaim. In Neighbors, Arnold interviews witnesses, participants, and survivors of the massacres of Jews in Jedwabne, Radzilow, and other Polish towns – the people who served as real-life inspirations behind many of Our Class’s characters. With Arnold’s unflinching eye, Neighbors explores truth, denial, and unsettled history.

Thursday, October 27: Stay after the performance for a conversation with the cast of Our Class. Hear their insights into the creation of this U.S. Premiere production.

Tuesday, November 1 at 7pm: "America as Haven," a program of The Wilma Theater and the National Museum of American Jewish History. "America as Haven" examines the idea and reality of this country as a place where immigrants can find a new life. Wilma Artistic Director Blanka Zizka, who was born in the former Czechoslovakia, will discuss her own experience alongside others with expertise of 20th Century immigration. Actor Michael Rubenfeld of the Wilma's production of Our Class will read from the Museum's collection of letters written across continents between immigrants and their families.  Complimentary reception follows the discussion. PLEASE NOTE: This program will be held at the National Museum of American Jewish History, 101 S Independence Mall East, Philadelphia, PA.

This program has been supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage through the Philadelphia Theatre Initiative. The Philadelphia Theatre Initiative is a program of The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage,

supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts. The Initiative fosters and promotes excellence, imagination, and courage in the region’s nonprofit theater. 

Join the Wilma's artistic staff for a discussion of the themes and history of the play following these performances:

Thursday, October 13

Thursday, October 20

Thursday, November 3

Wednesday, November 9

Thursday, November 10

Onstage Conversations are supported by The Wallace Foundation.

About Our Class

The Wilma Theater is pleased to present the United States Premiere of Our Class, written by one of Poland’s leading playwrights, Tadeusz Słobodzianek, in an English version by Ryan Craig, directed by Blanka Zizka. Based on the tragic historic event that happened in the town of Jedwabne, Poland in 1941, Our Class chronicles the intertwined lives of ten classmates over a period of 80 years. Our Class runs October 12 through November 13, 2011. For more information visit

Mission Statement

The Wilma Theater creates living, adventurous art. We engage artists and audiences in imaginative reflection on the complexities of contemporary life. We present bold, original, well-crafted productions that represent a range of voices, viewpoints and styles.