City Paper Spotlight: Our Class


SPOTLIGHT: Thu., April 11 — Stage

On July 10, 1941, half the inhabitants of the Nazi-occupied Polish town of Jedwabne were massacred by their neighbors. Most of the dead were burned alive in a barn, and all of them were Jews; the killers were Catholics. Jan Gross’s 2000 book about the atrocity, Neighbors, drew challenges to its accuracy. It also partly inspired Tadeusz Slobodzianek’s play Our Class. Our Class (English translation by Ryan Craig) debuts locally at Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre. The season-opener is PICT’s first without co-founder and artistic director Andrew Paul, who was abruptly fired last month. The play follows 10 classmates for eight decades, starting in 1925, when they are children singing songs and pondering their futures. “It’s really about what neighbors do to neighbors … in the face of extreme desperation and fear,” says the U.S. born, Ireland-based director, Aoife Spillane-Hinks. The show features a cast of 10 (playing five Jews and five Catholics) and live klezmer music by clarinetist Susanne Ortner-Roberts. On closing weekend, author Gross will visit for a talkback and panel discussion. But Spillane-Hinks emphasizes that the play is fiction, and that it actually addresses the issue of multiple perspectives. “It’s the deepest stuff of our own lives: Who gets to tell our story?” Bill O’Driscoll