Good Neighbors/Bad Neighbors FREE Panel Discussion


GOOD**PICT Theatre hosts noted Princeton Historian Jan Gross**


***Former U.S. Ambassador & Post-Gazette columnist Dan Simpson to moderate Good Neighbors/Bad Neighbors Panel Discussion***


Pittsburgh, PA – April 25, 2013. In conjunction with its production of Tadeusz Slobodzianek’s Our Class, PICT Theatre has coordinated a panel discussion that includes noted historian Jan T. Gross, author of the book Neighbors, which revealed that the killing of up to 1600 Jews in Jedwabne, Poland in 1941 was perpetrated by their own neighbors and not the Germans. The play Our Class tells the story of 10 classmates who betray one another as Soviet and Nazi regimes invade their village.


The panel discussion is free to the public and will take place on Sunday, May 5 at 3pm at the Frick Fine Arts Building on the University of Pittsburgh Campus. Good Neighbors, Bad Neighbors: How War and Conflict Change Us includes historians and a psychologist who will discuss how war and political conflict create enmity and violence among people who have lived peaceably together for a long time. The panelists will discuss historical examples of neighbors perpetrating violence against one another, such as the incidents in Jedwabne, Poland, Northern Ireland, and the Balkans.


Former U.S. Ambassador and Post-Gazette columnist Dan Simpson will moderate the panel. PICT Theatre’s co-sponsors include University of Pittsburgh stakeholders (Center for Russian and East European Studies, Jewish Studies Program, European Union Center of Excellence/European Studies Center, the Global Studies Center, and the University of Pittsburgh Book Center), the Polish Cultural Council and Classrooms Without Borders, a project of the Jewish Federation.




The panel discussion continues the conversation begun by PICT Theatre’s production of Tadeusz Slobodzianek’s play Our Class. How does war change the relationships between neighbors? What impact do political or religious beliefs, or racial and economic differences have on people’s individual and collective behavior towards their neighbors? Why do some people behave heroically towards their neighbors while others give in to their baser natures?


Daniel H. Simpson, former U.S. Ambassador and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist will moderate the discussion. The panel will conclude with questions from the audience. Following the panel discussion, light refreshments will be provided in the cloister outside the auditorium in the Frick Fine Arts building. The University of Pittsburgh Book Center will be selling books by the panelists before and after the discussion.


MODERATOR: Ambassador Daniel H. Simpson has been an Associate Editor, daily editorial writer and columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for more than 11 years.  He retired from the U.S. Department of State in September 2001, having served overseas in Nigeria, Libya, Burundi, South Africa, Bulgaria, Iceland, Lebanon and Bosnia-Herzegovina, and as U.S. Ambassador to the Central African Republic, Somalia where he was also U.S. Special Envoy, and Zaire, which became the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  He was Deputy Commandant of the U.S. Army War College and Vice President of the National Defense University.  He is a member of the American Academy of Diplomacy, the Board of Directors of the World Affairs Council, and teaches at various local universities.




Jan T. Gross is a professor of history at Princeton University. He studies modern Europe, focusing on comparative politics, totalitarian and authoritarian regimes, Soviet and East European politics, and the Holocaust. After growing up in Poland and attending Warsaw University, he immigrated to the United States in 1969 and earned a Ph.D. in sociology from Yale University (1975). His first book, Polish Society under German Occupation, appeared in 1979. Revolution from Abroad (1988) analyzes how the Soviet regime was imposed in Poland and the Baltic states between 1939 and 1941. Neighbors (2001), which was a finalist for the National Book Award, reconstructs the events that took place in July 1941 in the small Polish town of Jedwabne, where virtually every one of the town’s 1,600 Jewish residents was killed in a single day. Professor Gross joined the Princeton History Department in 2003 after teaching at New York University, Emory, Yale, and universities in Paris, Vienna, and Krakow. He is the Norman B. Tomlinson ‘16 and ‘48 Professor of War and Society.


Anthony Novosel is a former auto-mechanic, soccer coach, bartender and steelworker, among various other careers, who came to the University of Pittsburgh as a freshman at the age of 32, eventually getting a BA in History and Political Science (1989), an MA (1991) in Soviet and Russian History, and then a Ph.D. in Soviet History (2005) focusing on the Bolshevik Theory of the State. Since 1990, he has taught at Pitt and served as an Arts and Sciences academic advisor between 1994 and 2006. He is currently teaching in the History department and working as an academic advisor for History undergraduates. Since 1974, he has traveled regularly to Northern Ireland. In 1996, he began working with an organization known as the BEI (Business Education Initiative) that brings students to study in the USA. He has also worked with grassroots organizations in Belfast around Common History projects and set up internships for students. He has taught a class on Northern Ireland since 2004. Recently, Novosel published Northern Ireland’s Lost Opportunity: The Frustrated Promise of Political Loyalism, focused on the political thinking that emerged from the Ulster Volunteer Force and Red Hand Commando and the Progressive Unionist Party in the years 1973-1987 and the reasons their work failed to end the conflict in these years.


Edward Orehek is an assistant professor in the Psychology Department at the University of Pittsburgh, and previously held a faculty position at the University of Groningen, in the Netherlands. He received his Ph.D. in social psychology from the University of Maryland in 2009. His research focuses on the interface between motivation and social cognition, including the factors that drive extremism, intergroup hostility, and terrorism. He has published over 30 papers in outlets such as Psychological Review, Annual Review of Psychology, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, American Psychologist, and Political Psychology.


Robert Szymczak is an associate professor of history at Penn State (Beaver Campus). He was born in 1946 in East Vandergrift, PA, a town with a booming steel mill in Westmoreland County. East Vandergrift was divided into three neighborhoods based on ethnicity: a Slovak section, a Lithuanian section, and a Polish section. Szymczak grew up in the Polish neighborhood, where his father, Bernard, and many others spoke fluent Polish and English. Szymczak holds a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from West Virginia University, a second master’s degree from Duquesne University, a doctorate from Carnegie Mellon University, and a second doctorate from Lancaster University in England.


Gregor Thum, a graduate from the Free University Berlin and the European University Viadrina in Frankfurt (Oder), teaches modern Central European history at the University of Pittsburgh. He has authored Uprooted: How Breslau Became Wrocław During the Century of Expulsions (Princeton University Press, 2011). This book, the German and Polish versions of which won the Georg Dehio book prize and the book prize of the Polish monthly Odra, describes the transformation of a German city into a Polish city after the expulsion of its German inhabitants at the end of the Second World War.






Our Class is inspired by the atrocity of Jedwabne, a Polish village where, in 1941, as Russian and German forces pressed in, almost all of the local Jews were tortured and killed. This horrific crime was originally blamed on the Nazis, but historians and journalists more recently revealed that the perpetrators may have been their own neighbors. Slobodzianek used, among other sources, the book Neighbors by Dr. Jan Gross, which has been regarded as controversial for its interpretation and accounting of the facts.


In this play, we meet each of the characters as school children, innocent and unaware of their futures as villains and victims; each actor portrays the character from age 6 into adulthood. Our Class is the first Polish drama to receive Poland’s prestigious Nike Literary Prize. Doug Levine and Susanne Ortner-Roberts composed original music and collaborated with Elizabeth Atkinson, who created a moving soundscape for the production. Clarinetist Ortner-Roberts, a noted expert in klezmer music, performs live at each show.


PICT Theatre (Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre)  was founded in 1996 to diversify the region’s theatrical offerings by providing Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania audiences with high-quality, text-driven, affordable productions of classical theatre and the works of classical and contemporary Irish playwrights and to significantly improve employment opportunities for local talent in all facets of theatrical presentation and production.  PICT is a Small Professional Theatre (SPT) affiliated with Actors’ Equity Association, and a constituent member of Theatre Communications Group (TCG) and the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council. PICT is the Professional Theatre in Residence at the University of Pittsburgh and PICT productions at The Charity Randall and Henry Heymann Theatres are presented in cooperation with the University of Pittsburgh – Department of Theatre Arts.

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