Damariscotta’s River Company is planning a dramatic reading of “Into the Forest” as a benefit for New Hope for Women. In 1939, 15,000 Polish prisoners of war, including thousands of officers of the Polish armed forces, were systematically executed and buried in mass graves in the Katyn Forest by the Russian Army under Stalin.

For years, the massacre was attributed to the Nazis and the truth was covered up until Prime Minister Gorbachev admitted Russia’s role publicly in 1990. Among the Polish officers killed was one woman, Second Lieutenant Janina (Janka) Dowbor-Musnicka, an aviatrix in the Polish army. “Into the Forest” is a fictional correspondence between Janka and a Polish friend, Kasia, residing in Germany during the 16 months prior to the massacre. The play was co-written by Rockland resident and current Poet Laureate Kendall Merriam and former Waldoboro resident Kitty Fassett.

“Kendall and Kitty started writing this play more than two years ago,” said director Andrea Handel. “It is especially significant to look at this tragedy now, the same year that so many Polish heads of state perished in the Katyn Forest on their way to a ceremony commemorating the victims.”

The role of Janka will be played by Ashley St. Pierre, who recently appeared in River Company’s production of “Lovers and Other Strangers” and also starred in the role of Sherry in River Company’s 2009 production of “Independence.” Handel, a founding member of River Company and its current president, will read the part of Kasia. Tom Handel will narrate.

Performances will be Friday and Saturday, Sept. 17 and 18 at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, Sept. 19 at 3 p.m. at the Porter Meeting Hall of Skidompha Public Library, downtown Damariscotta; and Friday and Saturday, Sept. 24 and 25 at 7:30 p.m. at Lincoln Street Center for Arts and Education, 24 Lincoln St., Rockland.

Tickets will be $15, $13 for River Company members. For more information or to make reservations, call 563-8116.

VillageSoup Art/Entertainment Editor Dagney Ernest can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail to dernest@villagesoup.com.