Voices From Chornobyl

2012 was the first year since 2005 that my April hadn’t been all about promoting awareness of the nuclear accident at Chernobyl. The history of the project is longer than the piece itself, and explore this site for more information. I adapted the play from 2015 Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich’s book Voices From Chernobyl.

For the thirtieth anniversary of the accident, I’ll tweet the entire script during the month of April. Follow @VoicesChornobyl to read.

Below is a sample of the script and a demo video we produced for the 2007 International Chernobyl Conference. We used to promote awareness and raise funds for Chernobyl charities by doing readings around Los Angeles. If you are interested, please contact me.

CHARACTERS (and ensemble members)

Katya Shimanky, young girl at the time of the accident (Kappa Victoria Wood)

Vasily Shimanky, Physicist (Brad Beacom)

Irina Shimanky, Doctor at a Radiation Hospital (Katie Sweeney)

Anna Sushko, Resident of Chornobyl (Enci)

Arkady Filin, Clean-up Crew Member (Aaron Lyons)

Grigory Brovkin, Former Soldier, Leader of a Clean-up Crew (Michael Laurino)

Stepanov Morozkov, Vasily and Grigory’s Supervisor (Brian Sparrow)

Sergei Gurin, Cameraman from Minsk (Shawn Macaulay)

Ludmila (A Solitary Human Voice), Wife of a Fireman (Kristin Mochnick / Carolyn Blais)

Valentina (A Lonely Human Voice), Wife of a Clean-up Crew Member (Daryl Dickerson)


At times the characters speak to their Interviewer and at times they are back in the moment. If there is a slash (/) on one line, then the following line should overlap at the point of the slash (/).



Adapted by Cindy Marie Jenkins

From the book by Svetlana Alexievich



You’re writing a book, but so far no book has helped, explained it to me. No more than the theater or the movies. I figure it out without them. By myself.


There was no sign.


We’re all going through this alone, and we don’t know what to do.


Anna inspiration

Inspiration for ANNA

Sometimes, your palm itches and you know to get ready. But today, no signs.


We don’t know what to do. I want to love, I try to love! I pray for my love! And—-


My first reaction was to call my wife and warn her. But all our telephones at the Institute were bugged. That eternal fear, beaten into us through the decades.


The first fear came out of the blue, over water—


My family didn’t know.


My father is particularly bewildered.


My daughter – at this moment she would be walking to school. With friends. Outside.



He always taught me to live by books. And suddenly books cannot help. My parents are confused. My father does not know how to live without the counsel of books. Without Chekhov and Tolstoy, and the old Greek masters.

Remember? I want to remember and at the same time I don’t.


Shut the windows.


I remember my mother’s phone call in the early morning.


There’s a fire at the atomic station. Orders are to keep the radio on.


We lived in Pripyat, just three miles from the reactor. I was born and bred there.


Listen to me very closely.


What are you talking about?


Quiet. Shut the windows. Put all the food in plastic bags.

Put on rubber gloves and wipe every surface with a wet rag. Then put the rag in a plastic bag and get rid of it. The laundry drying on the balcony has to be washed again.


What’s happened ther—


I hung up. She was in medicine. She was bound to understand.


Remember? Perhaps it’s better not to. Just in case. We saw the fire—


–and we figured it was temporary, and no one was worried about it. We didn’t know about atoms, I swear! One nightingale sang all night—that means a sunny day.


In the middle of the night, I heard a noise. I –I don’t know what to tell you about! Death or love? Or is it one and the same? What shall I tell you? We were newlyweds. We still held hands in the street, even if we were just going to the store. I told him: “I love you.” But I didn’t even know how much. I had no idea. We lived in the hostel of the fire station where he worked. Below us, on the first floor, were the fire engines.

Red fire engines. That was his work. That was all he ever wanted to do.

(Takes a deep breath) In the middle of the night, I heard a noise. I looked out the window. He saw me and said, “Shut the windows and get back to sleep. There’s a fire at the reactor. I’ll be back soon.”


I did not see the explosion itself. Only the flames. Everything seemed to flow.


fire truck on fire

KATYA’s drawing from 2011 production: Voices From Chornobyl Jr.

People took their small children outside, lifted them up and said, “Look, how beautiful! Don’t forget this.” We stood in that horrible black smoke.


The whole sky. The flames were high. And smoke. Horrible heat.


The smoke over the station was not black or yellow, it was light blue.


We did not know that Death could be so beautiful.


The police and the military set up roadblocks, they were letting no one out. We spent all day watching TV, waiting for Gorbachev to speak. The authorities were silent.


I stared all day out of the closed window. It was just an ordinary fire, being put out by ordinary firemen.


And he was still out. They went off to the fire without their protective gear, just in their shirt sleeves. They were summoned as if to a normal fire. I sat and waited. Four o’clock.


I’d go to church, where it was so quiet.




The way it is in the mountains sometimes.




So quiet. You can forget your life in there. But in the mornings, I’d wake up. I’d wake up and feel around for him. Where is he? I’d shut my eyes and think about him until I fell asleep. In my sleep, he would come to me, but very quickly. Vanish immediately.


Seven o’clock.


Where is he? I can’t tell you what it is like. I don’t know how I manage to stay alive.


At seven they informed me that he was in the hospital. I ran over there, but police would not let anyone in. Only ambulances could drive in. The policemen shouted: the ambulances are radioactive, don’t’ get close. I was not alone, all the wives whose husbands were at the reactor that night, were there. I grabbed onto a Doctor as she walked by—“Get me inside!”


I can’t. He’s in a bad way. They all are.


Pleas! Just to see him.


(Hands her a form)

Sign this.

Do you have children?


I thought, I have to say yes. If I say no, they won’t let me see him.



How many?


A boy and a girl.


Now listen. The central nervous system is completely damaged, the bone marrow is completely destroyed.


AL right, so he’ll be a bit nervous…….


And listen—


If you cry, I’ll throw you out right away. You may not hug or kiss. Don’t come close.


I’ll give you half an hour.


That day, April 26th, I was in Moscow. On a business trip.


The first fear was…..in the morning we found dead moles in the garden. Who killed them?


We’re all going through this alone, and we don’t know what to do. I cannot comprehend it with my mind. My grandmother said she had no childhood. She had the war. Their childhood is the war and mine is Chornobyl.


I had just returned from Afghanistan. I wanted to live, to get married. I wanted to get married right away. And instead I got a notice with a red stripe

Meaning “Special Draft.” Show up with your things at the following address within an hour. My mother started weeping. She thought they were sending me to war again.


At the time I was thinking about something else. This will seem strange to you.


(To ARKADY) Get in the van.


But just then I was getting a divorce from my wife. Everything else seemed minor. They would come suddenly and a special van was waiting downstairs. Just like 1937.


I loved him madly. Maybe you shouldn’t use my name.


I called once, two, three times, but they wouldn’t put me through.


There are secrets. People say prayers in private. Whispering.


I found an assistant. “I’m calling from Moscow. I have urgent information. About an accident!” As soon as I started talking about the accident, they disconnected me.


No, use my name. Say it to God.


I heard that there was a fire there, and it’s been put out.


That’s a lie! Deceit!

It’s a serious accident. According to my calculations, the radioactive cloud is moving towards us. Towards Belarussia. We must immediately give prophylactic iodine treatment to the population and move out everyone living close to the station. People and animals within 100 kilometers have to be moved away.


Had a phone call. From the Kremlin. From Gorbachev. Something about not starting a panic in Belarussia. The West are making too much of it already.


At the foot of the hill puffs a tractor

At the top of the hill a reactor

If we hadn’t heard it from the Swedes

We’d still be eating all those seeds.

Shawn original

Actor Shawn Macaulay in front of his painting for original 2006 production, Open Fist Theatre

clean up crew

Actor Aaron Lyons painted this image of the clean up crew for original 2006 production, Open Fist Theatre. 

Artists Watch List: Jaeger Christian

I saw this phrase a lot: “Part of what I love about Fringe…..” and one of the parts is watching how artists develop over the years. I like to follow different creators in between Fringe as well, but many only produce for Fringe.

Jaeger Christian is the biggest winner in this category. I was so excited by the idea of his 2014 piece (a new musical about PTSD) that seeing it was very disappointing. He needed a co-writer, a dramaturg, a director…..but something about his heart, his sincerity in the pre-show speech made me pause. It went beyond someone who believes in his work. It didn’t, however, save the show.

So this year I noticed he has two solo shows, The Board and The Backpack. I only saw that The Board existed because it happened to fit into my schedule one night. He went from a new musical to two monologues, still related to the service. I felt that he got the right feedback last year or instinctively knew to return to basics, especially for a Fringe Festival. Focus on the story. He clearly has a lot to say (without being didactic) on the military and I appreciate how he chose to express it this year.

With The Board, he says if you’re into TV shows like “Law & Order,” “Homeland” and “The Shield,” then you’ll like this play. I only know the first one, but he seems right on the money. Sarah Hollis tells the audience her story, who act as her jury. Clearly she’s in trouble for something, but all the whys and wherefores and intricacies aren’t untangled until near the end. Even then, her fate isn’t revealed.

I personally would have preferred it without the marriage story, but it did play into the plot. Overall, the story was completely compelling and I listened to every single word she said on that stage.

The main point here is that if I hadn’t seen the artist at his pre-show speech for last year’s musical, felt something tug at me through his personality and choice of material, then seen that his latest offering fit into my schedule, I wouldn’t have given him another chance. And all those things couldn’t have happened in another space except a Fringe Festival.

Jaeger Christian is now on my Artists Watch List.

I gave this show a #SeeItLA rating. Find more shows on SeeItorSkipItLA.com .

#SeeItorSkipItLA at Hollywood Fringe

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Writers from Wonder Con 2015

I had a very limited budget for WonderCon this year (as in, gas and food), and in a way, that caused me to spend more time looking at the art and not just at stuff to buy.

Here is part 1 of my WonderCon adventures: the writers who I want to read soon (* designates for children as well).

If I found them on Twitter, I added to a List: Artists I Really Dig

Each title links to their main website.


Llyn Hunter’s Place (Bobcat Publishing)

*specifically for A Little Book of Monsters and A Little Book of Magical Beings



I liked the artist so much, that I took a photo of her postcard to ensure I didn’t lose it.

M.F.K Comic by* Nilah Magruder

In the country of Rojardin, super-powered psychics are given a choice:

  • Use their powers to serve the government,
  • Become lawless rogues, or
  • Renounce their abilities and live as normal citizens.

Abbie is trying to do the latter, she’s not exactly subtle.


*Under the Cottonwood Tree: El Susto de la Curandera

A New Mexican folktale graphic novel


Knightingail a fantasy-adventure comic book


*Monster Elementary

an all ages, comedy adventure graphic novel

When the FBI closes Desmodus, Lukos, Francesca, Rags and Gilda’s monsters-only school, they are forced by their parents to attend a public school to continue their education.  Now, they must try to fool their classmates and faculty all while navigating the horrors of growing up!


Sombulus by C. Major

humorous fantasy adventure in the spirit of Discworld and style of a shounen manga

Sombulus banner


*Little Vampires by Rebecca Hicks

Adorable webcomic

Zombie Ranch by Dawn Wolf & Clint Wolf

A Tale of a Weird New West; webcomic that updates every Wednesday

Dream Walker by Jenni Gregory


They ran out of cards by Sunday, so I only got a photo: Karen Brinson is a dreamwalker, moving effortlessly through the dreamscapes of family, friends, and even total strangers. No secret is safe, no subconscious thought can be hidden from her. (Click photo for link)

What I Care About This Week

*In case you need background on the Boko Haram attacks….

…that reportedly killed 2,000 civilans. I certainly did. Read on The Root.

*This gets to the point I try to hammer into clients….

….one person’s perspective or use of social media does not speak for their entire generation. Read An Old Fogey’s Analysis of a Teenager’s View on Social Media

 *NASA is a world leader in global warming research, but for how long?

*Trigger warning (rape and sexual harassment, stalking):

A YA author asked for sightly less than minimum wage…

…to write a sequel for her fans who wanted it, after the publisher passed on the book.
For daring to ask for money for her work (all $10 pledges received a copy of the book when finished) she received rape threats (which triggered memories of her own past rape) and was emailed photos of her home among other harassment.

Her response: “Jealousy rots and corrupts your creative soul and feeding your social media presence by hunting out controversy, feeding the flames, and then pretending you are simply fostering discussion is poisonous and empty. You create nothing but spite in a world that is already full of it and in desperate need of kindness.” Read her full response.

Indie Art: Not Your Undergrad Production of “The Maids”

A friend of mine’s been working on her own adaptation of The Papin Sisters story, better known as the sisters in Jean Genet’s The Maids who [spoiler alert] end up killing their mistress.

But this looks to be an entirely different production…….I’ve seen Naomi’s past work, and admire her imagination, story-telling and ensemble work. As an added bonus, all the ticket sales go directly to her actors and team, some of whom have been workingon this show since January.

Here’s a taste:

Our New (Acro)Door from Diavolo: Architecture in Motion

As you may have notice in our pictures and videos over the last couple days, we have a new door!  But not just any door, this one comes to us courtesy ofDiavolo: Architecture in Motion and is fully equipped to handle the acrobatics and high-flying skills of our ensemble!

though some people still tend to doze off on from time to time…

But in the end, we just end up hanging out.

All in all, our ensemble and production team have been working tirelessly to get ready for our opening night.  So, if you are in the L.A. area, and haven’t got your tickets yet – seating is very limited!

Tickets are available here: http://holdmetight.bpt.me

And if you have a moment to help spread the word, shares, tweets, and emails are greatly appreciated as we push through the last couple days of our fundraiser.Cheers!

Hold Me Tight ensemble

Visit the ‘‘Hold Me Tight’ an MFA Thesis Project’ campaign.


I was asked to lead the Online Content Team for Center Theatre Group’s Student Ambassadors this year, and loved the experience!

One of their last projects was to create an interview series that would invite their peers to attend Student Scene Events (next one this Friday!) and as a result, see theatre (maybe for the first time).

They created the questions, the title & hashtag #JoinintheDrama, and we worked on a creative promotional campaign to ensure that people see it.

All the videos are on CTG’s Emerging Artists Green Room, but here are some hints at what you’ll find (again, all created by students!):

Join in the Drama Ash Henry


Join in the Drama Steven Jocelyn


It’s been an honor to teach these guys. I certainly learned just as much from them as they hopefully did from me!