Shawn MacAulay

How Can You Talk About Radiation When the Butterflies are Flying?

With Japan having just increased the crisis level of the Fukushima Daiichi power plant disaster from four to seven, putting it on par with Chernobyl, it seems like this couldn’t be any more timelier.

I know, sorry. This is going to be a bummer. I know it would be easier to just pretend like this isn’t happening, or that we don’t need to worry ourselves about it. And I know some have doubted the dangers of high radiation levels in Japan, as they did in Chernobyl. Some have downplayed the concern over Japan’s current problems. After all, everything looks fine. But looks can be deceiving. And sometimes it takes a while for things to not look fine. For an example, take a look at these pictures by Robert Knoth from 2006, the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster. Some of those pictures are tough to look at, but they remind me that people like you and me are affected by this. Voices From Chornobyl does the same with even more power. And they bring me to the conclusion that the benefits of nuclear power are not worth the risk.

As we approach the 25th Anniversary of the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster (April 26, 1986), a Voices From Chornobyl staged reading and discussion is taking place this Friday in Hollywood to help raise awareness.

From their press release:

Voices from Chornobyl tells the aftermath of a mismanaged disaster through the words of those who survived. Written and directed by Cindy Marie Jenkins, the play follows six people asking “What is radiation?” and coping with their changing world.

Friday, April 15th
8pm – Play | Reading
9pm – Radiation Talkback
Buy Tickets $10
Paul G. Gleason Theatre, 6520 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles CA 90028

An informal Radiation Talkback will follow the reading.
Run Time: 50 mins.

Featuring: Bradford Beacom, Carolyn Blais, Enci, Aaron Lyons*, Shawn MacAulay* & Kappa Victoria Wood
Written and Directed by: Cindy Marie Jenkins
Produced by: Rachel Stoll and Cindy Marie Jenkins

Cash bar included. Parking and more info at www.voicesfromchornobyl.com.

A note about the Radiation Talkbacks: In light of recent events, friends of the project will discuss radiation and how we can understand it, including questions they ask themselves when faced with news about nuclear power, Japan, radiation levels, and Fukushima vs. Chornobyl. We are not professors nor experts, and you will probably leave with more questions than answers, but we wish to create a framework for understanding how nuclear power actually affects you, and resources as you learn.

Why Chornobyl?

On April 26, 1986, the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant had a little oopsie.

Four hundred times the radioactivity that was dropped on Hiroshima exploded less than 2 miles south of Pripyat, a city of 50,000 people. So, imagine Biloxi, Mississippi. Or Ames, Iowa. Or Sheboygan, Wisconsin*. 36 hours later, the city was evacuated. So was Chernobyl, located 9 miles south. So was every village and town within a 19-mile radius.

Ten years following the disaster, author Svetlana Aleksievich conducted a series of interviews with survivors and published it as Voices From Chernobyl.

Nearly ten years after that, director Cindy Marie Jenkins began adapting the book for the stage. Last year, I served as associate producer for a demo of her adaptation Voices From Chornobyl, which has been used to promote a series of anniversary readings this month to commemorate the anniversary of the Chernobyl Disaster.

Earlier this year, Cindy and several of her amazing actors (Aaron Lyons,  Enci, Kappa Victoria Wood, and Shawn MacAulay) were interviewed to explain “Why Chornobyl”. I had nothing to do with this project (although I suppose I was at an early meeting where we discussed having something like this made, so sure, I’ll take credit for it, thanks!), but I think it’s a great companion to what I worked on and is an excellent reminder of why something that happened over 20 years ago is still worthy of our attention. Lysandra Petersson created the following:

During the month of April, the rights to perform the play Voices From Chornobyl are free to anyone who donates at least 75% of their proceeds to a Chornobyl Charity. See the VFC site for more details.

* Yes, I snuck in Sheboygan, one of my favorite goofy words, into something that’s supposed to be serious. I am a disrespectful and heartless punk.