Voices from Chernobyl

Happy Nuclear Disaster Day!

Yay!

Wait, that’s not right.

The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant blew up 25 years ago. It was a horrific incident that forever altered countless lives and the surrounding environment. And here we are watching Japan struggle with a partial meltdown (at least) at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant following the incomprehensible destruction and loss of life from an unprecedented earthquake and tsunami. Different and yet there are some frightening similarities.

Today and tomorrow in the Atwater Village community of Los Angeles, as well as Pasadena, there are several events paying tribute to the original Chernobyl disaster, courtesy of Voices From Chornobyl, a theatrical production adapting a book of interviews with survivors of Chernobyl. I have worked with Cindy Marie Jenkins on this in the past and her handling of this topic is pitch perfect. Never preachy or dogmatic, but sympathetic and humble to this massive event’s effects on real people. The performances of her actors aren’t manipulative, they are heart breaking on their own terms, filled with revelations about how the human condition responds to the unthinkable.

Tuesday, April 26th – 25th Anniversary of Chernobyl

3:30 PM: A special preview of the Hollywood Fringe Festival production of Voices From Chornobyl Jr., a workshop focusing on the disaster’s effects on children’s lives. The free event is for children ages 8+, at the Atwater Village Branch of LA Public Library.

Katya was 9 when the accident at the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant changed her life. After recent events in Japan, a journalist asks Katya and her family about the accident 25 years ago. An interactive and educational story of a young girl struggling with her world, brought to you by the Awareness Team of Voices From Chornobyl. Profits go to Chernobyl Children International.

6-8 PM: Gallery reception for Art From Chernobyl at Kaldi Coffee & Tea, 3147 Glendale Blvd., 90039.

9 PM: Staged Reading of Voices From Chornobyl followed by a talk back session discussing radiation, at Brazilian Yoga & Pilates, 3191 Casitas Ave. #112, 90039.

Wednesday, April 27th

8 PM: Staged Reading of Voices From Chornobyl at CalTech‘s Baxter Hall in Pasadena, sponsored by CalTech’s Engineering & Applied Science and Theater Arts at California Institute of Technology. Snacks & beverages following reading.

Voices From Chornobyl – suddenly way too relevant

Next month marks the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl Disaster. And here we are days after the terrifying earthquake and tsunami in Tohoku, Japan that has resulted in an unstable situation at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.

It’s true that the two incidents do not have a direct 1:1 correlation. The nuclear power plant industry learned from that previous horrible incident but there’s still so much that we don’t know about this method of powering electricity. And there are still a lot of disturbing parallels between April 26, 1986, and the days and weeks that followed, and what is happening now.

“This is for thousands of years.”

I’ve seen some people dismiss the warnings and concerns with figures of low death counts from nuclear incidents. But our attention should not be determined by loss of life. The quality of life in Chernobyl was irreversibly changed, just as it is being changed forever in Japan.

In 2008, I served as associate producer for the above short demo of a dramatization by Cindy Marie Jenkins of a book of interviews of Chernobyl survivors. It’s called Voices from Chornobyl. If this video captures 1/10th of the heartbreak the people of Chernobyl went through then, or that the people of Japan are going through now, and gets you or someone you forward this on to, to consider helping the people of either region in the ongoing aftermath, I’ll feel like maybe I did something right.

Smiles for Japan: $25 art commissions by manga artist Nina Matsumoto will send 100% to Japan Society's Earthquake Relief Fund (click image for more info)

To fit in the comics side of me, manga artists in Japan have been expressing their support and encouragement through a wonderful series of art with a “Smiles for Japan” theme. Robot 6 has links to work by popular creators like Takehiko Inoue (Vagabond), Akira Toriyama (Dragon Ball), Naoki Urasawa (20th Century Boys), Kanata Konami (Chi’s Sweet Home), Arina Tanemura (The Gentlemen’s Alliance Cross), Nina Matsumoto (Yokaiden) and more. (If only I could read Japanese.)

Also, Meltdown Comics (7522 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90046) is holding an art auction called We Heart Japan this Thursday, March 17, 8 PM – 11 PM, with 100% of proceeds going to the Japan NGO Earthquake Relief and Recovery Fund. The event was organized by anime voice actor Stephanie Sheh (Naruto) and comic book artist/graphic designer Pinguino Kolb.

To learn more about the ongoing Voices From Chornobyl project, please visit their website.

To donate to the Red Cross and their efforts to help the Japanese Red Cross respond to the earthquake/tsunami disaster, please visit their website.

And to get activisty for a moment: To learn more about the risks of nuclear power, visit NukeFree.org.

(For detail freaks like myself, the alternate spelling of Chernobyl in the title is a more accurate English spelling of the original Ukrainian name of the city.)