Voices From Chornobyl

this is for thousands of years

Preview this Saturday at 1pm!

We’re rehearsing, making small changes, gathering props and costumes, working

Young audience member finds Eastern Europe on a map.

with some vintage 1986 sounds and confirming reservations for this weekend –

Now all we need is you!

When will you attend this unique interactive show?

Help Katya find the truth, even when her parents can’t.

Tickets are normally $5 for previews, $10 shows

Special rates available for families this Saturday! Go to our Fringe site and use the discount code “preview” at Checkout to name your own ticket price.

We can’t wait to share this special event  with you. This is the first of only five shows, and we only have 35 seats, so get your tickets soon. Looking forward to seeing you!

Voices from Chornobyl Jr.

· 40 min · $0 to $10 · Ages 8+ · family friendly · world premiere

written by Cindy Marie Jenkins

directed by Aaron Kozak

Saturday, June 11th cast features Brett Colbeth*, Shelley Delayne & Kappa Victoria Wood

stage managed by Deanna Fleysher

sound designed by Corwin Evans

*denotes member of Actors’ Equity Association, the professional union of actor and stage managers

Spring Awakens on the Fringe

Last year I covered The Hollywood Fringe Festival on Bitter Lemons and essentially based which Fringe shows I saw off who engaged me on Twitter. It wasn’t a purposeful thing, until I realized it could be, and saw a plethora of great shows because of it. I also met some wonderful people, and Meghan McCauley is one of those people. Everything from her press packet to the blog to using my tweet after seeing their show as their first review kept me completely engaged, and the actual show, Pagan Play, was one of the most fun times I’ve ever had watching a story unfold onstage.

Then she goes and produces Spring Awakening, a top 5 dream play for me. I can’t wait to see it and urge you to check them out. Not a Fringe Family show, though I’m sure teens and parents could be helped by seeing it together, much like our show.–CMJ


CMJ: How did you choose SA for your Fringe show this year?

MM: I can’t take credit for choosing the play – my friend, Patrick Riley (Co-Director and Actor), was the one who brought Spring Awakening to the table last fall. His enthusiasm and fascination with the play inspired me from the beginning. We read it together with Dana Murphy (Co-Director), discussed it briefly, and tabled it – when Patrick brought it up again a few months later, he told me that he and Dana wanted to bring it to the Hollywood Fringe Festival. The two of them are incredibly inspiring, and I was on board.

CMJ: Your choice of graphic design is unique but seems to be right on with the play. What was the process to get there?

MM: Dana and Patrick had compiled a collection of images they loved that inspired them early on in the process, when I was still getting on board. Marcel Dzama and Henry Darger were the two primary source artists. The art we’re using is by Marcel Dzama, a parade of shameless naked teenagers marching together – the young characters of Spring Awakening are struggling with their own developing bodies and sexuality and the shame associated with such change. The image embodies what the students wish they had.
CMJ: What is it that you love about theatre and how have you channeled that into this production?
MM: I love collaboration, do-it-yourself-ness, the celebration of imagination and creativity and resourcefulness that you find in theatre. Spring Awakening has been an exercise in all of this – the members of the cast are seriously talented and thoughtful, insightful and smart. They’ve all helped form the show under Patrick and Dana’s guidance and made my job as producer much easier because they’re so enthusiastic about promoting and publicizing. They are amazing collaborators. The imagination and creativity and resourcefulness that I love about theatre are present in every scene – the found set, the handcrafted masks, the costumes and props meticulously gathered and sewn by cast members.
CMJ: How are you able to work full-time, work full-time again with the Fringe, and produce this show?
MM: Well, that’s the question! I am a bit late-to-bed and early-to-rise, but it really comes down to having super incredible supportive people in my life everywhere I look. The members of Spring Awakening, the Hollywood Fringe staff, my boss at my regular full-time job, my friends, my family, my boyfriend – everyone is supportive in a way that I know I can lean on them when I need them. I also work harder because of that support, because I don’t want to let them down. I think another motivating and inspiring thing is that I’m not so different from most people that I have the fortune of knowing here – most of my peers and friends are working on four or five things at once, and kicking ass doing it. I love that. I love people who create the opportunities they want and I want to embody that, too.
CMJ: What do you want people to take away from SA?

MM: Once we pass our own adolescence, I think it’s all too easy to write off teenagers as foolish, immature, annoying, etc. These things might be true, sure – but these characters remind me that there’s also a lot of tenderness and depth to adolescents, and we owe it to them to take them seriously rather than rolling our eyes. They’re obsessive and self-centered, but they’re also curious and confused and lonely. One of the young characters of Spring Awakening cries: “I wish someone would come who I could just throw my arms around and talk to”. I want people to leave the theatre willing to be that someone to someone else – to listen, to care, to take the time for each other.

Click here to see Spring Awakening in its limited run at the Hollywood Fringe Festival.

New Team Members

We are incredibly lucky to welcome Corwin Evans, Deanna Fleysher and Jessica Farley to our already chock-full-of-talent team and ensemble.

No, seriously, they are awesome! Be sure to say hi when you see them at the show or around the Fringe.


CORWIN EVANS is a freelance designer of sound, projections and integrated experiences. He’s worked in the LA area for five years, and chances are pretty darn good he’s going to see you at some events this Fringe. He’s excited at the prospect of a prodigious amount of high-fives.

Corwin is on a mission to work in almost every one of the 300+ theaters in LA. In the meantime, he enjoys the roller coaster ride of cat ownership, writes original music for theatre and/or fun, pretends to be a comedy writer on his lunch hour and works as a Concierge for Center Theatre Group.

DEANNA FLEYSHER (Stage Manager) is a performer, teacher and director just arrived from NYC. She is very excited to be working on this project!

JESSICA FARLEY (Stage Manager) is fantastic and has been working in theatre and short films for over 15 years. Most of her work has been on the East Coast as she is a native of Washington, D.C. Her favorite roles include Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Morse in Naomi Wallace’s One Flea Spare. She has also studied modern dance, flamenco and various kinds of physical theatre. Jessica is a singer and writer as well and has performed her poetry in small venues in Los Angeles and has published work in local magazines in Spanish and English. She trained at the George Washington University and with instructors from the Shakespeare Theatre Company. Jessica is a participant in the Global Theatre Project and founding member of the Tripod Actors Collective. She’s thrilled to be working on VOICES FROM CHORNOBYL as she has worked on projects for humanitarian causes throughout the world.  Jessica loves people and is especially excited to be involved in the Hollywood Fringe and would like to give a shout to her uncle Marc Spiegel, storyteller extraordinaire, who wrote and performed The Grubrag’s Ballad for the Capitol Fringe Festival in D.C. in 2010 and will again be performing 2011.

Jessica is passionate about human rights and has worked with Amnesty international for about 15 years and is a coordinator for their Young Professionals network and the State Death Penalty Abolition Coordinator for Southern California, for which she often speaks publicly and engages in community outreach. Her human rights and community-building work informs her artistic pieces, which all stem from a deep dedication to the creation of meaning and the True, the Beautiful and the Good.

Evolution of a Kiss at the Fringe

Our show is for ages 8 and up, but something about Cynthia Brinkman’s show Evolution of a Kiss and the storytelling involved resonates with the forgotten stories we share as well. So although not for our target audience, her show is family-friendly 16+. I saw some of her Grandmother’s story when we both did outreach at the Silver Lake Jubilee, and am very excited to see the rest! – CMJ

What will families enjoy about your show?

First, I should say that my show is best for a slightly more mature family audience like ages 16 and up only because in the third portion of the show (where I am portraying myself at age 17), I talk a lot about the M-word (rhymes with Gasterbation) and the  imaginary fantasies that surround that activity. That being said, perhaps the core theme of the show, besides the universal one of hormones and first kisses is how the parental figures respond to their child’s developing sexuality.  I’m most impressed with the evolution of my own mother and where she came from.  Her parents were so strict and controlling and yet she managed to turn it all around with me to the point that it became embarrassing for me as a teenager to have a mother that was so liberal and open with discussing sexuality.   I could really see this show as being a great conversation starter between parents and their teenagers around a topic that would otherwise be difficult to bring up.  Also, since the script is based on journal entries and first-hand accounts, it is so real and so true to our collective human experience of growing up, that you can’t help but laugh with these three  young women.

What was the inspiration for using journals onstage?

When I was still living in San Francisco, a friend of mine was producing a show called Get Mortified where everyday people read from their teenage journals to audiences of 200+.  They had urged me to find my old journals and bring in a few pieces to read.   It’s funny because while I’ve written in a journal since I was 16, I rarely ever look back to read them, so when I did go through and find excerpts about certain romantic fictional fantasies I wrote about the boy on the water polo team, my first kiss with the Fabio-esque foreign exchange student from Portugal, and the moment I realized I might like girls too – they were all so real, so vulnerable, and so raw that I couldn’t help but let out a cathartic laugh.  One night, I had just come home from reading my first kisses at Get Mortified, and was missing my recently deceased abuelita (Spanish for grandma).  I pulled out one of the many tape recordings I have of her just to hear her voice again and happened to listen to a tape where I was asking her about the female presence in the Mexican Revolution, but my younger, boy-crazy cousin interrupted that interview and demanded, “Grandma, tell us about your first kisses!” My grandma lit up and the story that followed was the golden inspiration for the concept of my show.  I looked through my own mother’s journals which she had kept from age 16 to the day she died and I found her first kiss.  After that I just got out of my own way and let these three young women write the story.

Do you feel that performing the roles of your mother and grandmother brought you closer to them?

Definitely! It’s so beautiful to get to become these women, engender their dreams, their feelings, their visions of themselves.  In a way, I feel like this show is my own living “ofrenda” or altar to them.  I really feel their presence with me at every rehearsal and performance.  Also,  in a way, I feel like I’ve become friends with the younger versions of them in the development of this show.  My grandmother had a flair for the dramatic and storytelling – a root that runs deep in my blood so I love to use her words and honor her story telling.  My mother died when I was 20 – just at a point in our relationship when we were about to move past the rebellion and into the friendship.  Doing this show has allowed for that friendship to blossom and now as I think about the family I want to have, she continues to be a great confidant and guiding force.

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What other projects would you like to do?

Since this show is only 50 minutes long, I’ve played with the idea of a Part 2 that chronicles their experiences of dating, courtship, and ultimately marriage – but that may be a ways off since I’m still just getting my footing here in Los Angeles.  I just moved here 7 months ago and I feel like I’m just now beginning to look around, blink, and acknowledge that I’ve finally arrived to the place that was once just a dream for me – HOLLYWOOD!  That once elusive dream is meeting the pavement and I gotta cover some ground to make it happen so getting an agent, manager, union affiliation, etc. are currently at the top of my list. It’s all exciting and for now I’m just thrilled to be a part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival and so grateful for the opportunity to bring this show to a new audience.

Fringe Family Friday Interviews #3 – Jay Alvarez

VFC, Jr. is talking to some of the other Hollywood Fringe participants in our new series, Fringe Family Friday Interviews. Our third interview is with Jay Alvarez, who is presenting his one man show at the Fringe, Be Careful!  The Sharks Will Eat You!

What made you decide to write a children’s show and put it into Fringe Family?

I never set out to do a show.  My father had passed away and a couple of years before he passed my nephew had taped him recounting the story of our escape.  I had grown up with these stories and also had been surrounded by similar stories.

One day I was sitting at Franklin Canyon Park in Beverly Hills by the lake where Opie throws the stone in the old Andy Griffith show and I was listening to the recording and I just started to write.  I found that it was just flowing through me, it wasn’t an effort to write which was interesting because I don’t consider myself a writer.  For a couple of weeks I went back to that lake almost every day and wrote.  It became therapeutic as it was a very down time for me as an actor.  Anyway I wrote it and thought in the back of my mind that it might make a good play or something.  One day I finished writing, I put it away and it sat in my computer for two years.  Two years later after moving back to NYC I serendipitously  met my very talented director Theresa Gambacorta and I mentioned that I had written this piece, it was the first time in two years that I had mentioned the piece, one thing led to another and we started working on it. It’s an interesting side story how we met, sometimes things are just meant to be……….

What has been the most exciting or fun thing about working on this particular project?

What was most exciting about working on the piece was the rehearsal process.  It became about peeling away the excess and finding the essence of the piece.  Exploring each character’s truth.  Theresa took the piece and sliced and diced it to where we got it to a tight 65 minutes.  We spent several months exploring and I’m glad we did.  I think we were able to give a sense of this period in history through one family.  We scheduled the piece for three performances last June and I thought that would be it but I was wrong I’ve been doing it in NYC and Miami since then.  This is a gift that my father left me.

What do you hope families will take away from your show when they see it during the Hollywood Fringe?

I have a very dear friend who brought her somewhat moody teenage niece to see the show.  A couple of days after seeing the show she called her aunt and said “you know aunt Judy seeing the show made me think of how many people we pass on the streets each day that must have wonderful stories they live with and we just “pass them by.”

I often have people come up to me after the show wanting to tell me about their grandmother that escaped Russia or an aunt from Hungary.  I had a very young Jewish woman who knew her grandmother had escaped Germany and wished she knew her story.  I am very humbled by these reactions.

I would hope young and older audiences alike would see courage and determination and most importantly the idea that Love concurs all. I would hope that American born kids understand what so many go through to get to our shores that immigrants are not here to take anything away from us that instead they come with gifts to offer. I would hope that immigrant kids who cling to their heritage to the exclusion of their American side discover that becoming American only adds to who they already are, they can embrace two cultures fully, I certainly have done so. I am Cuban and no one can take that away from me but boy I am so American as well and I love it!

Are there any shows you are planning to see at the Fringe?

I’m so excited about The Fringe! I’m starting my exploration of what I want to see. Since we only have so many days and such a huge smorgasbord I’m going to start with my research. But I would say go out there and experience the world within the few blocks where we will all be presenting such diverse experiences.

For more information or to purchase tickets to Be Careful! The Sharks Will You Eat You! please click here.

Follow Jay on twitter at @Sharkswilleat

Costume Images

Helping create and discover what this family from Chornobyl wears is another real first for the project. We cobbled together a good look for a 2006 workshop of the now-“adult” script, had a

Shawn McAulay & Sarah Brown in original 2006 workshop

wonderful Costume Designer for the 2007 Demo, Christy Hauptmann, and she really took the vision by the horns. Since then, we’ve only presented readings, so truly looking into costumes is a welcome treat!

Thinking about costumes for our Fringe Family show brought me back to a lot of interesting research, and opened my eyes to a whole new group of blogs and stories about people in Ukraine.

This is the best one I found, mostly because it so beautifully shows both the vast changes through each generation but also confirms that styles are essentially ten years behind ours and a little more colorful than we are used to seeing. I am by no means an expert on fashion, and am open to other interpretations. Do you agree or see something more?

3 generations of women in a Ukrainian village.

Other pictures I found useful were:

Story of the Script: VFC jr.

It’s a strange idea, turning Svetlana Alexievich‘s  interviews into a play, and even stranger to think of a children’s script. I know because of the looks I get from people when I say it.

This particular script has been in development a few months, and on the day after our first real rehearsal, I’d like to honor all of the artists whose encouragement and collaboration leads us to the Fringe.

First, Rachel Stoll, who re-ignited this idea in the back of my brain that the stories of Chornobyl will be lost if we can’t open our audience to children. History books certainly aren’t covering it.

Next, the ensemble members who braved our first read-through: Brad Beacom, Katie Sweeney & Kappa Victoria Wood from our so-called ‘adult’ script. Due to unexpected scheduling conflicts, Brad & Katie couldn’t continue on the journey, but their feedback , along with Dramaturg Karen Jean Martinson, Actress Caroline Sharp & Blog Editor Jane Whitty (behind the camera), sparked exactly what I needed to move our script to the next draft.


Maybe on purpose, maybe not, but I cut a lot of my own feedback out of it.

So the moral is: surround yourself with great talent so you can sit back and drink Fat Tire!

And just in case you want to see some quick excerpts of the adult script before part 2:



Fringe Family Friday Interviews: #2 – Gregory Crafts

VFC, Jr. is talking to some of the other Hollywood Fringe participants in our new series, Fringe Family Friday Interviews. Our second interview is with Gregory Crafts, who is presenting his show at the Fringe, Super Sidekick: The Musical.

What made you decide to write a children’s show and put it into Fringe Family?

Well, Super Sidekick was originally conceived as a one-act play back in 2006. I was in a writer’s lab at the time and my sister-in-law was pregnant with my nephew, Brody. Being strapped for cash and not able to afford a gift to celebrate his impending arrival, I decided that I wanted to write something for him. I was obsessed with comic book superheroes as a kid. Spider-Man and the X-Men were particular favorites. Considering how much I enjoyed those stories, and how well I knew them, I thought that writing a play in that genre for him would be an achievable task for my first play.

My nephew was born in October and the first reading of the play was four days later. This reading also marked another important first for me – the first time I ever worked with my then-future wife, Jenn. The reading went well, but everyone agreed that the show was missing “something.” After the reading, she e-mailed me to say thanks for inviting her to be a part of it and she suggested that it would make a great children’s musical. Well, Jenn and I started dating and by the time we’d gotten engaged a year later, I put out a call on CraigsList seeking a composer with a flair for superheroes and children’s theatre. Enter Mike Shapiro, professional composer. Mike was my first interviewee. He also turned out to be my only one, as after we talked I cancelled the interviews with all of my other potential collaborators. We took a year and a half and worked on developing the music. Jenn agreed to direct the first production of it, and the new-and-improved Super Sidekick: The Musical premiered last year as a part of LA’s Festival of New American Musicals on our first wedding anniversary.

When I heard that Ben and company were starting up Fringe Family, I absolutely knew that Super Sidekick had to be a part of it. Jenn is directing this production and we’ve managed to bring back most of the original cast. We have a few new faces too, and they promise to bring new dynamics to the show. I’m very excited about what we’ve got planned.

What has been the most exciting or fun thing about working on this particular project?

There are many exciting elements about working on this show. First and foremost, it’s a fun play for everyone – the cast, the kids and their parents. I think the cast that we’ve assembled is incredibly talented and excited to be a part of this story. Scott Sharma is resuming his endearing portrayal of Inky, the titular sidekick to combat the evil Sorcerer Slurm (Shawn Cahill, a triple threat with extensive Broadway/Touring credits) and his Ninja Koala hench-… men? (hench-koalas? I don’t know…) Noah Butler injects some new life into the role of the bumbling Hero, Blackjack the Bold, who is captured by Slurm in his attempt to rescue PrincessPenelope (reprised by Hanna Nawroth), leaving it up to Inky to save his friends, The Kingdom and the day from the forces of evil. The returning Sara-Beth Wichman, and new ninjas Heather Lake, Ana Therese Lopez and Jude Evans round out the cast.

Between getting to work with this cast, plus three of my best friends in Jenn, Mike and our Stage Manager/Assistant Director, Erin, this show has a wonderful family feel already, just based on how close we all are as a cast and crew. It’s created such a wonderful, fun collaborating environment.

What do you hope families will take away from your show when they see it during the Hollywood Fringe?

There are some important lessons in the show that I think children can benefit from (like that it’s okay to be scared, the importance of friendship & teamwork (and that Ninja Koalas “are very dangerous, you know” but they like their eucalyptus leaves!), but really, I would love to see families coming out of this show and laughing, feeling like they just enjoyed a really fun story. A few months after the show premiered last year, I received an e-mail from a friend of mine who had brought his 7 year old son to see it. He said that his son was still singing “I’m Not Afraid of the Dark” (one of the songs from the show) and playing “Inky and Blackjack” with his action figures. If I could give that kind of meaningful experience to a kid and have it leave that kind of impression, I’ll be happy.

For more information on Super Sidekick, call (818) 849-4039. Also, check out the Theatre Unleashed website:

Purchase tickets to Super Sidekick: The Musical here!

The Cast Responds: Kappa Victoria Wood

We asked the ensemble if they could say a few words on why they want to be involved with this awareness project. First up is Kappa Victoria Wood, who has played Katya in both the adult and now the interactive children’s show.

“History had repeated itself”

Kappa rehearsing Katya (say that 10x fast)

Here’s my response to the material and why I keep subjecting myself to (stories about) radiation:

My character, Katya, was 9-year-old when the accident happened.  I was also 9, but on the other end of the world in my safe little suburban neighborhood and have no recollection of ever having heard of it.  Even throughout my education, I can’t recall ever studying about Chornobyl, save for a sidebar in a textbook, if that.

Fast-forward to five years ago when Voices From Chornobyl was first staged, where I learned of the weighty, compelling stories of those who were made to suffer and even those still living with the consequences of the intense radiation exposure.  How had I never heard of this?

It seemed that there was not only the struggle of the physical effects, but a social struggle of a people who were so proud of their homeland under a government that essentially let them down.  The VFC material in its various stagings over the past five years has always walked the fine line of presenting some rather horrific stories without preaching for or against nuclear power.

When I would share with people the nature of the material, I felt the need to explain that this is an on-going story.  As Katya’s father, Vasily, says, “This is for thousands of years.”  Then the Fukushima incident happened.  While the circumstances were radically different, the danger of radiation is still the same.  What really struck a chord with me is how so much of the language used by reporters, the technical terms, the governmental statements, even 25 years after the Chornobyl accident, all sounded the same.  History had repeated itself and suddenly, I didn’t have to justify why remembering Chornobyl was significant.

My hope is that in addition to educating others, Voices From Chornobyl serves as a reminder that even the largest-scale events are about individual people who have their own hopes, thoughts, dreams, perspectives and, well, voices.

Art from Chornobyl

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