Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Fringe Friends: Cindy Marie Jenkins and "Voices From Chornobyl, Jr."

We're happy to continue our Fringe Friends feature with producer/writer/storyteller Cindy Marie Jenkins and Voices From Chornobyl, Jr. Cindy covered the 2010 Hollywood Fringe Festival heavily last year and is bringing a very inspiring new show to the 2011 roster. Voices From Chornobyl, Jr. is running June 11 - 26 at Fringe Central (ArtWorks Theatre & Studios, 6585 Santa Monica Blvd.)

Lonesome No More!: For those who might not know, what is your show about? Can you tell us a bit about how the original project came about?
Cindy Marie Jenkins: Our show Voices From Chornobyl Jr. is inspired by real interviews with people ten years after the Chornobyl accident. We take true experiences from real people and create a narrative focusing on a 9 year-old girl and how her life changes.
The original project happened because I was ignorant. A friend showed me the book of Svetlana Alexievich's Voices From Chernobyl, because she had seen the Prologue work as a monologue and I seemed be interested in that kind of work. The more I read, the more I wanted to encompass as many stories as possible. It's just a part of the world and history that we don't remember often enough to learn its lessons.

LNM: Why did you decide to make a children's version of the original play?
CMJ: I'd always kind of thought about it, but it wasn't until Co-Producer Rachel Stoll and I were discussing how to broaden the audience and all of the possibilities, and she suggested the new program Fringe Family at the Hollywood Fringe Festival. The younger people are, the less likely they are to have been taught about Chornobyl, and the children's version holds the same encouragement toward self-educating that the now-adult script does. It's all just to get people learning about their world.

LNM: What have the challenges been thus far in the adaptation?
CMJ: We have a video of the team's reactions after our very first reading on the website (http://voicesfromchornobyl.wordpress.com/2011/06/01/story-of-the-script-vfc-jr/) and it truly has been a journey. The original script has the characters jumping in and out of time, sometimes in scenes and sometimes direct address, and for VFC jr. it really became about telling the story through Katya's eyes. She has a lot of questions and her parents can't talk to her about it or they'll get in trouble with the authorities. So this story is now a little more about the tension created within families and on earth can parents talk to their children about subjects that sometimes even they don't understand?

LNM: What have the triumphs been in the development of your project?
CMJ: Finding this amazing team. We've always had a strong ensemble, and at first all of our actors for the 'adult' script were going to perform the same roles in this interactive children's version. Schedules fell out of order, and then I realized in March that I wanted a director so I could focus on the writing and outreach. Now we still have regular ensemble member Kappa Victoria Wood, who plays the young girl, and this new phenomenally talented group of people, all dedicated to the story and bringing a whole new light into it, new ideas and new questions. Another major triumph was reaching out to my fellow Fringers and Arts Education community, who brought two amazing women on as our stage managers. Add our team members, plus Kozak our Director, Corwin the Sound God, all those wonderful people who joined us at Fringe Central to record some foley on short notice--well, I really can't feel more supported through this journey.

LNM: What do you hope to accomplish with your Fringe run?
CMJ: This project has always been about awareness, sharing stories that otherwise may not be heard. With our April Awareness Events, we were successful in consistently bringing new people and new audience to these survivors' stories, and branching out beyond the theatrical community to create a meaningful experience in the theatre for those who aren't in the habit of attending shows. For the Fringe, we want to expand our reach and broach this new audience of young people. The main story of our play is that people should ask questions of the world around them. So if people leave a little curiouser and with some questions and more of an idea of life in another part of the world, we will consider the Fringe run a success!

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