Vanguard presents ‘Runaways’ at the American Theater for Actors

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NEW YORK CITY — Vanguard Theater Company, based in Maplewood, will present “Runaways,” by Elizabeth Swados, for four performances only on January 18 through 20 at the American Theater for Actors, 314 W 54th St., New York City.

“Runaways” is a musical collage about the hopes, dreams, fears, frustrations, loneliness, humor and anger of young people estranged from their families and searching for themselves. Written, composed, choreographed and originally directed by Elizabeth Swados, the characters were taken from workshops conducted by Swados with real-life runaways in the late 1970s.

“Runaways” is presented by Vanguard Theater Company, directed by Janeece Freeman Clark, with choreography by Izryel Mathis, musical direction by Terri Gorgone and fight choreography by Branden Mangan. It features a cast of 45 performers from New York and New Jersey.

One in seven children between the ages of 10 and 18 will run away from home at some point. That is equivalent to almost seven children in the “Runaways” cast. On any given night, The National Runaway Switchboard estimates there are more than 1.3 million homeless youths living unsupervised on the streets, in abandoned buildings, with friends or with strangers. These young people are at a much higher risk of physical abuse, sexual exploitation, mental health disabilities, substance abuse and death. More than 5,000 unaccompanied youth die each year on the streets as a result of overdose, assault, illness or suicide.

Vanguard’s production of “Runaways” is part of a special program called DREAM VTC, made possible in part by grants from the New Jersey Council on the Arts and TeeRico by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Because of these moneys, Vanguard was able to create several special opportunities to help the cast go deeper into their characters. At one rehearsal, VTC arranged to have a young man visit the cast who had previously found shelter at Covenant House, an organization that, for more than four decades, has helped transform and save the lives of more than a million homeless, runaway and trafficked young people. Hearing his story, and reading the stories of more than 25 homeless youth in a photo and biography gallery Vanguard created at another rehearsal, affected the Runaways’ cast deeply. They decided that they wanted to do something to help. As one of their initiatives, at the conclusion of each show, they will share a bit with audiences about Covenant House and ask for donations, inspired by Broadway Cares, Equity Fights Aids. They have also begun the process of organizing a “sleep out” in March; the cast will “sleep out” so homeless kids have the opportunity to “sleep in.”

Performances will be Friday, Jan. 18, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, Jan. 19, at 3 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Jan. 20, at 3 p.m. Tickets for “Runaways” are available through Vanguard Theater Company’s website at vanguardtheatercompany.org.

Photos Courtesy of Jessica Sporn, Branden Mangan and Terri Gorgone

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