On Saturday, March 30, at 8 p.m., at First Congregational Church, 40 South Fullerton Ave., Vanguard Theater Company will present a concert version in Montclair of the Liz Swados musical “Runaways” to raise awareness about food insecurity, homelessness and substance abuse among teens and at risk youth in Essex County. The production will be followed by a sleepout to raise money for Covenant House, a shelter for teens, and will take place on the front lawn of FCC.
Swados created the musical collage about young people estranged from their families from workshops she conducted with real-life runaways in the late 1970s.
“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. Vanguard writes, “Because of their generosity, Vanguard was able to create special opportunities to help the cast go deeper into their characters. 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.”
After hearing his story, and reading the stories of over 25 homeless youth in a photo and biography gallery created by Vanguard leaders, the teenage cast decided to continue raising awareness about at-risk youth, and reached out to Covenant House about hosting a sleep-out in solidarity with, and to raise awareness about, homeless teens. “After inhabiting these characters through rehearsals and the performances, and living their stories of homelessness, substance abuse, hunger and more, we knew we could not stop at just singing about it,” Jordan Muhammad, one of the cast members who has become an ambassador for the cast to Covenant House, said in a release.
The concert reprises the production that VTC presented in January to four sold-out audiences at the American Theater of Actors in New York City. First Congregational Church, 40 South Fullerton Ave., will host the concert. Admission is by a suggested donation of $10, and audience members will be asked to bring canned or dry boxed food for donation to Toni’s Kitchen and our