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Runaways Auditions


Runaways is a collection of songs, dances, and spoken word pieces performed by children who have run away from their homes. Initially created from interviews with homeless children and those in orphanages, Elizabeth Swados weaves songs about personal struggle and the world at large through the eyes of youth in New York City in the ’70s. The show blends different musical styles, from pop to hip-hop and jazz to reggae, while asking why children can’t remain children.

Link to Full Text: Runaways – Licensed Script (REFERENCE ONLY).pdf

Link to Score: Runaways PC Score.pdf

Why we are excited about Runaways:

Where do people go when they run away?” is the central question Runaways asks as it deals with stories of substance abuse, underage exploitation, and emotional and physical abuse. Considering the current social environment that is characterized by divisiveness, prejudice, and a widening poverty gap, Runaways uses the power of theatre, music, and movement to drive home a positive message for and by young people. The cast requires fearless teenage storytellers and calls for a wide spectrum of representation.

Runaways has a strong heartbeat and unapologetically exemplifies Piven’s 2019/20 season theme of Resilience.

“Give me a way to survive and I’ll fight for my life.

            After all I’m just starting now and I’ve still got a while.”

“This blast of undiluted teen spirit […] is guaranteed to leave you feeling windblown, hyped up and ready to race through the most torpid summer night […] Elizabeth Swados makes us eavesdrop on the sufferings of children. That sounds ominous but it isn’t […] The calligraphy of childhood is one of the wonders of nature even when the message it writes is heartbreaking.” – The New York Times, Read More

New York Times

“It’s enthralling – a fast and furious, poignant and disturbing eighty minutes.” – AM New York, Read More

AM New York

“An immensely affecting show.” – Newsweek



1978 Obie Award winner for Best Direction

1978 Tony Award Nominations for: Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score, Best Direction of a Musical, Best Choreography

1978 Drama Desk Nominations for: Outstanding Musical, Outstanding Director of a Musical, Outstanding Lyrics, Outstanding Music

Rehearsal Calendar

This is a rough outline of our proposed rehearsal schedule – dates and times are subject to change based on the availability of the cast. Actors will not be called to every rehearsal and may not be called for the full rehearsal, as this show is composed of many smaller pieces that can be worked individually. Conflicts submitted by the deadline established after casting will be honored, however we may not be able to accomodate conflicts submitted after that date. Any potential conflicts with the dates of tech and performances (April 25 through May 10) MUST be listed on the audition form so that our team can make informed decisions about understudies and potential doubling of roles.

Runaways Performer Info

Welcome to Piven Theatre Workshop
Discover why the Chicago Tribune calls Piven Theatre Workshop “one of this area’s most distinguished actor training centers!” For nearly 50 years, the Piven Theatre Workshop has maintained both a professional theatre and a nationally acclaimed theatre workshop for children and adults. The mission of Piven Theatre Workshop is to encourage a process of creative exploration that celebrates each individual’s unique voice through an ensemble-based, community-oriented approach to theatre training and performance. This mission, as it has evolved over 48 years, is pursued through the three branches of the organization: the renowned theatre training center for children and adults which serves over 1,000 students annually and provides mentorship opportunities for emerging theatre artists and educators, the extensive scholarship and community based programs, and the professional theatre committed to new works and literary adaptations.


What is included in the Runaways experience?
Once Runaways is cast, actors will rehearse with our artistic team for four weeks (March 30 to April 23), learn the ropes of a full tech rehearsal alongside our team of designers (April 25 to 30), and present 8 performances over the next two weekends (May 1 to 10). Actors will be called for one to five rehearsals each week, depending on roles and performer availability. Rehearsals will cover acting, singing, and choreography. Students will have the opportunity to work with an impressive array of regional professionals – Director Helen Knudsen (Hatbox Theatrix, Rail Events/Warner Bros.), Musical Director Christie Chiles Twillie (The Color Purple, Definition Theatre Company), Vocal Coach Fay Kaiser, and more! We plan to offer both understudy opportunities and a number of doubled roles so that we open up participation to as many artists as possible.

Who is eligible to audition for Runaways?

We are looking for students currently in High School and Middle School. While most of our community partners are Evanston-based, we are looking for students outside of Evanston, too. Runaways is a unique musical in that it offers students with a variety of talents opportunities to shine. If you’re an advanced dancer but get nervous when you sing, audition! If you’ve been taking voice lessons for years but haven’t acted onstage before, audition! If you’re an improviser and a class clown but you’ve never been in a musical before, audition! We are looking for storytellers with a wide range of talents, and the most important requirement is an advanced level of motivation and a genuine desire to contribute to and learn from this unique experience.

How much does it cost?

The tuition for Runaways participation is $750 for performers. You may be offered a character role, an ensemble role, and/or an understudy role. All performers will have the opportunity for advanced training throughout the robust rehearsal process. We are also offering a tech & design apprenticeship. The apprenticeship with a professional designer, which includes designer meetings, tech, and run crew opportunities is offered at $250. It is our goal to offer this opportunity to anyone who wishes to participate, regardless of financial capacity. Therefore, we invite interested students and families to apply to our longstanding scholarship program. We also have payment plans available.

Audition Information


  1. Sign up. Email runaways@piventheatre.org to sign up for your audition today! Auditions will be held on March 7th and 8th, 2020. You will be assigned an audition block, during which you will learn a song, some movement, and have the chance to share your talent with us in a supportive, fun environment.
  2. Audition Bootcamp. New to auditions? Want to learn the songs before you audition? We are excited to offer an Audition Bootcamp on February 22nd, 9am to 12pm!
  3. Complete the enclosed audition forms and attach a recent photo of yourself.
    Bring the form and photo with you to auditions, signed by both you and a parent or guardian. Please note that those accepted will be provided with a complete information packet and contract to be completed and returned with a payment by March 30.
  4. Optional letter of recommendation from a teacher.
    Ask your teacher to address your abilities to work in a group, both as a leader and as a team player. This letter is particularly useful if you’re new to Piven!
  5. Prepare for your audition.
    Learn about Runaways! Read the script, watch clips, get to know the characters. The more preparation you do beforehand, the more you will be able to shine in the audition room!
  6. Have a great time!

We want the fun to start right away. Auditions should be enjoyable and educational experiences. We cannot wait to meet you.

Audition Location

Piven Theatre Workshop

in the Noyes Cultural Center

927 Noyes Street

Evanston, IL 60201


Runaways Tech Info

Do you want to participate in Runaways in a non-acting capacity? We have a limited number of tech tracks available in a variety of areas, which will give you an opportunity to see up close all the work that goes on behind the scenes to make a production like Runaways come to life! We have two tiers of participation available for applicants of all skill levels.

BACKSTAGE: Help get the show up and running! Backstage technicians are a vital part of any production, and the skills you will acquire in this track can open up new avenues to participate in theater-making long into the future. Working backstage gives you an insight into the making of a musical, which will inform the way you watch and engage with shows far into the future. The stage effects you might see in Hamilton or Wicked are impressive on their own, but even more so when you understand the immense amount of coordination and teamwork that goes into making them happen each and every night. Our backstage crew will help with a variety of tasks before, during, and after all tech rehearsals and performances, including but not limited to:

  • Helping actors with their hair, makeup, and costumes
  • Presetting props and scenery
  • Aiding in scenic shifts during the performance
  • Preparing the stage and house to make sure it’s safe for actors and patrons
  • Helping to solve unexpected problems that arise backstage during the run of the show
  • Repairing props or costumes that get damaged over the course of the run
  • Pre-production assistance such as set building, costume construction, props fabrication, and hanging and focusing lights

DESIGN: Every production mounted on every stage in Chicago is backed by a team of professional designers, who meet long before the first rehearsal to help the director shape the world of the play. Everything you see on stage – from the sets, the costumes, the lights and the sounds – is conceived and planned in advance by these designers in order to create a cohesive stage picture. Each of our fabulous designers for Runaways has expressed eagerness to take on an assistant for this process. These assistants will get a close-up experience of the entire design process from initial concept to final execution, and will come away with a better understanding of how to dissect a script and translate it into ideas onstage. Design assistants may help with a variety of tasks depending on their design area, including:

  • Script analysis and sketching out of ideas
  • Researching visual and emotional concepts related to the play
  • Creating renderings and models to communicate the designer’s vision to the rest of the team
  • Sourcing materials such as costumes and props for use in the show, or fabricating design elements using those materials
  • Creating documentation to help actors and crew members keep track of all the various tech elements during rehearsals and performances
  • Sharing thoughts and input with their designers with regards to different moments in the show and other design elements
  • Training and managing the backstage crews and actors to ensure a safe and smooth backstage experience

In order to ensure a positive experience for both designers and assistants, each designer will be working with a single assistant, meaning these slots are limited! Should we receive multiple applicants for certain positions, final selections will be contingent on an “interview” with the designer and production manager to determine the best fit for each candidate. We plan to have assistantships available in the following areas: Scenery, Lighting, Costumes, Sound, Props, Stage Management