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Modern musical aims to raise consciousness about teens on the

Modern musical aims to raise consciousness about teens on the


"Runaways" will run through Sunday, with 8 p.m. curtain on Friday and

Saturday, 2 p.m. on Sunday, First United Methodist Church, 6635 Hohman Ave.,

Hammond. For more information, call (219) 836-8962.

If there is to be a "Hair" for the 1990s, Genesius Guild's current

production "Runaways" looks like a solid candidate for the role.

As "Hair" mobilized a society against shortcomings in our national agenda,

so should "Runaways" mobilize that same society against one of its most serious

failures - the abuse and abandonment of our children in alarming numbers.

The ensemble marshalled by director Ed Griffith in Hammond consists almost

entirely of children well within the age range of this nation's runaways.

In the first two minutes of the production, the theme is laid out eloquently

with little actual dialogue. An argument - probably one of many - between a

mother and her daughter ends in a slap before the lights come up on the

stricken child (Colleen Kelly), as she packs a small sack with a few

belongings, writes a hasty note of goodbye and leaves home, only to find out

that the street is no less hostile than home, with even fewer safeguards.

The audience is informed that a child is reported missing every 40 seconds

(90 per hour, every hour, every day, to the tune of more than one-half million

per year).

The Genesius Guild production is a good example of theater as an educational

process, presented by a most capable group of young "teachers."

They make visible the pain and terrors of both family and street life, in

numbers like "I Had to Go" (Summer Coronado), "Footsteps" (Charlotte McCarthy),

"Spanish Argument" (Coronado and Justin Treasure), "Minnesota Strip"

(Sondra Hinken, Kim I. Dildine, Sonia Timmerman, Lundin and ensemble) and "Song

of a Child Prostitute" (Jocelyn Adamski).

Playwright Elizabeth Swados based this work on interviews of runaway teens,

which lends a biting authenticity to the scenes, often in stark contrast to the

spirited singing and sparkling choreography of numbers like "Lullaby for Luis"

(Coronado, Treasure, Tiffany Wenrich, Alyssa Rodriguez and Adamski).

Others include "Find Me a Hero" (Jordan Mayer, Patrick P. Wozny and

ensemble), "The Undiscovered Son" (Bill Wilson and Lundin), "Every Now and

Then" (Rodriguez, Lundin and ensemble), "The Revenge Song" (Kerry Hall and

Wenrich) and "Clothes" (Amanda Dietrich).

Why do children run away? The play makes the point that abuse is the

trigger in most cases.

This is supported by data provided by ChildHelp USA, to the effect that more

than 2.9 million child abuse reports were made in 1992, a year in which 1261

children (more than 3 a day) died from abuse or neglect in the United States.

According to "Violence Update, 1993," a child is abused every 13 seconds in

this country.

"Runaways" is heavy stuff, and its punch is not diminished by the youth and

entertaining presentation of the highly talented ensemble, making its

comparison to the original production of "Hair" compelling.

One wishes that someone like Michael Butler might do with this work what he

did with that epoch-defining, consciousness-raising work.

Griffith and his associates at Genesius Guild have staged a production to be

proud of, while regretting its origins.


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