The Runaways Lab

Runaways Lab

Matthew Gregory Hollis, 2015

“Dead Youth”, or, “The Leaks”


Joyelle McSweeney’s “Dead Youth”, or, “The Leaks” is set aboard a hijacked containership upon which Julian Assange leads a chorus of Dead Youth—youngsters killed in violent circumstances such as war, factories, or senior prom—to Magnetic Island to upload them to the Internet before they decay.  Premiering “Dead Youth”, or, “The Leaks” marks the Runaways first collaboration with acclaimed polymath-writer McSweeney, whose best works, “like a great horror film, calls [our fears] up from the depths to the shuddering twilit surface”, according to the La Review of Books.

Since the Runaways first live reading of “Dead Youth” in early 2015, the currents of world affairs have intensified. From the election of Donald Trump and the proliferation of fake news and Wikileaks to the (re)emergence of white nationalism. Our contemporary moment makes a play that brings to light the veiled violence that makes capitalism possible all the more urgent. McSweeney writes like it’s the end of the world and in face of the void, art-making gains urgency. It asks difficult questions and erects circuitries among disparate disciplines. The Runaways will use their sponsorship with HCL to incubate and workshop this ambitious play in an environment filled with many creators and thinkers.

Artist Bio

Runaways Lab

The Runaways Lab is a Chicago theater company that produces work free from expectations of traditional theatrical performance. Our audience engages with the thrilling, DIY nature of our theatre that is stripped to basic carnal and emotional experiences.

In 2012 Runaways founder, Olivia Lilley, ran away from her home in Chicago to follow a touring rock band to Nashville. She abandoned the tour and found herself in a Los Angeles mansion where she directed her original play, “Those Whom the Gods Love.” Inspired by the freedom and self-discovery she experienced as a runaway, she founded The Runaways Lab Theater in Chicago.

The first Runaways’ play “That’s What Makes Her an Idol” opened at Swerve Mansion, a now defunct “punk house” located in Chicago’s west-side, in late 2012. In 2013 Lilley moved into a former tattoo parlor and pornography dungeon and remade it into a performance space called The Parlor. Inspired by the literary voices reading and convening at The Parlor, Lilley created blasphemous adaptations of classic texts by Oscar Wilde, Friedrich Schiller, and the Beats. Lilley’s lease ended at the Parlor at the end of 2014.

Without an artistic home, the Runaways utilized experimental rehearsal processes and promenade-style performances, adapting Goethe’s “Faust” into a traveling play, performing in households, bars, underground performance venues, and an abandoned soup-can factory. In 2016, the Runaways created a theatrical experience that conflated a typical night at the theater with incarceration in our interactive play, “Jail”, that performed at the Curious Theater Branch’s 27th Annual Rhino Fest.  We also premiered the first annual “Doing Drugs and  Dying in Space Ritual”, a play festival in the basement of Iridium Clothing Co. In the fall, body-swapping time-traveling “Mary Shelley Sees the Future” premiered in the fall at Outerspace, and “Goddamn Geniuses” will open at Voice of the City in February.