Street Dreams

The kids in Artlab, a collaboration between Jose Mercado’s Labryinth Arts Academy and the Platte Forum, had already been working on their theater project on homeless youth for several months — meeting with teenagers at Urban Peak, reading books and surfing online — when they finally gave a reading of the piece that would become Throwaway/Runaway at the Wellington E. Webb building. It opens with a kid playing music as other actors come on stage and drop some coins. But at this reading, a city worker walking by gave the actor money, too. “It was art meeting real life,” Mercado remembers. “That’s when it clicked.”

And it kept clicking as the kids — many of them first-time actors — kept polishing Throwaway/Runaway. Mercado had done an original production at North High a few years ago and wanted to do another; his students considered focusing on immigration or gang life before they decided on homeless youth — but as it turns out, there was plenty of overlap. “But the biggest realization they had,” Mercado says, “was that a lot of these homeless kids weren’t so different from themselves. It humanized the issue for them, brought it a little closer to home.”

Throwaway/Runaway will have its world premiere at 2 p.m. today (repeating at 2 p.m. tomorrow) at Riverfront Plaza, 1600 Little Raven Street. That location clicked, too. “We were practicing a lot of our improvs right outside on the plaza while we were exploring venues,” Mercado says. “Then we thought, ‘How cool would it be to do this with downtown Denver as a backdrop?’ We’re talking about kids living on the streets; why not do it on the streets?” As a result, there’s limited seating, but plenty of standing room — and both shows are free. For more information, go to, or call 303-893-0791.
June 21-22, 2 p.m., 2008

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun