It's a cold, nasty world out there. Just ask any teen-ager who has run away from home and managed to survive on the streets.
That's exactly what playwright Elizabeth Swados did in 1978 when she wrote "Runaways," a gritty, musical tribute to the pain and suffering these kids somehow endure.
In its first production for teen-agers, Hundred Hats Youth Theater in Santa Paula is taking on this tough, streetwise play. Not only that, the theater group is doing the show in a bilingual mixture of English and Spanish.
"This is not your usual 'aren't we cheerful' " show, said Terry Brenner-Farrell, who co-directs the musical with Julie Billingsly. "It's tough subject matter, but teens need a chance to see both the dark and the bright."
In fact, Brenner-Farrell had to do some editing of Swados' play to eliminate some of the rough language.
The theater group is looking for kids 13 years and older to participate in a monthlong workshop during August to prepare for the production. Beginning Monday, the teen-agers will meet Monday through Wednesday from 2 to 5 p.m. The workshop costs $120 and covers acting, voice, movement, makeup and stage crafts.
The play will be presented Sept. 15, 17, 18, 22, 24 and 25 in the Santa Paula Theater Center. Tickets are $5.
"Runaways" takes place on the street. The set is simple and stark: a trash can, graffiti, a chain link fence. The story is actually a series of stories told by the runaways.
One is a prostitute, another is a boy who ran away to prove to his parents he exists, another is an emotional basket case over his mother's death and another is deaf. Others have equally troubling pasts.
Swados' tapestry of broken, troubled lives examines not only survival on the street, but teen-age pregnancy, friendship, parent-child relationships and gets to the very basic question of what constitutes a home and family, according to Brenner-Farrell.
She and Billingsly hope to put together a multicultural cast. The deaf character will have an interpreter, and the Spanish dialogue will be understandable to non-Spanish speaking audience members through movement and action, they said.
Billingsly said they picked the play because they wanted a challenge for teen-agers, something that would generate discussion during the workshop. "When we do a show we try to have something for the kids to learn," she said.
The show is actually a musical, and Brenner-Farrell is doing the choreography. "There is some comic relief," Billingsly said. "But it's still pretty serious."
In a much lighter vein, the Young Artists Ensemble is doing that perennial musical comedy, "Guys and Dolls," at Westlake High School auditorium today through Aug. 6. The cast of about 55 kids, ages 13 to 19, will be accompanied by a live orchestra.
Show time is 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings. Tickets are $7. This is the 14th annual summer musical the Thousand Oaks young acting group has offered. For information, call 499-4355.
In Simi Valley, it's party time. Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District is throwing a Splash Party Friday night at the Rancho Simi Community Park pool.
It's billed as a family event, with swimming, games and dancing to oldies and top 40 tunes. It runs from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Cost is $3.50 per person, which includes snacks and soft drinks. This is the first of two Splash Parties the district is throwing this summer. The other one is Aug. 26. For information, call 584-4400.
Ventura's recreation department has some nifty one- or two-day arts and crafts workshops for kids at Ventura's harbor this summer. The sessions at Ventura Harbor Village last one or two hours.
Kids can make shell jewelry and collages, board games, yarn paintings, origami, seashell barrettes, friendship bracelets and cord necklaces. The cost ranges from $8 to $15.
For information, call 658-4726.
* WHAT: Teen-age workshop to produce the play "Runaways."
* WHEN: Workshop runs Monday through Aug. 31, Monday through Wednesday, 2 to 5 p.m.
* WHERE: Santa Paula Theater Center, 125 S. 7th St., Santa Paula.
* HOW MUCH: $120.
* FYI: The play will be presented in mid-September at the Santa Paula Theater by Hundred Hats Youth Theater. Call 644-4128 or 647-5750.