Meet Our Founders: Mahirah
As the secretary of The Runaway Co., Mahirah handles the busy everyday runnings of a theatre group and is an integral part of our company. She started out with the company when it was just a pipe dream and has helped bring it to where it is today. Her passion for music and theatre has only grown since her days producing revues and plays in junior college. In this article, we find out more about Mahirah and the history of TRC!
How and why did the company start?
The history of the people in this company can actually be traced all the way back to 2016, when a small group of us who were really passionate about musical theatre got together, and we called ourselves 'The Broadway Babies'. We put up 3 productions as The Broadway Babies: the first was a performance consisting of a few music theatre numbers for our school's Literature Night. Then we produced a revue performance the next year, and an original musical the year after that.
After the last production, we realised that a lot of us wanted to continue working on musical theatre productions, but not necessarily as a full-time job or as a profession, and there wasn't really any avenue that could allow us to do that. We also wanted to continue putting up productions that would conscientiously combine music and theatre, a very powerful combination for storytelling, to tell the stories of youths specifically, as we realised that us youths actually have our unique set of experiences, challenges and triumphs, that may not be given the spotlight in existing arts channels.
So some of us from the original organisational team of The Broadway Babies got together with a few of us from the productions we had put up along the way. And at the end of 2018, TRC was birthed :)
Why the name “The Runaway Company”?
The word "runaway" actually came from our original musical that I previously mentioned, which was called "Runaway: The Musical". The musical told the story of a couple of youths who run away from their homes, and accidentally get stuck on a magical train that transcends time and space, and has been picking up runaways since the beginning of human history. The story was all about the youths finding a home away from home, realising what the truly important things in life are, and about them finding their paths in life. We felt that that was something we really wanted to embody in this company, thus the word 'Runaway'. We had a few other options, but this was the one that we felt was the most suitable for what we envisioned (It was also the coolest sounding option haha).
As for 'Company', we really just wanted a word that would encapsulate the idea of a bunch of performing artists (actors, singers, musicians, dancers) performing together.
How has the company grown since the beginning?
Firstly, we’ve definitely grown in terms of size - as the number of productions we put up increases, the more people joined our ever-growing family. Secondly, I would say in terms of the types of productions we put up - where originally The Broadway Babies were focused on musical theatre performances, we realised that music and theatre can work together in so many other ways, such as through music theatre, which we are now exploring for Wilderness (yay!).
Lastly, I think in terms of diversity as well - as we continue putting up productions, we’ve met so many people from vastly different backgrounds. The greater the diversity of strengths and experiences we have within the company of TRC, the stronger we are as a community.
What are the challenges you and the team have faced in starting this company, especially as youth? What are some of the key takeaways you’ve had throughout all these?
I think the three greatest challenges we have faced would be resources, experience and succession.
Being a new non-profit society, gathering resources, especially monetary resources, is definitely challenging. We support ourselves through donations, grants and ticket revenue, which all require audiences and supporters to take a leap of faith that we are a worthy social cause and that we will be producing quality works that tell stories that matter. This can be difficult when we don't have that many works to our name yet, but I believe that with all the extremely talented and passionate individuals dedicated to TRC, it will become easier as time goes by.
In relation to this, experience is the other big challenge we face. For many of us, this is our first time setting up something of our own in a formal context. So there have been a lot of unanticipated obstacles that have popped up along the way that we have had to deal with.
In addition to that, succession is also difficult for us, because we want to ensure that this community that we are building together is sustainable, yet never stagnant, so we are looking to constantly ensure that the organisational leadership team is always being refreshed with people with different experiences. However, this is never an easy task for any group, including us, especially because we know that a lot of us are not planning to pursue this professionally, and often have to carve time out of our daily commitments for TRC.
But all these experiences have taught us that we need to be resourceful and resilient in getting the help that we need, and that everybody benefits from working and learning together.
Any significant moments during the productions you wish to share?
For me personally, one of the most recent memorable moments would be during the first Wilderness company-wide meeting. It was the first time that we were able to see nearly everyone who would be working on Wilderness together, and there was such a lively energy in the room during the meeting. To just see the whole company of Wilderness together and getting to know each other was truly a positive start to the Wilderness production process.
What your hopes for the future of The Runaway Company?
I hope that TRC has a future (haha) in that it continues to exist for a long time to come, to stay true to our aims to always provide an art space for talented and passionate youths. We have stories to tell, and so do you.