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Stray- A Punk Rock Musical About Teenage Runaways and BDSM

When people turn 16 the most exciting thing in their life might be getting a driver’s license. When Tanya Marquardt was 16 she was a runaway, modeling fetish clothing at underground BDSM parties. Instead of worrying about curfews she was living with older friends and seeing and experiencing things that would shape the rest of her life. She turned this experience into the new punk rock musical Stray opening in NYC at The Tank on July 18th.

“It starts on the day I turned 16,” says Marquardt, “Which is the day I ran away and it kind of bounces back and forth between my life now and that time.” For the musical she sings original punk songs written with her collaborator Tim Carlson. The setting is a bar and the songs and banter tell her life story including her relationship with her adoptive father, being suicidal and her time as an underage BDSM model.

Tanya and her mother moved to a small conservative Canadian town after her parents divorced. “I felt like an outsider,” she says, “So I hung out with the outsiders.” Her relationship with her mother was volatile, “I was angry at her for so many things that she mostly didn’t do.”  Some of her friends graduated and moved to Vancouver and she ran away to be with them. “I packed up all my shit and called a cab,” she says, “When my mom came home there was nothing. I took the sheets off the bed. It was as if the room had been stripped and I just disappeared. I didn’t call her for three days.”

Her friends were older and more experienced. One friend, Lana, was into BDSM culture. She attended BDSM parties, created fetish wear and she invited Tanya to model the clothes and check out the scene. “I think I was quite empowered by what happened,” says Tanya, “I saw woman and men and trans people just being really empowered. I saw people consenting to do any number of things with each other. You’d see a list of rules on the wall and everybody had to adhere to them”. She adds, “I started getting involved in the scene before I even had intercourse with anybody.”

tanya marquardt. image Theatre Conspiracy

She felt empowered but the life she was living wasn’t easy. “I was a runaway kid. I chain smoked cigarettes for four years and drank myself into a stupor and went to BDSM bars. It was a really raw time”. She shared this experience with her fellow outsider friends. “It was just like one of those things,” she says, “Where we all came from weird, broken spaces and we were trying to figure out intimacy in any way that we could”.

The destructive patterns and behaviors continued to repeat as she got older. She ran away again, this time from Canada to New York City after a bad breakup. Soon she realized that the choices she made as an adult mirrored those she made as a teenager. More than a decade after she first ran away she started writing a memoir documenting her life choices and relationships. Inspired by the 90’s punk rock music of her teen years she created a musical of her life as well. Writing about her past was daunting but, “It ultimately led to a deeper sense of myself”. She adds, “Sometimes you have to run to find out who you are”.

Stray, the punk rock musical based on Marquardt’s life opens July 18 at The Tank (312 West 36th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues). You can purchase tickets here.

Her book Stray: Memoirs of A Runaway will be published in September.

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Joe DeLong - NYC Editor

Joe DeLong - NYC Editor

Former stand up comic, radio show host, mayoral candidate and fetish webcam model. Now I'm the male equivalent of a crazy cat lady.