Building character through building characters

D are to Defy, also known as D2D, is one of the most recent musical theatrical production companies to plant their roots in the Dayton area. They have just completed their third season and are already in full-swing preparations for their fourth that will start in the fall. Throughout this summer though, they are spearheading […]

Dare 2 Inspire’s creative outlet and focal point for teens


The embarrassments of middle school in the play “13,” portrayed by (l-r) Emma Rubin, Jillian Myers (face hidden), Meghan Jette, Allie Hubler, and Maggie Weckesser.

By Sarah Monroe

Dare to Defy, also known as D2D, is one of the most recent musical theatrical production companies to plant their roots in the Dayton area. They have just completed their third season and are already in full-swing preparations for their fourth that will start in the fall. Throughout this summer though, they are spearheading a free youth theatre program called
Dare 2 Inspire.

“Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is a way to work out your emotions, you get more comfortable in front of people,” says Becki Norgaard, Executive Director of D2D. “There are just a lot of coping skills that people can learn, and we’ve had a sense that maybe the kids that need it the most don’t have the greatest access to it. We, collectively as an organizaton, feel like there are a lot of life skills that participating in theatre gives to children.” 

The program is for children ranging from the ages of 10 to 20 years old, and was created so that they may experience being a part of something that their family may not otherwise be able to afford. “There are a lot of children’s theatres in Dayton and I wouldn’t say all, but most of them, are in the suburbs and they charge a participation fee.” Norgaard says. “I understand why, because putting on shows cost money, but I just felt like there should be something accessible in Dayton itself that didn’t cost anything.”

The projects that the company will tackle are wide in range, but are very real and very relatable. “We wanted to do something that had more of an edge to it, more of a reality so that they are not only performing and learning the skills of theatre, but it’s a way to kind of talk through and work through things that happen in real life,” she says.

The shows are broken up by age. 10- to 14-year-olds are working on the musical “13,” teens ages 16 to 20 will be performing “Next to Normal,” and 14- to 20-year olds will be doing a modern twist on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Jesus Christ Superstar.”

“When we chose the show ‘13,’ it’s about kids in middle school, so there is stuff about not fitting in, and about hormones and crushes and parents getting divorced and having to move away,” Norgaard explains. “I mean a real kind of emotional journey, so that we are equipping kids who are getting ready to, or are already going through those things. It’s a way to say ‘hey, it’s not unusual how you feel’.”

The company knows that there are some themes that parents may not feel are appropriate for their child, but the details of the plays are explained to them in advance. Parents may forget what it felt like during their teens and the pressure that was put on their shoulders. It is even more amplified now with social media and the glorification of celebrities that always seem to be perfect. Some kids struggle with the “it’s only happening to me” mentality, and suffer silently.

“It’s kind of heavy stuff, but it’s real stuff,” Norgaard says about the second play, “Next to Normal.” It centers around a mother who suffers from bipolar disorder and the strain it has taken on her family.

In “Jesus Christ, Superstar,” with a cast of 60 performers, “There are a lot of themes in there about sacrifice and manipulation of politics and all kinds of things that really give kids a way to take that and maybe use that for an allegory for what’s happening in the world,” Norgaard says. “It gives these people such an opportunity to talk about things that you think you disagree on, and then when you really listen and have a dialogue about it, underneath we are not this big divided thing. Even if you disagree, usually you can find a common place to understand where the other person is coming from, and maybe not hate the person, but dislike something about what they believe.” 

This year’s casts have already been picked for the above-mentioned productions, but be on the lookout in late spring of 2019 to grab a chance to be part of the cast for next summer. Your children can still be involved with the 2018 productions, though. Norgaard and the D2D crew will welcome any kid who wants to be a part of the behind-the-scenes crew, helping with lighting, set design or costumes. 

“When you break it all down raw,” Norgaard reminds us, “we are all the same underneath.”

The dates for the performances are posted on Dare to Defy’s social media pages as well as their website. More information can be found at www.d2defy.com

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Sarah Monroe, a native to the Gem City, is currently writing her first novel. Reach DCP writer Sarah Monroe at contactus@daytoncitypaper.com

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