Double dog dare you

Dare 2 Defy profile plus The Great American Trailer Park Musical

By Joyell Nevins

Photo: Eric Julian Walker and Hayley Penchoff rehearse for Dare 2 Defy’s The Great American Trailer Park Musical;.Photo: Sydney Fleming.

About a year ago, a group of theater lovers observed a pool of incredibly talented actors and actresses in the Dayton area. They also saw that pool leaving for professional careers elsewhere or taking non-theatrical jobs to keep the bills at bay. So they decided to do something about it.

“There weren’t a lot of outlets for extremely talented people to perform and get paid for it,” says Angie Thacker. “We didn’t want talented actors to have to decide between paying for their gas to get to a show and actually being in the show.”

Thacker is the chief operating officer of Dare 2 Defy Productions (D2D), founded by her best friend and theatrical counterpart Becki Norgaard.

“I have a conviction that the talent that is grown in Dayton through amazing high school programs, the excellent Muse Machine program and the colleges like WSU, Sinclair, UD and CCM are of a very high caliber, and these folks need a place to work. Dayton’s professional Equity theater is top-notch and provides a lot of opportunities, but they just can’t use them all,” Norgaard explains.

After seeing this discrepancy continue to grow, Norgaard decided to just go for it.

“The name actually came from that terrified feeling I had when I decided to dare to defy all the odds and try and create something new and something that may have seemed impossible,” Norgaard explains.

In fact, the homepage photo on their website is of a climber on a steep edifice, determinedly holding on to the rope. Norgaard and Thacker are joined by resident artists Mackensie Vonderbrink, Bobby Mitchum and Zach King, who have been a part of the organization from its inception. Vonderbrink is the operations manager, Mitchum is the director of business development and King is the facilities manager in addition to being resident artists. Georgia Cheliotis, Dionne Meyer and David McKibben have been members of the board since D2D transitioned into a non-profit last February. All the roles are volunteer, as D2D saves its compensation for their contracted artists.

Their guts and tenacity have paid off—D2D is now into its second season, and the name continues to grow. Funding comes completely from the Dayton community through methods such as ticket sales, advertising and campaigns like Dayton Power & Light’s Power to Give.

“We’re a lot further along than we thought we’d be,” Thacker says. “Our name is out there, our houses are getting bigger, and our patronage is growing.”

Actors and actresses are coming from as far as Cincinnati and Columbus to be a part of what D2D is doing. Although Tia Seay, who is performing in an upcoming musical, lives in Dayton, she learned about D2D in Kings Island. She was standing in line and heard two people singing behind her (D2D artists Mackensie King and T.C. Schreier). When she acknowledged them, they said, “Oh sorry, we’re theater people.” The conversation went from there.

“I went to season auditions, and we’ve been family ever since,” Seay says. “Dare 2 Defy has given me an opportunity to live my life’s dream here at home.” She is able to stay at home with her two children, Deacon and Justen Jr., and still be a part of a professional production.

Although they are not the only professional theater company in Dayton, there are a few things that set D2D apart.

First, D2D does not have their own theater space. What they do have is a great working relationship with the Victoria Theatre Association (although when they did their first musical, Rent, at the Victoria Theatre, the Association had no idea who they were!). All of their shows are either performed in the Victoria Theatre or the Mathile Theatre at the Schuster Center.

Also, D2D focuses on musicals. They have run the gamut from adult themes like Rent to shows that are all about dance, such as the recently performed Footloose. Currently, D2D is producing the over-the-top musical comedy The Great American Trailer Park Musical.

With Velveeta as the characters’ snack of choice, this show is the queen bee of stereotypes. It’s set in the fictitious Florida trailer park Armadillo Acres, and comes complete with a Jerry Springer-style musical number called “The Great American T.V. Show.” Other appropriately named song titles include “Flushed Down the Pipe,” “Roadkill” and “It Doesn’t Take a Genius.”

“We all just fell in love with the show because it’s so ridiculous,” Thacker says of when they were determining the season. “There is a moral, but it’s more for straight laughs.”

Characters include Thacker’s agoraphobic Jeannie, who hasn’t left her trailer in 20 years (which is partly blamed on a really bad perm), her tollbooth collector husband Norbert, stripper “on the run” Pippi, Pippi’s magic-marker sniffing ex-boyfriend Duke, and the three amigas Pickles, Lin (short for Linoleum) and Betty, played by Seay. Seay describes Betty, who is the leasing manager at the park, as a “free wheelin’ ball-bustin’ kind of girl.”

Seay and Thacker are joined in the production by Rob Willoughby, Tori Kocher, Eric Julian Walker and Haley Penchof. It sounds like the cast is getting as much entertainment as they hope the audience will.

“We are having so much fun,” Seay says. “[Rehearsals] are like a party every night.”

Thacker agrees, “It has been a blast.”

Join the party as the show runs through January 16, and be sure to catch the next party with a roaring ’20s musical on deck.

“We are a new company, growing, learning, evolving and trying to survive until we thrive. We will always dare to follow our passions and defy people’s expectations with the quality of talent we can share,” Norgaard declares.

The Great American Trailer Park Musical will be presented at 8 p.m., Jan. 8 and 15, and 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Jan. 9 and 16 in the Mathile Theatre in the Schuster Center, 1 W. Second St. Tickets can be purchased online at or by calling the Box Office at 888.228.3630. For more information, visit

Joyell Nevins believes in the power of the written word, a good cup of coffee, and sometimes, the need for a hug (please, no Tommy Boy references). Follow her on her blog “Small World, Big God” at or reach her at

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Joyell believes in the power of the written word, a good cup of coffee, and sometimes, the need for a hug (please, no Tommy Boy references). Follow her on her blog “Small World, Big God” at or reach her at

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