Home alone in the Garden

Dare 2 Defy presents Children of Eden at the Victoria Theatre

By Morgan Laurens

Photo: Storytellers Desmond Thomas and Lisa Glover represent today’s generation, the audience, in Dare to Defy’s Garden of Eden; photos: Lauren Schierloh

The typical family drama either climaxes or concludes with a specific event: a wedding, a funeral, a birthday, a booby-trapped house (if you’ve just seen “Home Alone” and are feeling particularly creative). Even a backyard barbeque can be a landmine of emotional hotspots. Revelations are made, secrets spilled, burgers overcooked, all producing a perfect storm of tears and simmering resentment. These sorts of gatherings belong within the grand tradition of the dysfunctional family saga, told again and again through film (“The Godfather” trilogy, “The Squid and the Whale”), massive novels (“The Corrections,” “Pride and Prejudice”), and TV (Arrested Development).

Dare 2 Defy’s (D2D) production of Children of Eden proves that theatre can tackle the genre as well, this time without aid from the contemporary backyard barbeque scene. Loosely based on the book of Genesis, Children of Eden tells the story of Adam, Eve, Noah, and The Father as they deal with the repercussions resulting from the headstrong, sometimes disastrous actions of their children. “I first saw Children of Eden at Playhouse South several years ago,” says D2D founder and Artistic Director Rebecca Norgaard. “I have always been impacted by how truly it tells the story of the relationship of parents and children, and the beauty of true love and redemption.”

Formed just over three years ago, D2D is the brainchild of Norgaard, who is a woman on a mission. Her theatre company focuses on presenting professional quality productions to the community, showcasing local talent, and providing opportunities for actors who call Dayton home. With a cast of 45 actors, 11 musicians, and five staff members, Children of Eden is helping D2D achieve its goals.

The cast features Alan Ruddy as Adam, Esther Ryland as Eve, A.J. Breslin as Cain, and Layne Roate as Noah. “Layne Roate as Noah was arguably my biggest risk,” Director Mackensie King says. “He wasn’t the typical typecast Noah, but that’s exactly why I choose him. He has such a rough exterior but underneath is so loving, and it brings so much ‘knowing’ to his character.”

The cast also includes storytellers, who narrate the scenes and watch the family drama as it unfolds. “My storytellers are also such a huge part of this show, if not the most important,” King says. “They represent us, our current generation. They are getting to witness these things happening and learning how to use them for good in the future—our future. They help the audience connect to the material and find themselves in the show,” she adds enthusiastically.

D2D has presented a wide variety of shows in the past,  with titles that range from cult classic Little Shop of Horrors to the more modern fare of American Idiot. Despite the diversity, there is one common denominator: “Dare to Defy is attracted to material that relates to human emotion,” Norgaard says. “Even [for] shows that on the surface seem one-dimensional, we really dig into characters to create a three-dimensional, relatable experience. Art is most effective when, at its heart, it digs to the truth of the human experience. We chose Children of Eden because it is a show for all ages with a range of experiences that each person can find some truth to
relate to.”

Rehearsals for the big D2D productions (including Children of Eden) take place in multiple locations without the aid of the set or even a stage. Performance spaces are rented out, and the crew is left with a single day for lights, sound, set-up, and tech rehearsal. The whole process is a challenge, but Norgaard’s confidence in her cast and crew’s ability is evident: “It’s not a traditional process, but we always pull it off.”

“I would be lying if I said rehearsals were easy,” King adds. “We are putting on a huge show in a very short amount of time. The best thing about rehearsals is watching everyone make choices and put themselves out there for all to see.”

The artistic team includes choreography by Lisa Glover, set design by Kyle Everett, lights by Derryck Menard, and voice coaching by Lorri Topping and Ian Benjamin. The music for Children of Eden is by Stephen Schwartz, who might be
recognized by theatre-savvy individuals as the composer of Wicked.

Though every family muddles through crisis and dissolution in different ways—some go straight for the gin, others prefer a good screaming match—life throws us all a shot at redemption and an opportunity for forgiveness once in a while. Wrangle your family together for Children of Eden this holiday season. Skip the barbeque.

Children of Eden takes the stage Friday, Nov. 25, at 8 p.m. and Saturday, Nov. 26 at 2 and 8 p.m. at the Victoria Theatre, 138 N. Main St. in downtown Dayton. Tickets range from $23.50 to $53.50 and are available at TicketCenterStage.com or by calling 937.228.3630. For more information, please visit D2Defy.com.

 

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Morgan Laurens
Reach DCP freelance writer Morgan Laurens at MorganLaurens@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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