Truth & Dare

Dare to Defy theatre proves its spirit

By Jacqui Theobald

Photo: Lisa Glover as Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors; photo: Laura Dell

“What is Dare to Defy?” Daytonians are asking.

It is a dreamer’s reality complete with costumes and music.

It is hope looking for a full house.

It’s a small group of innovators daring to defy the odds that say, “Start a new professional theatre? You can’t do that.”

“Yes we can!” Isn’t that the kind of courage Dayton is famous for?

Dare to Defy (D2D) is an invitation to theatre lovers of all ages to get involved on both sides of the curtain. And if it sounds like a small red-haired woman with an out-thrust chin and the steady eye of an ex-sergeant, meet Rebecca Norgaard. D2D is her original creation. “There is so much talent in Dayton, Ohio,” she explains, “as good as you would find in road shows and even in New York. There ought to be a way to offer modest salaries to actors who want to remain here and perform in Dayton – I just couldn’t let go of the thought.”

Passion, energy, and an ear to that nagging voice of belief and conviction are powerful motivators for this woman, who is equal parts accountant, theatre lover, and dreamer.

D2D began modestly not quite three years ago and is reaching for the big time right now—a six-play season with half to be presented at the Victoria and half at Mathile is planned. It is an Olympian task.

Dreams of LITTLE GUYS 

“Feeed me,” bellows the bloodthirsty plant Aubrey II, possibly a space alien in this more-fun-than-serious musical, a bit of a spoof on the genre with a dash of unrequited love, victory of “the little guy,” and music that may make you want to hum along. There’s a deal that involves clearly Faustian soul-selling and an evil dentist overly fond of nitrous oxide. The plant’s need for human blood could be bizarre and ghoulish, but the whole show is so tongue-in-cheek that audiences aren’t expiring from fright.

In fact, this horror story has become a classic. It began with a 1960 movie, became an early ‘80s Off-Broadway hit, then an ‘86 movie, and has been revisited by many companies worldwide and enjoyed a New York revival last year. The show has earned several major critical awards. (These are the same composers who brought you the music of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Little Mermaid, and Aladdin.)

D2D’s Little Shop of Horrors opens the company’s season this weekend. The show features Bobby Mitchum as Seymour, the luckless underdog, and Lisa Glover as his longed-for girlfriend Audrey. A trio of way-cool girl singers establishes the sense of a slum neighborhood and serves as a contemporary Greek chorus describing the action. Tia R. Seay is Crystal, Courtney Dortch is Chiffon, and Samantha Wright-Norman is Ronette. Saul Caplan is the shop owner, Mr. Mushnic. Zach King plays the fiendish dentist Orin Scrivello, Audrey’s original boyfriend. Kip Moore is the voice of Audrey II, who is actually a series of ever-larger puppets controlled by puppeteer R. J. Steck.

David McKibben and Jordan Norgaard direct. Lorrie Topping is music director with choreography by Lisa Glover, with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman.

Ray Zupp is set designer and Dionne Meyer is stage manager.

Saul Caplan, an actor who has appeared or directed with almost every theatre group in the region and an honored member of the Dayton Theatre Hall of Fame, shares his impression of D2D and Little Shop:

“I really like the folks at D2D…I’ve seen a few of their productions of the last couple of years, and I’ve always been impressed. They put some excellent stuff on the stage… with terrific singers and dancers full of energy and talent. Their shows skew young [Rent, American Idiot, Footloose] so I’m really glad they scheduled something that needed an old geezer like me.

This is my second time to do Little Shop, but the directors, McKibben and Jordan Norgaard  [Rebecca’s son], have re-conceptualized the show. I guess they figured that lots of people have already seen it multiple times, so they needed to bring something different to the stage – like an old jewel in a new setting. It’s almost like I’m doing it for the first time.”

Whose Shoestring?

“Well, at first I started a privately owned company with myself as owner,” the valiant Norgaard says. She praised the enormous support of many others to plan and do necessary tasks to become a viable group. They realized nonprofit status was a necessity, and she willingly donated the name and assets. The already eager early supporters then formed a board.

Reluctantly, because they only spent for necessities, the board agreed their own space was needed for costumes, props, meetings, and rehearsals. And they found it in a wonderfully funky old building on Linden—it has no AC or public-worthy restrooms, but the cost is reasonable for D2D’s present needs.

That means they still have to rent performance space and rehearsal space for the big shows. They began with dinner-theatre-style shows in Mimi’s at the Greene, but performed more often in the Mathile Black Box in the Schuster, and bravely at the Victoria.

Courageous or Crazy?

It is a good problem when a fledgling organization realizes their growth means their needs have expanded, and they simply need more people with different skill sets.

The board is heavy with creativity, actors, and theatre-savvy tech people. D2D realized they need a different balance including business development, marketing, sales, and financial management. They will welcome anyone who can contribute their skills in those areas.

Everyone involved has a day job: Norgaard in financial management at Wright State University, and others include a para legal, an executive secretary, a social service administrator, several college students, and a variety of other jobs.

Chief Operating Officer Angie Thacker acknowledges the enormous amount of time the board and others spend in their efforts to promote D2D. Some people have wondered what drives them.

“I was in it from the beginning, as the ideas flew,” Thacker says, “and it began to seem like a possibility.”

She muses most people take for granted the dedication of athletes, the early morning or late hours of practice needed for success. Getting any new start-up going is demanding, and the commitment is understandable.

“I wouldn’t trade all the time and work it takes to start and sustain a theatre for anything,” Thacker adds.

Thacker makes a point of being refreshingly respectful of the reality of competing for contributions: “We know we have to be aggressive, but we try not to step on committed toes. This is a huge town with enormous resources and awareness of theatre and new efforts. We are looking for less stressed routes.”

She goes on to talk about expanding their focus. D2D’s vocal studio is offering lessons from two highly qualified musically gifted and talented group members: Lorrie Topping and David McKibben. The company collaborated with Beavercreek Community Theatre with a summer teen workshop in 2016.

Georgia Cheliotis serves as secretary of the board. In reality, she is unofficially the chief cheerleader (and the enthusiasm competition is high). She’s a Dayton native and says she “buys local.” When she first saw D2D, she thought they were a traveling show, only later discovering they were local. “All this talent was Dayton’s own,” she continues, quick to say, “I have nothing but awe and respect for what it takes to sing, dance, and act. Once I was supposed to just stand on stage, no lines, not moving. I was terrified.”

Bobby Mitchum, who is often happily on stage, says, “I find such support and security within the group—it’s family and friends and a great opportunity to grow and learn from each other. I really appreciate their constructive criticism.”

“We’re all good friends,” Norgaard notes, “and have had to learn how to disagree.” Romance has been a factor, too, with one marriage and a serious relationship developing.

What’s Next?

Financial stability, of course, is top of the list for D2D. If that seems to be only on top of the impossible dream list, some financial security would be welcome. Everybody scrambles, manipulates, and manages somehow in this business, and these realists are dedicated to finding and using available and creative avenues to making it work. Grant rules require proving sustainability with a third year before applying.

With her military husband, Norgaard and their three children came to Dayton in 2009: “I discovered an amazing number of community theatres here and decided to get to know more about them and the people involved.”

Theatre folks are welcoming, and volunteering is a good way to get to know a community.

“Even with all the opportunities to perform, I could see the frustrations of young actors, millennials and others, of wanting to do more theatre and the fact that it actually costs money to volunteer: gas to get to weeks of rehearsals, finding day jobs with flexible hours that can fit schedules.”

“I could also see a need for a group that presents a varied season, perhaps a combination of very edgy, artful, and familiar,” she continues. “All these talented people ought to be able to earn salaries and explore the new and learn about the older shows.”

As the Olympics are over and we’ve heard the stories of those dedicated people, we can now turn to Dayton’s own Dare to Defy as they go for theatrical gold.

D2D’s season-opener Little Shop of Horrors hits the stage Friday Sept. 2 at 8 p.m. and Saturday Sept. 3 at 2 and 8 p.m. at the Victoria Theatre, 138 N. Main St. Tickets range from $25 to $50. For tickets or more information, please call the Tickets Center Stage Box Office at 888.228.3630 or visit the Box Office, open daily in the Schuster, or To support D2D or for more information, please visit


D2D 2016-17 Season:

‘Little Shop of Horrors,’
The opener at the Victoria Theatre,
Friday, Sept. 2 and Saturday, Sept. 3

138 North Main St. in Dayton

At the Mathile Black Box Theatre,
Friday, Sept. 30 and Saturday, Oct. 1,
Friday, Oct. 7 and Saturday, Oct. 8

1 West Second St. in Dayton

‘Children of Eden’
At the Victoria Theatre,
Friday, Nov. 25 and Saturday, Nov. 26

138 North Main St. in Dayton

25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
At the Mathile Black Box Theatre,
Friday, Jan. 6 and Saturday, Jan. 7,
Friday, Jan. 13 and Saturday, Jan. 14

1 West Second St. in Dayton

Dogfight the Musical
At the Mathile Black Box Theatre,
Friday, March 31 and Saturday, April 1,
Friday, April 7 and Saturday, April 8

1 West Second St. in Dayton

Guys and Dolls
At the Victoria Theatre,
Friday, May 19 and Saturday, May 20

138 North Main St. in Dayton

Reach DCP theatre critic Jacqui Theobald at

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Jacqui Theobald
Reach DCP theatre critic Jacqui Theobald at

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