Dare to Defy and Nerve Theatre team up for virtual variety show fundraiser

Dare to Defy Productions and The Nerve Theatre, two local professional non-equity companies unafraid to push the envelope in recent years, are collaborating on a virtual variety show fundraiser fittingly titled “Dare 2 Have Nerve.”

Both troupes intermingled in the past from an acting standpoint but the variety show, which launched Oct. 17 and was filmed at the Davis-Linden Building, marks its first full-scale collaboration. Over the next month and a half, a series of videos will spotlight company members performing various scenes from plays and musicals. The troupes hope to raise $150 per video in order to unlock the next video in the series. Each video has received matching sponsorship as well. The genesis of the project stemmed from a desire to create as COVID-19 impacts the arts. The troupes adopted the tagline: “Theater may be on pause but creativity cannot be stopped.”

“Once we started to get our creative juices flowing, it felt so natural,” said Philip Drennen, Dare to Defy Co-Artistic Director, who appeared in Nerve Theatre’s production of “The Feast.” “It felt so easy we wondered why we hadn’t done something like this before."

While the two theater companies complement one another, they are very different, he said.

“Dare to Defy is very musical theater-focused and we do traditional straight plays, but there are a lot of things we can learn from each other,” said Christopher Hahn, Co-Founder and Artistic Director of The Nerve. “The talent Dare to Defy brings to musical theater absolutely blows us away. And they feel the same about our actors and the raw realism they bring. Our relationship is very symbiotic.”

Jenna Valyn, Co-Founder and Artistic Director of The Nerve, appeared in Dare to Defy’s production of “American Idiot.”

“We feel we’re the two risk-taking, millennial and ensemble-driven theater companies in Dayton,” she said. “Collaboration is not always easy but we’ve been happy with how this has turned out. We work off of and listen to each other really well. We trust each other. We respect each other. There is a level of loyalty and a feeling of family within both companies.”

The Nerve (formerly The Playground) segments will stem from plays such as “The Tutors” in addition to familiar monologues and excerpts from film and TV. Dare to Defy will provide numbers from such musicals as “Sweeney Todd,” “Waitress,” “35 MM,” and “The Wild Party.”

“It was fun to give certain songs new life by simply restaging them,” said Mackensie King, Dare to Defy Co-Artistic Director. “We visited earlier material we’ve done in the past such as ‘Let Me Drown’ from ‘Wild Party,’ which has a darker element. There are also upbeat songs as well as new material that hasn’t been seen in Dayton. This fundraiser (allows) us many ways to stay (visible) for the next few months.”

In many respects, this fundraiser is a call to artists of both companies to artistically persevere and keep Dayton as their creative home.

“Our companies have very similar visions,” Valyn said. “We want to continue to create opportunities for our artists to be valued for their work, which is very important to us and very important to them. Artists are struggling so much right now and there’s not much live theater happening, so to see everyone perform was very magical and magnetic.”

Hahn said: “We don’t want people to think they have to go somewhere else to create because the more artists realize they can create here in Dayton and there’s an avenue for them to do it, our arts scene is going to continue to grow and thrive. This is our dream for Dayton’s arts scene.”

You can view the videos and donate at dare2havenerve.org.

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