A burlesque dancer sitting down in black and white

Get Yourself a Gimmick: The Rise of Burlesque

This March, ASPI will proudly present Gypsy: A Musical Fable! Considered by many as the greatest American musical, Gypsy is based on the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee, an American burlesque entertainer and striptease artist. Gypsy and her sister made their start in vaudeville, but after her sister’s elopement Gypsy pursued burlesque. Gypsy was known for the elegance and wit she brought to her act. The story goes that her act reached new heights when one of her gown’s shoulder straps gave out and the dress fell down. She was encouraged by the audience’s reactions and decided to make it part of her act. Her style was considered subtle in comparison to other burlesque acts.

In Gypsy: A Musical Fable, audiences will see entertainer Gypsy transition from the vaudeville circuit and blossom into a burlesque star. Like the song “You Gotta Get a Gimmick”, Gypsy has to discover her own “gimmick”, what it will take to set her apart and be a successful strip tease artist.

🎶“So get yourself a gimmick and you, too,
Can be a star!”🎶

Gypsy was one of the biggest stars of Minsky’s Burlesque in New York City and she performed with their company for four years. In a world of prohibition and the enforcement of moral convictions, for Minsky to keep their burlesque license, shows needed to be kept clean enough to prevent being raided by the police but risque enough to draw in audiences. Minsky’s was also a competing force with the vaudeville circuit.

Through the life of Gypsy, audiences will see the fading of vaudeville and the rise of burlesque. Vaudeville began in 19th century France and was popular in the United States in the 1880s until the 1930s. It was a form of variety entertainment where multiple separate acts would come together on one playbill. The show could include comedians, clowns, celebrities, magicians, dancers, musicians, ventriloquists, and so much more!

Once considered the heart of American show business, vaudeville was joined in the entertainment industry by burlesque. In 1868 a British burlesque troupe visited New York, Lydia Thompson and the “British Blondes”. The troupe was such a success, the American burlesque emerged. Shows “consisted of three parts: first, songs and ribald comic sketches by low comedians; second, assorted olios and male acts, such as acrobats, magicians and solo singers; and third, chorus numbers and sometimes a burlesque in the English style on politics or a current play. The entertainment was usually concluded by an exotic dancer or a wrestling or boxing match.”

Burlesques were hosted in clubs, cabarets, music halls, and theaters, and its height of popularity in the United States ran from the 1860s and into the 1940s. (Perhaps audiences will recall the performance of burlesque in APSI’s 2018 production of Cabaret!)

Reviving the art of burlesque is notable performer Dita Von Teese. Ms. Von Teese recently made a cameo appearance as the Fairy Goddess in Taylor Swift’s music video for “Bejeweled”, which features Von Teese’s signature martini glass act. Her other signature acts include: The Opium Den, Le Bain Noir, and The Champagne Glass. Her acts are noted for their elaborate dance shows with many characters and props, from a carousel horse to a gigantic powder compact. Von Teese’s fan dance features the world’s largest feather fans!

🎵Let us entertain you, let us make you smile!🎵 Gypsy: A Musical Fable will be on the ASPI stage March 16-18 & 23-25 at 7pm and March 19 & 26 at 1pm. Buy your tickets now! It’s sure to be a real good time! 🎶 Tickets can be purchased at abramsspotlightproductions.com. Please call the Box Office at (920) 826-5852 with any questions.

theater masks on a wooden floor

Cheers to 20 Years: ASPI Proudly Presents its 20th Season

From its origins in the Abrams Town Hall, to the 2007 purchase of the church on Maple Street, ASPI is entering into its 20th season strong!

Ali Carlson, ASPI Board Secretary, remembers her first encounter with the theater and its impact in her life. Her story is like the stories told by so many other volunteers who found a second home at the theater.

“I remember walking into the theater for my first production, Seussical: The Musical. Coming from a theater background and family, I didn’t know what to expect. I was new to the community, having just moved to Little Suamico with my husband. That first show got me HOOKED! I was welcomed with open arms and never knew that this theater community could really feel like family, but also, I was able to fill my artistic cup! I still am able to fill my artistic cup! Performing, directing, and theater have always been an important part of my life, and it truly is my mission and joy to continue to bring theater to my local, rural community! So proud to be a part of ASPI and hope it continues for another 20 years!”

Brigette Finger, Board Member, tells about her experience at ASPI: “In many small towns, the local schools aren’t large enough to produce their own musicals. ASPI is so important for youth who are interested in theater, as it provides them with an opportunity to get involved and spread their wings. Anytime you join a nonprofit, you meet people who are passionate about similar things, but I believe community theater goes one level deeper. The people here at ASPI are indeed passionate about theater, but they are also welcoming, kind, dedicated, inspired and fiercely loyal. They are encouraging of all who walk in the doors of the Nancy Byng Community Theater.”

ASPI is so thankful for all of its supporters, actors, and crew. Whether you have been a supporter from the very beginning or are new to the family, your support has carried us through the highs and lows.

Despite such unprecedented challenges as the canceling of the production My Fair Lady in 2020 due to COVID restrictions, ASPI returned to the stage in September 2021 with A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, an After Dark Production.

The year 2022 brought us three sensational productions: Beauty and the Beast Jr., The Foreigner, and White Christmas, and we have no intention of slowing down!

The 2023 season will include:

  • Gypsy – March 16, 17, 18, 19 and March 23, 24, 25, 26
  • Lustful Youth (an original play written by Mike Eserkaln) – June 8, 9, 10, 11 and June 15, 16, 17, 18
  • Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Jr. – November 30, December 1, 2, 3 and December 7, 8, 9, 10

The 20th season will not only bring new productions, but the theater also has an exciting new goal! By the end of 2023, ASPI has the goal of having 100 NEW Spotlight Sponsors. There are four different levels of Spotlight Sponsors with different levels of perks:

  • Silver Spotlight: $100 – $249
  • Gold Spotlight: $250 – $499
  • Platinum Spotlight: $500 and up
  • NEW! Corporate Sponsorships are available beginning at $950 per show

Plus, it is a tax-deductible donation! You can visit https://abramsspotlightproductions.com/ to set up your donation or call the Box Office at (920) 826-5852 to discuss the program that best fits you.

It is so exciting that ASPI has been successful in offering professional grade productions to Oconto County, and we are hopeful that ASPI will continue to be a staple of local theater in our community for many years to come! We also hope that the 20th season will bring new faces, patrons, and talent to the theater! Whatever your skill, ASPI has a place for you! As a nonprofit theater run completely on patronage and donations, we always need community support to keep the doors open. So, let’s keep the fantastic productions coming!

Bill Koehne, Board President, said: “ASPI isn’t just performances and shows, it’s about building a sense of community for everyone involved. Building relationships, fostering friendships, and supporting one another may not be the obvious mission of a theater organization, but it’s an important element of ASPI.”

Be sure to follow Abrams Spotlight Productions on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube so that you never miss an update!

Note: You can read more about the theater’s history, in the past blog post, “Before there were spotlights and solos… there were homilies and hymns!”