24-Hour Theater: A Memorable, Compact Experiment in Creativity

By L. Gail Irwin

An evil laboratory scientist, a support group for the Undead, and a guidance counselor obsessed with Subway sandwiches were among the characters created and staged at the first ever “24 Hour Theater” event organized by Abrams Spotlight Productions Inc. in early October. 

In my busy schedule, 24 Hour Theater was perfect! The compact, mixed age experiment in creativity and improvisation felt like a grown-up play date with a bunch of friendly strangers. The fact that it was free and open to all ages made it accessible to anyone with the guts to try it, regardless of experience. Ten people decided to do just that.

Ranging in age from 15 to 65, we showed up at the Nancy Byng Community Theater on a Friday night to write, direct and stage six short plays under the quiet, accomplished direction of Mike Eserkaln, ASPI director and owner of ComedyCity De Pere. 

Participants volunteered to write, direct and/or act in short plays that had not been written yet.  After doling out writing assignments using prompts from random Wikipedia articles, the writers went home (or to Denny’s) to write our plays into the wee hours of the morning. 

Early on Saturday, we were back at the theater with plays in hand to cast roles, dig up costumes and props and block out our plays, all while sneaking in time to memorize lines.  By 7 p.m. we were ready to perform for a small but loyal audience of grandmas, spouses and children. 

Thanks to Mike Eserkaln and Brigette Finger of ASPI and my fellow actors and writers for creating this great memory! I hope to spend another exhilarating, yet exhausting, 24 hours with you again!

24 Hour theater

ASPI Purchases Property for Theater Campus

Abrams, WI Oct. 16, 2023: Abrams Spotlight Productions Inc. expanded its footprint in Abrams with the purchase of the property to the West of the Nancy Byng Community Theater. ASPI closed on the transaction in the summer of 2023 through a special foreclosure program offered by Fannie Mae. ASPI is a nonprofit community theater organization located in the fully renovated, former St. Louis Catholic Church, 5852 Maple St. Abrams. ASPI presents three to four shows a year and also hosts weddings and events at its facility.

Bill Koehne, president of ASPI, said the additional real estate was available at an opportune time.

“When the property next door to the theater went on the market, we knew we had to take action. The additional space will allow us to grow the theater and solve some space and storage issues we were facing,” he said.

ASPI currently stores set pieces in the garage on the property, but that’s just the start. The ASPI Board of Directors is excited about other possibilities for the property. The theater plans to create a theater arts campus in Abrams and complete the following capital improvement projects:

  • Build a wing onto the current stage. The wing will house a scenery construction shop and scenery storage space and will provide direct access to the stage for scenery changes. The current scene shop is located in the theater’s basement.
  • Build larger dressing rooms for performers, which is especially important for shows like “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” which has a 40-member youth cast.
  • Install a bathroom backstage for the convenience of performers who currently share the restroom with the public.
  • Use the additional green space for activities and celebrations to foster a sense of community and to host fundraisers to sustain the theater.

The real estate acquisition is the latest in a string of capital improvements the theater accomplished in 2023. ASPI also replaced the roof on the Nancy Byng Community Theater, thanks to contributions to the Raise the Roof fundraiser. Additionally, ASPI purchased a state-of-the-art sound system with a hearing loop for hearing impaired patrons, thanks to grants from the Greater Green Bay Community Foundation and Leon H. and Clymene M. Bond Community Foundation.

Koehne said the latest upgrades and the real estate purchase contribute to the theater’s long-term sustainability. He expressed his appreciation to the ASPI donors and audience members.

“We thank our supporters and patrons. Their continued generosity and support ensure a bright future for ASPI, so we can continue to provide the Broadway musicals, comedies, and dramas that our audiences have come to expect,” he said.