A New Look for the Nancy Byng Theater

ASPI Launches ‘Paint and Perform’ Fundraising Campaign

Volunteers have transformed the look of the Nancy Byng Community Theater from a quaint country church to a contemporary theater venue. Repainting the former church building was a momentous task, requiring a group of hardworking volunteers, 30 gallons of paint, a boom lift, and favorable weather. All of these elements came together in late June. As a result, the white building at 5852 Maple St., Abrams, turned a stunning midnight blue.

Home of the Nancy Byng Community Theater

The Nancy Byng Community Theater has been home to Abrams Spotlight Productions Inc. since 2007. The former St. Louis Catholic Church was built in 1927 and has been fully renovated into a community theater venue. The white exterior siding was showing its age, so the nonprofit theater organization decided to repaint the entire building and replace the vinyl siding on the steeple.

A Long-Term Asset to the Community

Bill Koehne, President of the ASPI Board, said the transformation does more than just beautify the theater’s exterior.

“The new paint not only makes the theater look good and establishes our brand, it also lets people know this is a long-term asset to the community. The theater is not just somebody’s short-term hobby,” he said.

Volunteers Undertake Momentous Painting Project

The Church had been white with blue trim, but now those colors are reversed for a contemporary, nonchurch-like look. Volunteer David Jolly coordinated and supervised the painting project over multiple weeks.

“A project of this scope requires a lot of time and hard work, and we’re grateful for the volunteers who spent long days working in the heat to get the theater repainted,” Jolly said. “The theater looks great, and we’re excited to welcome people to this beautiful place to experience live entertainment.”

Paint Job Involves Multi-Step Process

Jolly and his volunteer crew strategically planned the painting project to avoid multiple rain storms. They completed the work in stages. First, volunteers removed the gutters and hardware from the theater. Next, they used long-handled brushes to scrub the exterior with a mix of vinegar and dish soap to break down the chalk residue of the old paint on the aluminum siding. After pressure washing the exterior, they covered and taped off the soffits, trim, a dozen windows, doors, and other parts of the building they didn’t want painted blue. This prep work took several days and several volunteers to complete.

Adam Surber, an ASPI parent volunteer, provided the painting equipment and 14 hours of labor to paint the building. Sherman Williams generously discounted the paint to about half-price.

Re-Siding Steeple & Painting the Trim

Once the painting was completed, volunteers removed the tape and plastic covering. Local contractor DLE Concrete and Remodeling came in to re-side the steeple area with midnight blue siding to match the rest of the exterior. The final step will be to scrape, sand, prime, and paint the trim. The white trim creates a bright contrast to the midnight blue exterior. Oftentimes, one project leads to another. The next theater improvement projects will involve landscaping, gutters, and foundation work.

‘Paint and Perform’ Fundraising Campaign

To help cover the costs of the repainting project, ASPI launched a “Paint and Perform” fundraising campaign. ASPI hopes to raise $10,000, and a generous donor who will match the first $1,000 that ASPI receives. Donors can give a financial gift by clicking the support tab.

“Ticket sales alone don’t cover the costs of operating a theater,” Koehne said. “That’s why we’re so thankful to people and businesses that support the arts and enable us to bring great performances to the stage.”

A Letter from the Director of “Boeing Boeing”…

When the ASPI board first contacted me about returning to the company to direct a show called Boeing Boeing, I had to admit I had heard of it but had never seen a production or the movie. Now as we prepare to open our production of this extremely popular script I am so happy to have been offered this crazy French farce from the early 1960s. I must admit the most telling part of this whole experience for me is that I am the only member of the cast and production personnel who was alive when it was first produced in 1962. That was fun to learn!

We have chosen to present the script as it was first performed over sixty years ago, when our norms for sexism and many other “isms” were very different than today in the 2020s. This show was first produced when The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Beverly Hillbillies were on television, well before All in the Family and others hit the airwaves. As always when watching a comedic farce, you will be asked to suspend your belief in reality on occasion and just go with the flow.

By the way, if you understand my references to the television shows in the preceding paragraph it is possible that you were also alive, or soon to be alive, in the early 1960s. I hope your memories of that era aren’t quite as frantic or bizarre as this wonderful show, but I hope everyone enjoys our crazy play. It’s been a lot of fun preparing this production to entertain you.

Wayne Strei

Director

Meet the Director of “Boeing Boeing”

Boeing Boeing: A Director Spotlight

An American playboy in Paris with three different flight attendant fiances…None of which knows about the other!  What could go wrong? ASPI’s upcoming summer production, Boeing Boeing, is guaranteed to be nonstop laughs!

Boeing Boeing is a popular French farce set in the sixties. A farce is a comedy that is highly exaggerated with situations that seem highly improbable. The 1965 film of the same name stars Tony Curtis as the leading man juggling three different girlfriends, Bernard.  

Boeing Boeing is Mr. Wayne Strei’s followup to his ASPI directorial debut of A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum (2021). To learn more about Mr. Strei’s theater experience and journey, please check out his previous director spotlight!

Mr. Strei shared that this production has been a nice departure from the large cast musicals he has directed in the past few years. With only six characters in a non-musical production, the cast has been able to get to know each other quickly and easily!

Since it’s a popular French farce set in the sixties (before all the cast members were even born), the cast has worked diligently on finding all the nuances in a very dense script, and then presenting that script with energy and timing. 

Mr. Strei shared that it has been very enjoyable working with an experienced cast to create this show!

Get your tickets NOW! Showtimes are June 6-9 and 13-16. Tickets can be purchased at abramsspotlightproductions.com. Call the Box Office at (920) 826-5852 with any questions.

dark theater and stage with lights and curtain closed

Glovers Presents Comedy City at ASPI

Hello Spring!

Spring is officially here and ASPI has some summer plans of its own! We are EXTREMELY EXCITED to announce that COMEDY CITY is returning to the stage! You won’t want to miss this spontaneous comedy show!

You may have seen Comedy City at their home location on Main Ave in De Pere. Check their facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ComedyCityDePere/

Glovers in Abrams will be hosting a Comedy City improv show on Saturday, May 4th. This improv show will be sure to have your sides in stitches the entire evening! Nothing is scripted!

Stop in at Glovers afterwards and meet the cast and tell them thanks.

Tickets are $14 and are available online OR call the Box Office at 920-826-5852.

Buy Tickets Online

Stay connected all summer long by liking Abrams Spotlight Productions, Inc. on Facebook. You won’t want to miss a single update!

A note from the Director of “Oklahoma!”

Oklahoma! is a musical that is not only one of my all time favorites, it is near and dear to my heart.  Back in 2002, I was a 22 year old college student, coming home to visit my parents.  My mother was Directing a production of Oklahoma! at the Community Theater in my hometown.  Now I had been to many rehearsals to watch my mother at her craft… but this production just felt different.  I knew a lot of the main actors, but my older sister played “Dream Laurey”.  My sister, being an amazing ballet dancer, captivated me- and I was hooked.  This would be the last show my mother would Direct- she died of cancer in August of 2002.

Moving on, I never forgot about this show.  Although my life took many different directions, there never was a good time or a good venue to start my own Oklahoma! directing journey.  It wasn’t until 2020 that I really started pursuing Directing this landmark show at ASPI.  Well COVID hit, and then it would be multiple years of applying for rights before that Spring 2023 day when Debra Jolly called me to ask if I was sitting down- we had gotten the rights!  I cried with JOY!  

My vision for this show is very intentional.  Minimalism meets artistic visuals, dance meets song.  Less is more with me, and having the space to truly bring the iconic choreography of Agnes DeMille to life was very important to me.  With this being said- I could not have brought this vision to life without my amazing production crew.  My Assistant Director, Heather, who kept me grounded.  My Music Director Leah who was always so positive and the biggest cheerleader with the entire cast, my Scenic Designer Paula who amazed me with her talents every time I came to visit her every Thursday at the theater, and to my Tech Director Bill who understood that less is always more.  My AMAZING Stage Manager Alaina- who I absolutely loved seeing her growth every single rehearsal. But most important a BIG shoutout to my 2 amazing choreographers Lisa and Debra for bringing the DeMille essence to all the dance numbers. (we made it Lisa and Debra!)  My heart swells with gratitude.

I hope the audiences of ASPI are hooked, just like I was over 22 years ago, and I hope they leave the theater with a smile on their faces, joy in their hearts, humming and remembering all the iconic numbers in Oklahoma!

This one is for Mom.

Ali Carlson

Director

Out of My Dreams: Choreography in Oklahoma!

“The truest expression of a people is in its dances and its music.

Bodies never lie.” 

– Agnes de Mille

Oklahoma! was choreographed by American dancer and choreographer Agnes de Mille. Born in 1905 New York, she graduated with an English degree from UCLA in 1933. It wasn’t until after college that de Mille considered that dancing could be a career. 

Oklahoma! the musical was innovative not only because it brought together the minds of Rodgers and Hammerstein. The musical also introduced the “dream ballet” sequence. 

Choreographer Agnes de Mille created a fifteen-minute dream ballet where leading lady Laurey struggles with her feelings for her two suitors, Curly and Jud. In a dream ballet there is no dialogue, only movement, and can feature advanced dancing techniques! Dream ballet sequences take place outside of the continuum of the production with the intention of providing clarification, foreshadowing, or symbolism. 

De Mille believed that the ballet was essential to the audience’s understanding of the characters because it conveyed emotions that words could not. Oklahoma! was de Mille’s first time choreographing a Broadway musical, and she made history! De Mille went on to choreograph musicals like Carousel and Brigadoon!

ASPI’s production of Oklahoma! will feature some original choreography from Agnes de Mille herself. 

Tickets are selling FAST! Showtimes are March 14-17 and 21-24. 

Tickets can be purchased at https://abramsspotlightproductions.com/ and please call the box office with any questions (920)826-5852!

Plen’y of heart and plen’y of hope! : Accents in Oklahoma!

In preparing for a role, actors and actresses go beyond learning lines to embody a character.  They need to convey emotion, and depending on where the play or musical takes place, they may also need to learn to speak in an accent. 

An accent is “a way of pronouncing a language that is distinctive to a country, area, social class, or individual.” Those that study language and its structure are called linguists. 

The musical Oklahoma! is set in 1906 in farm country of the Oklahoma territory. Oklahomans pattern of speech is categorized by linguists as a South Midland dialect. Their Southern speech patterns can be traced back to early settlers who came from the Southeastern United States to settle in Oklahoma. Many accents in the United States can be traced back to when and by whom an area was settled.

The most notable speech patterns in this specific dialect include:

  • Speech pattern is much slower
  • Vowels tend to be drawn out
  • Vowel breaking – short vowels like cat and dress turn into diphthongs (or even triphthongs). Example: cat becomes ka-yut, dress becomes drey-ess.
  • Monophthong – The diphthong in words like ride and lime tend to be pronounced as a monophthong. Example: rah’d vs. rah-eed
  • Rhotic – voiced  “r” before consonants
  • The vowel in words like thought and long tend to take the “oh” sound. Example: thote and lohng versus thawt and lawng
  • E to I and I to E reversal – Example: pen becomes pin, been becomes bin, tin becomes ten, etc.

Come join us at the theater March 14-17 and 21-24 and be transported to 1900s Oklahoma! We got a beautiful feelin’ that everything’s goin’ your way!

Tickets are selling FAST! Get yours now! Tickets can be purchased at https://abramsspotlightproductions.com/ and please call the box office with any questions (920)826-5852!

Title: Yeeow-a-yip-i-o-ee ay! Oklahoma, okay!

 I got a beautiful feelin’, Everything’s goin’ my way

  • From the enduring classic, Oklahoma!

While considered by many to be the most influential work in American musical theater, many may not know that the musical is based on a 1931 play, Green Grow the Lilacs. The play itself was not a success, but the concept seemed like it would make for a good musical plot.

Enter Rodgers and Hammerstein! While now an iconic pair, Oklahoma! was the first musical written together by composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein. Both Rodgers and Hammerstein had their preferred writing processes. Rodgers preferred to set completed lyrics to music, and Hammerstein preferred to write lyrics before they were set to music. A match made in heaven!

This writing partnership allowed Hammerstein to create lyrics that strengthened the musical’s plot and evoked emotion. In the past, lyrics, music, and dance numbers did not necessarily work in harmony. Instead of furthering the plot, the intention was purely to amuse audiences. 

Because of Rodgers and Hammerstein, we now have the “book musical”, “a musical play in which the songs and dances are fully integrated into a well-made story, with serious dramatic goals, that is able to evoke genuine emotions other than amusement.” A concept first recognized in Hammerstein’s earlier work, Show Boat

Another innovation to come from Oklahoma! is the “dream ballet” number! Choreographer Agnes de Mille created a fifteen-minute dream ballet where leading lady Laurey struggles with her feelings for her two suitors, Curly and Jud. In a dream ballet there is no dialogue, only movement, and can feature advanced dancing techniques! Dream ballet sequences take place outside of the continuum of the production with the intention of providing clarification, foreshadowing, or symbolism. Oklahoma! was de Mille’s first time choreographing a Broadway musical, and she made history!

Another interesting choice by Rodgers and Hammerstein was their cast! In the past, roles were given to actors who could sing. Instead, Rodgers and Hammerstein cast singers who could act. This means no known stars were in the initial Broadway production!

Before Oklahoma! went to Broadway, the title of the production was actually Away We Go!. It was retitled to Oklahoma! after the musical number of the same name. 

The show opened on Broadway to rave reviews! After opening on March 31, 1943, the production ran for 2, 212 performances before closing on May 29, 1948. In 1944, Rodgers and Hammerstein were awarded a special Pulitzer Prize for Oklahoma!, and in 1993 the original Broadway production was awarded a Special Tony Award for its 50th anniversay! The Tony Award wasn’t founded until 1947, after the initial Broadway production opened.

Rodgers and Hammerstein personally oversaw the stage-to-film process of the 1955 film of the same name! And it is said the film “followed the stage version more closely than any other Rodgers and Hammerstein stage-to-film adaptation.” The 1955 Oklahoma! film starring Gordan MacRae and Shirley Jones won Academy Awards for Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture and Best Sound Recording.

With their musical Oklahoma! Rodgers and Hammerstein are believed to have ushered in the “Golden Age” of musical theater, and ASPI is honored to bring this production to the stage once more!

Tickets are selling FAST! Get yours now! Showtimes are March 14-17 and 21-24. 

Tickets can be purchased at https://abramsspotlightproductions.com/ and please call the box office with any questions (920)826-5852!

All Hands on Deck: Volunteering at ASPI

Have you been an avid attendee of ASPI productions? So enthralled by the musical numbers and magical scenes, that you wonder how you can be involved in a production yourself?

Did you know that you don’t need to be the next Tony winner to volunteer???

Some volunteer roles require more of a time commitment than others, but we are generally able to accommodate! So whether you have 3 hours, 3 days, 3 weeks, or 3 months (you get the point) available to share your talents with ASPI, let us know and we will match the tasks to our volunteer’s time availability!

For productions, we can use people who are skilled in set design, construction, painting, sewing/costumes, etc… We are able to teach some of these skills, but if someone is familiar with how to use power tools or a sewing machine, it helps! This type of time commitment varies from a couple hours to more (it depends on the job). We are able to match the job to a volunteer’s time availability, so we don’t want people to think they can’t raise their hand to help!

We also need people to assist with shows backstage (scene changes) and sounds & lights. These are areas that require more of a scheduled time commitment. For consistency, we usually want these volunteers to be available for most of the full run through, dress rehearsals, and all shows.

Only have time to volunteer for an individual showtime? We are always in need of ushers, box office workers, and a concessions crew! Signups can be found on the ASPI’s Facebook page a few weeks prior to the first showtime.

Work days are another great way to volunteer at the theater! There is quite the list of to-dos including, cleaning, maintenance, and yard work. If you would like to learn more about work days, please read our past blog post.

Please follow ASPI’s Facebook page for future updates on workdays and other volunteer opportunities!

Tickets are on sale NOW for ASPI’s upcoming production of Oklahoma!, and they are selling FAST! Tickets can be purchased at abramsspotlightproductions.com. Please call the Box Office at (920) 826-5852 with any questions!

ASPI Announces 2024 Community Theater Shows

Abrams Spotlight Productions Inc. will present two rollicking musicals and a
hilarious comedy in its 2024 season. Season tickets are now on sale for the three shows to be presented
at the Nancy Byng Community Theater, 5852 Maple St., Abrams.


First, the road to romance and the road to statehood converge in the spirited musical “Oklahoma!”
“Oklahoma!”, directed by Ali Carlson, will be staged March 14-17 and 21-24. This Rodgers and
Hammerstein musical tells the love story of Curly, a handsome cowboy, and Laurey, a beautiful farm
girl. The show’s opening song, “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’,” and title song “Oklahoma!” are brimming
with the optimism and hopefulness.


The summer show is a comedy filled with misadventures and mistaken identities. “Boeing, Boeing,”
directed by Wayne Strei, will be staged June 6-9 and June 13-16. This comedy tells the exploits of a
bachelor, Bernard, and three flight attendants from three different countries who all believe they’re
engaged to him. How will the lying lothario keep up this charade?


The final show of the season is perfect for the whole family. “Seussical the Musical,” directed by Debra
Jolly, will be staged Dec. 5-8 and 12-15. The musical takes the audience into the world of Dr. Seuss to
revisit beloved characters, including The Cat in the Hat, Horton the Elephant, Gertrude McFuzz, Lazy
Mayzie, and JoJo.


Season tickets are now on sale at abramstheater.com or by calling the box office, 920-826-5852.
Purchasing season tickets has several advantages. Season ticket-holders are invited to Opening
Night Galas to meet the cast, crew, and director and enjoy complimentary food and drinks.
Additionally, season ticket-holders can secure seats before the general public for all shows and
can buy tickets at a discounted price, compared with purchasing individual tickets.