Mike Eserkaln

Chaotic, Confusing, Mayhem! : A Director Spotlight

This June, Abrams Spotlight Productions, Inc. is excited to present an original play written and directed by the one and only Mike Eserkaln!

Mike has graced the ASPI stage in the productions of Oliver and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. His first experience directing a previously published play was the 2022 production of The Foreigner. He is also currently an advisory member of the ASPI board. 

Director is not the only talent on his resume! Mike is an artist of various media: painting, digital, photography, improvisation, and writing. You can check out his work at www.eserkaln.com and/or at www.Patreon.com/Eserkaln.

With 38 years of theater experience, many of which spent doing improvisational comedy and original scripts, Lustful Youth: A Comedy is particularly meaningful. It is the first play that Mike ever had produced! And interestingly, it can now be considered a period play. Cue the nostalgia! This upcoming production will also be Mike’s fourth iteration directing this play, and he is very much looking forward to seeing the way that the cast takes to the script and makes it their own!

Having worked with the cast and crew before, Mike is excited to see them portraying different characters. They are all very talented people and their dedication to the production is already coming through at rehearsals. 

Chaotic confusing mayhem!  Three words describing the production from the writer and director himself. He believes audiences will enjoy the situation that Walt, the main protagonist, finds himself in, and the way that he and his imagination navigate the world they end up creating.

The original inspiration for the play began as a writing exercise, writing just plot with no character development.  It was originally called “Plot”, and then he started writing dialogue between two characters and that developed into the rest of the story.

For the aspiring writers and playwrights, here is advice from Mike: “Stop thinking about writing a play and just write the play.  Stop thinking, stop planning, stop excusing, just write it.”

Catch Lustful Youth, an original play by Mike Eserkaln, June 8-10 & 15-17 at 7pm and June 11 and 18 at 1pm. Tickets are on sale NOW! Purchase yours for one of the eight performances 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!”

Gypsy: A Musical Fable

Come on out to audition for our spring production… Gypsy! This production is directed by Ali Carlson.

Come prepared with 24-32 bars of a song, preferably from a musical. You will also learn a short choreography routine.

This musical calls for male and female roles, age 8 years or older. No experience necessary… all are welcome!

Rehearsals will start first week in January and will be mainly on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday evenings

Questions… contact us at theater.aspi@gmail.com or 920-826-5852.

Gypsy will be presented March 16, 17, 18, 19 and March 23, 24, 25, 26.


Become a Season ticket holder or a Spotlight Sponsor to secure your seats before the general public!

A little about the show:

Regarded by many theatre professionals as the finest musical ever created, “Gypsy” is the ultimate tale of an ambitious stage mother fighting for her daughters’ success – while secretly yearning for her own. Set all across America in the 1920s and 30s, when vaudeville was dying and burlesque was born, Arthur Laurents’ landmark show explores the world of two-bit show business with brass, humor, heart, and sophistication.

The celebrated score by Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim boasts one glorious hit after another, including: “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” “Let Me Entertain You,” “Some People,” “If Momma Was Married,” “You Gotta Get A Gimmick,” and “Together Wherever We Go.”

Gypsy is presented by special arrangement with Concord Theatricals on behalf of Tams-Witmark LLC

Mike Eserkaln, director of the upcoming production “The Foreigner”

Make ‘Em Laugh: A Director Spotlight

Drum roll please… ASPI is excited to introduce Mike Eserkaln, director of the upcoming production “The Foreigner”. You may have seen Mr. Eserkaln on the stage in ASPI’s production of “Oliver”, and most recently in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”.

Outside of the theater, Mike is an artist of various media: painting, digital, photography, improvisation, and writing. His work can be found at www.eserkaln.com or www.Patreon.com/Eserkaln.

Mike comes to ASPI with 38 years of theater experience, including improvisational comedy. While “The Foreigner” is his first experience directing a previously published play, he has directed countless original scripts. “The Foreigner” was actually the first show that got him involved in theater.

Mike describes the play as doing a wonderful job of building the absurdity to a crazy climax. He has been looking forward to watching this show over and over again in rehearsals as all the cast and crew’s faces hurt from laughing. He can’t wait for an audience to experience that too! Audiences can be assured that this comedy will leave you in stitches!

Speaking of cast, Mike shares that the cast fit their roles quite naturally, and you would never guess that the youngest cast member is only 15 years old!

“I’ve had the pleasure of working with most of the cast before, so I knew what I was going to get with them. This is the first time I’ve been directing most of them, and of course they are already exceeding my expectations,” shares Mike.

“The Foreigner” will be presented June 16-19 and 23-26. Buy your tickets NOW. Tickets are available online at www.abramstheater.com. Any questions? Contact the Box Office at (920) 826-5852.

white christmas - snow and trees

White Christmas

December 1, 2, 3, 4 and December 8, 9, 10, 11

Irving Berlin’s White Christmas is a timeless tale of joy and goodwill about a song-and-dance team putting on a show in a magical Vermont inn and falling for a stunning sister act in the process. Full of dancing, laughter and some of the greatest songs ever written. 

The dazzling score features “Blue Skies” and of course the unforgettable title song, “White Christmas.” Give everyone the gift they’re dreaming of with this merry and bright holiday musical. 

the foreigner logo

The Foreigner

June 16, 17, 18, 19 and June 23, 24, 25 & 26

The Foreigner is a fun, two-act comedy by American playwright Larry Shue. The story takes place in a fishing lodge in rural Tilghman County, Georgia where two Englishmen arrive as guests.

When people at the lodge try to talk to Charlie, however, he remains silent and claims to not understand English. Taking the explanation that he’s a non-English speaker as fact, the lodge’s guests quickly begin revealing their secrets, and Charlie soon discovers scandals amongst some of the residents of the lodge, along with a few other hilarious escapades.

Postponed – My Fair Lady

Abrams Spotlight Productions Inc. has postponed the upcoming musical “My Fair Lady” and the Spotlight Wedding Show. Future dates for the shows are being reviewed.

The postponement is in support of the well-being of the theater-going public and those who work on the productions, subject to ongoing assessment by county and state health authorities. ASPI takes the health and safety of our patrons, staff and community seriously.

ASPI customers with tickets to “My Fair Lady” will be contacted via phone or email with further information. 

Please note that ASPI is a volunteer organization with many moving parts. Our volunteers spend countless hours rehearsing, working behind-the-scenes, and doing maintenance and groundskeeping. The community theater’s income is based upon ticket sales, advertising sponsorships, and donations.

Donations to the theater are appreciated, especially now with the postponement of the shows. ASPI will need to reinvest in its promotional materials and cover other unexpected costs. You can help out by clicking here.

We look forward to bringing the spotlight back to the community theater when the coronavirus is in check.

Abrams Spotlight Wedding Show is April 5

The Stadium View, JPS Nvitations and Abrams Spotlight Productions Inc. will present the Abrams Spotlight Wedding Show at the Nancy Byng Community Theater, 5852 Maple Street, Abrams. Brides, grooms, their families and friends are invited to attend the show, scheduled from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, April 5, at the Nancy Byng Community Theater, formerly a quaint country church, has been newly renovated and is now open for weddings and funerals.

Guests at the Abrams Spotlight Wedding Show will have the opportunity to speak directly to a variety of wedding vendors from Northeast Wisconsin. Vendors will provide information about their products and services, including wedding cakes, music, photography, invitations, make-up, and more.

Drawings for prizes will be held throughout the event.

Tickets are $10; however, fees will be waived for the first 200 registrants. Call the Abrams theater box office to reserve your tickets, 920-826-5852.

Wedding vendors interested in exhibiting at the show are encouraged to call the box office for prices and availability, 920-826-5852.

Mark Twain’s the Diaries of Adam and Eve

Show is cancelled due to COVID 19

This play is a light-hearted look at the world’s first love story through the eyes of America’s greatest humorist- Mark Twain.  Throughout this play, the Garden of Eden bursts with wit, laughter and the lyric poignance of the first love and the first loss.  Based upon Mark Twain’s book from the early 1900’s titled the same name, this play is sure to hit home with all audiences!

First produced for PBS “American Playhouse,” The Diaries… is a uniquely American theatre piece. Since that time, the show has enjoyed well over 200 productions, in both extended runs and touring engagements at regional theatres, college and university theatres, and performing arts centers on both coasts and across the country.

Director Tim Rutten-Kempees

Numbers by Day, Director by Night

ASPI is proud to present “Escanaba in da Moonlight” as the “After Dark” Production for the 2019 season.

Ever have a disappointing hunting season where nothing seems to be going your way? In Jeff Daniels’ play “Escanaba in da Moonlight”, that’s exactly what huntsman Reuben Soady feels like. Except his unlucky streak will make him the oldest Soady in history to not shoot a buck.

Director Tim Rutten-Kempees
Director Tim Rutten-Kempees

Meet the Director who will bring the Yooper hunting experience to life, Mr. Tim Rutten-Kempees!

Accountant by day, director by night, Tim comes to ASPI with years of experience wearing multiple theater hats. On top of having a bachelor’s degree in theater, Tim has acted in over 20 shows. “Escanaba in da Moonlight” will be the seventh show he has directed and the second second he has directed with ASPI, his first being “Barefoot in the Park”. Tim also played Warren in ASPI’s production of “Meet Me in St. Louis”.

The cast of “Escanaba in da Moonlight” is what Tim believes will really draw the audience to the show.  The production is early in the rehearsal process, but it has already been filled with lots of laughs and a lot of fun!

Did we mention that the play takes place in Upper Michigan? So, this production is sure to hit close to home to many in the audience! Get ready for some slang and references only a true “Yooper” would know.

Will Reuben Soady go down in history as the oldest Soady to not shoot a buck by the end of hunting season? Buy your tickets now to find out! Performances will be September 12-15 and September 19-22.