dark theater and stage with lights and curtain closed

Summer Fun at the Theater

Hello Summer!

Comedy City Logo

Summer 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. ASPI will be hosting a Comedy City improv show on Friday, June 25th. The show starts at 7pm and the theater’s patio will be open at 6pm for HAPPY HOUR with drinks and snacks! This improv show will be sure to have your sides in stitches the entire evening! Nothing is scripted!

Tickets are $13 and are available online OR call the Box Office at 920-826-5852.

A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Forum logo

Calling everyone 16 and up! Auditions for the fall musical, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, are here!
Audition times are July 6 or 7 from 6-8:30pm. Please come with a song prepared! Auditions will also include a short reading from the script and a short choreography audition. Show dates for the musical will be September 16-19, 23-26.
While your summer plans may include trips to the beach, camping in the great outdoors, and so much more, make sure to include ASPI in your summer plans!

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

Enjoy your fun in the sun!

Getting ready for the Auction

Abrams Theater to Hold Online Auction

Abrams Spotlight Productions Inc. seeks donations for its online virtual auction scheduled in early December. A wide variety of prizes will be up for grabs at the ASPI Spotlight Auction on Friday, Dec. 4, to Sunday, Dec. 6 at www.biddingowl.com/ASPI.

These dates coincide with the scheduled opening of “Elf, The Broadway Musical.” Unfortunately, “Elf,” “My Fair Lady,” and “The Diaries of Adam and Eve” were canceled in 2020 due to Covid-19. The auction is a way for the community theater to recover revenue these shows would have provided.

Covid-19 not only affects nonprofits like ASPI, it also affects the small businesses that nonprofits rely on for support. Donors can support local businesses and the theater at the same time by purchasing gift certificates from local companies and donating them to the auction. Those interested in donating prizes, prize baskets, or gift certificates are encouraged to email theater.aspi@gmail.com or call 920-826-5852. Prizes are due Sunday, Nov. 22.

ASPI is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that presents musicals, comedies, and dramas at the Nancy Byng Community Theater in Abrams.Caption: Brigette Finger, a volunteer with Abrams Spotlight Productions Inc., shows prize baskets included in the ASPI Spotlight Auction on Dec. 4-6. To donate a prize, email theater.aspi@gmail.com or call 920-826-5852.

red derby hat

Loverly News

♫ I’ve grown accustomed to her face
She almost makes the day begin
I’ve grown accustomed to the tune that
She whistles night and noon ♫

We’ve grown accustomed to seeing all of your lovely faces and miss each one of you dearly! That is why we are excited and pleased to announce the NEW showtimes for My Fair Lady!

We’ll be back on the stage September 17th-20th & 24th-27th and cannot wait for you to join us.

All who had purchased tickets for the cancelled March showings can NOW exchange their tickets by calling the box office at 920-826-5852.

Want to attend a September showtime and did not previously have tickets to a March showing? Tickets will go on sale July 17th!

Have questions? Contact the box office at 920-826-5852. For future updates be sure to check us out on Facebook!

Social Distancing Check-In!

Hello to our lovely supporters and followers!

Even though we would love to welcome each and every one of you and dazzle you with our shows, things beyond our control prevent us from opening our doors. But while the days are long and we are confined to our homes, there are other ways that you can connect with us….

Keep up with us on social media! Follow us on Facebook and Instagram and stay up to date on upcoming theater news. Check out our website!  You can even catch up on previous posts on our blog. The blog is filled with past interviews, history of the theater, and much more.

We wanted to assure you that ASPI is not letting the pandemic stop us from progress on future productions! Taking advantage of the unlimited possibilities of technology, ASPI held virtual auditions for the comedic play The Diaries of Adam and Eve. Cast and crew remain optimistic and driven 🙂

Like other nonprofits, we thrive off of community support, particularly through ticket sales. With our production of My Fair Lady postponed, these are uncertain times ahead financially as ASPI strives to be a stronghold in the community for years to come. Please consider supporting your local theater!

The theater is a place where one can escape from everyday life. While we are confined to our homes, let us all remain hopeful and confident in the joys ahead!

Wishing everyone safety and good health! 

ASPI Postpones Production

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.

What to Wear: Eliza’s Runway

Our very own Mrs. Debra Jolly is costume designer for ASPI’s upcoming production of My Fair Lady. As she shares the styles of living in the 1910s from head to toe, imagine dinners on the Titanic and garden parties at Downton Abbey, the elegance, tradition, and attention to detail. My Fair Lady is Eliza Dolittle’s very own runway!

Everyday Styles

For everyday style, it all comes down to class! Upper class would have spent most of their day changing clothes to fit the activity. A feminine and lightweight day dress might have a square neckline or shawl collar, a higher waist and narrow skirt, and an overskirt. Popular fabrics of chiffon, lace, and satin were sure to adorn an upper class lady. For men, their suits were of a similar style as we see today, including a jacket, vest, white shirt and tie. Some activities would require a more formal suit with a long jacket, striped pants, white shirt complete with a cravat, vest, gloves, and a top hot. The ensemble would also include spats (or spatterdashes), a footwear accessory used to protect shoes from rain and mud.

If someone was of the middle class, their wardrobe would be much the same as the upper class, but with less trim and sturdier fabrics. There would also not be as many clothing changes throughout the day as you would see with the upper class women.

Individuals of the lower classes would be seen in older styles of clothing, often mismatched, and made of sturdier fabrics. Women’s accessories would include aprons and shawls. Many men would wear vests or jackets at work, often with a cap and a neckerchief. Because most of their clothing was secondhand cast-offs from the upper classes, working clothes looked more formal than today.

The Hair

No pixie cuts or man buns here! Even bobbed, or chin length hair on a woman was still considered a rebellious style.

Popular women’s hairstyles included the pompadour. This entailed being puffed out and slightly up at the front. And hold onto your seats because women used false hair pieces, or “rats” made of hair combings formed into rolls, to create the Pompadour hairstyle. Another popular style was the Gibson girl, puffed out hair complemented with a bun, or knot, at the top of the head.

Other popular hairstyles included Marcel waves, similar to finger waves; frizzed bangs, as made popular by King Edward’s wife, Queen Alexandra; low buns called Psyche knots after the Greek goddess; and braided twists.

With the fashion of large hats, hairstyles had to be big enough and sturdy enough to support the hat. For evening or indoor activities, hairstyles were softer and less puffed out.

Men’s hair was not as involved as their counterparts. Men usually wore their hair trimmed short and slicked back with oil or petroleum jelly. They also had a “pompadour” style where the sides were short and the top longer and pushed up, akin to the 50s style or Elvis. Handlebar mustaches, named after their similarity to the appearance of handlebars on a bicycle, also were having their time to shine!

Go to Accessory

We all have something that we cannot leave the house without. A signature scent? Favorite watch? During the 1910s, the go to accessory for both men and women was a hat. Regardless of class status, women, even lower-class women, would never be seen outdoors without a hat.

Formal Night on the Town

Here comes the glitz and the glam! Formal evenings were occasions for ball gowns, often with trains and long gloves. The look would not be complete without accessories! From jewelry to hair adornments such as feathers, flowers and jeweled combs or hair bands, women and young ladies were dressed to the nines. Satin slippers and fans, opera capes or cocoon wraps (a large circle of fabric with short sleeves at the wrists), complete the look.
While not as adorned by accessories, from their formal tuxedos with tails, complete with white shirt, best, tie, gloves, along with a top hat and opera cape, the men were sure to look sharp!

Dare to Wear

Slacks were still strictly for men. A woman in anything resembling pants was very risque indeed. Thanks to the Russian Ballet for introducing fashions of an oriental style, including harem pants. Dress hemlines were also becoming shorter. Exposed shoes and ankles? Gasp! Working our way up, it was also more common for ladies to forgo corsets. Oh my!

Eliza on Stage

ASPI is bringing a special early 1900s touch to the stage. The upper-class ladies will have large hats, which the cast members will decorate themselves! The lovely Pam Loberger, cast member and local expert on historic fashion styles, will be leading a workday session to help them create the proper look.

Are there any styles from the 1910s that you wish would make a comeback?

Many thanks to Mrs. Debra Jolly for her contribution to this blog post! You can see her efforts as choreographer, costume designer, and lighting designer in ASPI’s production of My Fair Lady. So put on your best and join us for performance running March 20-22 and March 27-29. For more information check out https://abramsspotlightproductions.com/ or call the Box Office at (920)826-5852.

My Fair Lady

Oh Eliza!

Wendy Hiller, Julie Andrews, and Audrey Hepburn. What do these three ladies have in common? Each lady has dazzled audiences in the leading role of Eliza Dolittle in My Fair Lady. These three accomplished actresses transform with Eliza from a Cockney accented flower seller to regal “Hungarian princess”.  

Wendy Hiller
Wendy Hiller Reading

Our first notable Eliza is Wendy Hiller, who appears in the 1938 British film adaptation of George  Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion. It was only natural for Hiller to be cast in the lead as she had already portrayed the character on the Festival Theatre stage in Malvern Worcestershire, England in 1936.

The film adaptation featured Hiller as leading lady and Leslie Howard as Henry Higgins. The adaptation itself was an Oscar winner for Best Screenplay and Hiller received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress.

The film held a first for Ms. Hiller. She became the first actress to utter the word “bloody” in a British film. The line, “Not bloody likely, I’m going in a taxi!” was in the original play and the filmmakers decided to keep the line in the film.

Throughout her 60 year acting career, Hiller was primarily a stage actress, but her most notable film roles include the role of Pat Cooper in the 1958 film Separate Tables, earning her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, and the 1974 film Murder on the Orient Express as Princess Dragonmiroff, earning her the Evening Standard British Film Award for Best Actress.

Julie Andrews
Julie Andrews

Eighteen years after the film Pygmalion, the screenplay was adapted to the hit musical starring Rex Harrison as Professor Henry Higgins and leading lady Julie Andrews as Eliza Dolittle

The musical made its Broadway debut at the Mark Hellinger Theatre in NYC on March 15, 1956. The musical ran for a total of 2,717 performances, with its last being on September 29, 1962. At that time, it was a record breaking run! However, Harrison and Andrews did not appear in all of the performances. In 1957, Harrison was replaced by Edward Mulhare and in 1958 Andrews was replaced by Sally Ann Howes (who you may recognize as the actress who played Truly Scrumptious in the 1968 film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang).

In 1958, Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews reprised their roles in the London production of My Fair Lady. The production ran for 2,281 performances, with Harrison and Andrews exiting their roles in 1959.

Accolades all around! In 1957, the Broadway musical was a Tony Award winner with Julie Andrews receiving a nomination for her leading lady role.

Audrey Hepburn
Audrey Hepburn

For the 1964 film adaptation of My Fair Lady, producer Jack Warren cast Audrey Hepburn in the lead role, coming as a shock to the many fans of Julie Andrews! This was considered outrageous because fans believed Andrews was the embodiment of Eliza and that the role was made for her.

Another surprise came when audiences found out that Hepburn’s singing voice was not her own, and that it was in fact dubbed by Marni Nixon. While Hepburn’s vocals were not considered “good enough” for the role, her vocals can be heard in the chorus of the musical number “Just You Wait”.

At the 1964 Academy Awards, Andrews won Best Actress for her lead role in Mary Poppins, the award for Best Actor went to Rex Harrison for his role as Professor Henry Higgins, and the award for Best Picture went to My Fair Lady. While the film My Fair Lady received nominations in every major category, Audrey Hepburn did not receive a nomination for Best Actress in her role as Eliza. It is said that the lack of nomination, along with Andrews’ Oscar win, was to show support to Andrews and disapproval to Jack Warner for his refusal to cast her in a role that was viewed as rightfully hers.

While there was much controversy surrounding Hepburn in the role of Eliza Dolittle, Hepburn was a star and icon in her own right. Her prominent films include Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Sabrina, and Roman Holiday, just to name a few. Hepburn was a recipient of an Academy Award for Best Actress for Roman Holiday and a recipient of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Awards for Best British Actress for her roles in Roman Holiday, The Nun’s Story, and Charade.

ASPI’s very own Abby Frank will follow in the footsteps of the women before her to bring Eliza Dolittle to the stage.

Tickets are on sale NOW and wouldn’t it be loverly for you to join us! Performances run March 20-22 and March 27-29. Just you wait! This production is sure to be anything but ordinary. For more information check out https://abramsspotlightproductions.com/ or call the Box Office at (920)826-5852.

How Building a Patio Also Built a Community

What started out as a simple sidewalk project morphed into something much more this summer. The Nancy Byng Community Theater now has an entirely new element which will make a long-term impact – an outdoor patio. The patio beautifully dresses up the theater’s entrance with a colorful flowerbed during the day and twinkling lights in the evening. It’s the perfect backdrop for mingling, day or night.

We now have a gathering area that can be used for various purposes, including our opening night gala and Happy Hour before a comedy show. We can sell food and beverages outdoors, creating an ongoing source of additional revenue for the theater.

In addition, as was our original goal, the patio provides a safe pathway for our actors from the backstage exit. It also alleviates water-ponding issues that occurred in that spot.

The patio became a possibility due to a generous $1,500 gift from the Leon H. and Clymene M. Bond Foundation. We allocated an additional $1,300 to complete the landscaping and new backstage stairway, but took seriously the challenge to stay within the budget based on the foundation’s gift.

In order to complete what should be a $12,000 project, we solicited the help and assistance of many of our friends. Once others understood that our goal was to do this within the scope of the Bond Foundation gift, they stepped up to the challenge. This is an inspiring example of how to be good stewards of the foundation’s generosity while creating community.

The following businesses and individuals contributed equipment, labor and materials:

  • Jackie Foster Inc.
  • Central Heating LLC
  • Wirtz Septic Pumping
  • Duame Sand and Gravel Inc.
  • Jerry Parham and crew
  • Mike Konkel
  • Joe Konkel
  • David Jolly
  • Bill Koehne
  • Chris Weiss
  • Jerry Schmit
  • Steve Druckrey
  • Brigette Finger and family

By combining time, talent, and treasure, we successfully completed the patio project while forging new partnerships in the community. We’re looking forward to spending many relaxing hours on the outdoor patio. We hope you’ll join us.

And 5, 6, 7, 8!

the movements used by dancers esp. in performing ballet, or the art of planning such movements

In other words, choreography is what can take a show from BLAH to WOW!
For ASPI’s upcoming production of “Footloose: The Musical”, we have two choreographers, Ali Carlson and Jennifer Hibbard, dedicated to creating the dance numbers for the show and to teach those dance numbers to the cast.

Ali has been dancing since the age of 3. With her entire family being involved in the theater, she got involved at an early age. However, it wasn’t until she was an adult that she found her passion for choreography.

Jennifer has danced jazz and ballet since the age of 7 and has received a secondary major in dance from Butler University, Jordan College of Fine Arts. Fun fact: Jennifer started and ran her own dance studio for 10 years.

Both have many years of choreography experience under their belt, so who better to explain the importance of choreography and how it goes from rehearsal to the stage!

The choreography process begins by creating the dance numbers. That creative process takes a lot of preparation and is different for every choreographer! One approach is to work with the Director of the production to get a feel for the style of the show, which is different for every production. The choreography is one way to set apart one musical from the next. For example, the free-spirited nature of “Footloose” is going to be different from the sultry atmosphere of “Cabaret”. For the next step, the choreographer looks at the cast and their abilities and creates the dance numbers from there. Other factors in the beginning stages of choreography include the spacing in the theater and the timeline of the production.

For this end of June production, choreography rehearsals began at the beginning of May. Teaching the choreography to the cast usually begins after the music has started- it’s important for the cast to know the music first before learning movement. Once the teaching portion is complete, it’s then time for REVIEW, REVIEW, REVIEW! A Dance Captain is crucial for running reviews at rehearsals. For “Footloose”, Bella Frank is serving in the role as Dance Captain. Did we mention the role is crucial? The show would not run without her!

What are our two choreographers most excited about for “Footloose”?

Jennifer- To see the enthusiasm and joy the cast portrays. It’s such a fun cast!

Ali- Seeing the performers develop from audition to opening night! That is always my favorite part. They start out scared, then I challenge them (and sometimes I can see the overwhelming feeling… but the actors have such perseverance), to opening night where they know they GOT THIS!! It’s such a great feeling to know that I had a part in their development from start to finish.

Come see the choreographers and the cast kick off their Sunday shoes for ASPI’s production of “Footloose: The Musical”! Tickets are on sale NOW! Showtimes include June 21, 22, 28, and 29 at 7pm and June 22, 23, 29, and 30 at 1pm. To purchase tickets, check out the ASPI website at AbramsTheatre.com or by calling the box office at 920-826-5852.

Special thanks to Ali Carlson and Jennifer Hibbard for their contribution to the blog post. You may have recently seen Jennifer and Ali on stage for ASPI’s production of “Cabaret”. When not on stage, you can find Ali behind the scenes as ASPI’s Resident Production Coordinator as well as ASPI Board Secretary.

♫ Let’s Hear it for the Funding ♫

In our last post, we talked about all the volunteers and community support that it takes to make ASPI a success. After the last blog post, you may be thinking, so where do the funds come from to maintain the theater building, daily operations, and production costs?

ASPI needs not only the community’s time and talents, but also monetary support. The theater is largely funded through ticket sales, so come see our shows! Invite your friends. Spread the word about this hidden gem in Abrams.

(Also, those yummy concession stand snacks also go back to support the theater. Supporting the theater never tasted so good ?)

Other ways the community can contribute to the theater is through sponsorships, advertising, and donations.

Sponsorships start as low as $25 per year through $500+, and sponsorships are acknowledged with our gratitude in the production programs. Did we mention that sponsorships at the higher levels get discounted ticket prices? Click here  to learn more about how you can sponsor ASPI.

Advertising is a way for businesses to support the theater and vice versa. A full page black and white ad is only $180 for the year. This ad will appear in the season’s programs of all four productions. With 8 performances per production there is the potential of reaching 3,000+ people. Advertisers also receive 2 complimentary tickets to 3 of the 4 shows that year. That is a $90 value! Through the advertising, ASPI also seeks to support and promote area businesses.

And finally, ASPI accepts monetary donations of any amount. That is how we were able to fund our new cushioned chairs, through the generous donation of the Bond Foundation . A quick and easy way to donate is online at our website. Follow the link here.

Looking ahead, the financial vision of ASPI is to be debt free of the mortgage in approximately 5 to 7 years. In the long term, other potential updates to the theater space include additional bathroom space, a new roof, an updated sound system, and LED lighting for the stage.

Also looking towards the future, the theater is looking into ways to make good use of the theater space during down times. This includes renting the theater space for weddings, gatherings, and funerals. Most recently, the theater hosted an Abrams Spotlight Wedding Show, which brought together Northeast Wisconsin wedding vendors for a spring wedding show in a unique and quaint setting.

Again, the theater thrives off community support, whether that be through volunteering time, attending shows, spreading the word, or through financial support. We want this community theater to be at the heart of its community, for the community to see the theater as their own.

Want to be part of ASPI and the theater family? Have questions about how you can financially support the theater? Contact the box office at (920)826-5852!

Special thanks to Jim Klein for his contribution to the blog post!