Venture Theatre was born out of a dream Mike Eserkaln had a few years back. That dream was to provide a place for local playwrights to showcase their talents, and to give local theatregoers an intimate venue to enjoy live productions.
Mike has owned ComedyCity, a local improv troupe, for the last several years. A published writer himself, Mike’s hope is to help cultivate local talent and provide a place for them to flourish. That place is Venture Theatre. Having visited several theatres throughout the country, Mike brought together various ideas from those places, along with his own creative flair.
An ever-growing legion of writers and theatre enthusiasts meets several times a month to share their work, give feedback and provide encouragement. This band of writing hooligans, known as “Write Club,” developed the first 2005/06 season of productions and continues to generate 4-5 world premiere shows each season.
If you are interested in participating in Write Club, you can click here to email Mike.
Act II – The Return
In the spring of 2010 Venture Theatre had to cancel its final production of the season and went dark. A year later Michael Yoder moved to Green Bay from Fort Wayne, IN. He joined Comedy City during their spring auditions and soon discovered that Mike Eserkaln owned a theatre in addition to the improv group. In need of a job, Michael offered to run Venture Theatre to which Eserkaln agreed provided he could be involved creatively.
Michael then set about finding a space to house the theatre as well as learning how to start up and run the business side. Luckily finding a space was the easy part. The former Bouchee building at 353 Main Ave in De Pere was available to lease and Michael thought the location would be ideal for his target audience and in a location familiar to previous Venture Theatre audiences.
Having secured the space for the theatre, Michael then set about getting a stage built as well as finding people to create & perform the content necessary to produce shows. While the writers were writing sketches, Michael built a 8′x12′ stage and found about 40 chairs from a local business that no longer needed them. He also got the necessary equipment (lights & sound) and found people to run them.
Act III – The Shows
On November 4, 2011 Venture Theatre re-opened its doors with a sketch show titled, Venture Theatre Vignettes. It was a slow start, but word spread and the audience numbers increased with each performance. Many were former Venture Theatre patrons but there were some new faces as well. While Vignettes was running then next show was in the production phase so that Venture could run a Christmas show in December.
The classic Venture Theatre production, Black Peter, was an obvious choice. It was a favorite of former audiences and could be produced in a short amount of time (one month). Venture’s new production team was up to the task of making or acquiring all the props & costumes needed while the cast rehearsed. On December 2, 2011 Black Peter returned to the stage in Green Bay to delight audiences once again.
As Venture Theatre grows in the coming months and years it will continue to be a space for innovative theatre in Green Bay. In addition to more sketch shows and original plays, Venture Theatre will be a place where stand up comedians–both new and experienced–can find a stage to perform, or practice their craft. There are a variety of other show styles that Michael would like to incorporate as Michael attempts make Venture a year-round theatre.