Celebrating a quarter century: Lake Superior Theater looks for the light

Twenty five years ago, a group of Marquette residents decided to make a boathouse on Lake Superior into a theater.

The first show to debut on that stage was an original musical written by Northern Michigan University professor and playwright Shelley Russell called ‘Beacon on the Rock.’

In honor of it’s 25th anniversary, Lake Superior Theater is opening it’s summer season with a production of the local favorite.

Some of the cast from the original production are reprising their roles, and they are joined by a host of local talent, according to LST organizers.

Boathouse owner Peggy Frazier said the revival is proof that anything is possible with hard work and perseverance.

“In the two + decades that Lake Superior Theatre has been presenting live entertainment, we have offered people from across the country a venue like no other to experience the magic of theatre. We are going back to our roots this summer, reliving the magic of that historical musical which started it all, Beacon on the Rock,” Frazier said.

“This celebration of 25 years of live theatre on our lake front and the presentation of a story about our ancestors offers a great opportunity to reflect on where we come from.”

Beacon tells the story of Marquette’s first immigrants. Russell said.

“I’ve never lost my fondness for the opening of this show. A group of students on a field trip stare out at the lake. Cold and miserable, they’re supposed to be discussing their immigrant ancestors, but mostly they talk of being somewhere less isolated and more exciting.” Russell said. “They know why their ancestors came to this isolated region. They wonder why they stayed. Then behind them, the immigrant families arrive. The students drop their sunglasses and backpacks and walk into the lives of their great grandparents And the adventure begins.”

Frazier said one of the things she has learned in the last 25 years that while the cast and crew of a theater is important – the story and the connection it makes to the audience is the most important part of the experience.

“It is about giving people the opportunity to share the lives of others. To give people the chance to access the things they may not yet have or have lost,” Frazier said. “Yes we tried to bring everyone the funtastic shows they enjoyed; we also tried to present shows that focused on conversations we needed to have about our past.

“We wanted to give voice to those conversations that we sometimes wait too long to have…..and still have the razzle dazzle that gets people in the door. … Theatre helps us understand what it means to be human–what we need to learn about ourselves. We like to think that by improving our community we are improving the world around us.”

Russell said the audience leaves the theater connected to the kids in the performance.

“We are those young kids. We are those kids wondering about those who came before. And through them and our own imaginations, our history comes to life,” Russell said. “And every time I work on this show I am reminded that if all those different individuals from such different cultures hadn’t worked together, they wouldn’t have survived.”

Frazier said she is grateful for the support of theater patrons over the years.

“Heartfelt thanks for everything you’ve done throughout our theater’s history to keep us running and allow us to draw old and new friends to the U.P. each year,” Frazier said. “We can’t wait to share this summer’s productions with you and continue our mission to present and preserve our past.”

Beacon on the Rock opens at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. Performances will occur nightly until Saturday, July 8. Tickets can be purchased at tickets.nmu.edu.

For a list of all the shows in LST’s summer season, visit lakesuperiortheatre.com.


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