Posted tagged ‘marquette history’

Experience the Power of “Willpower” – Coming Soon to the Kaufman Stage by Moire Embley

September 8, 2014

The following article is by Moire Embley, Director of Willpower, an original play I’ve written that will be presented at Kaufman Auditorium in Marquette on Thursday and Friday September 18 and 19.
A sunny mid-August day in Marquette, Michigan, an operatic aria fills the air from a west side apartment. The melody is from an original composition, “You Will Not Love Me” for the upcoming Marquette Regional History Center’s new production Willpower by Tyler Tichelaar. The beautiful soprano voice of Sara Parks floats effortlessly along with piano accompanist and composer, Jeff Bruning. As Sara soulfully sings the repeated lyric “You will not love me; you won’t say why,” her character, Miss Norma Ross, comes to life.

"Willpower" director Moire Embley

“Willpower” director Moire Embley

I have assisted and directed several plays in Marquette over the last fourteen years. Willpower is one of the first original plays I have had the opportunity to be a part of. Last September, the Marquette Regional History Center’s Director, Kaye Hiebel, was scouting for a director and I was lucky to recommended by a good friend and mentor of mine. I came into the first meeting feeling slightly shy and a bit overwhelmed to be offered such a break as a director.

I sat quietly in the large conference room surrounded by high-powered ladies, taking in the conversations, stories and ideas, which saturated the room. The focus was on a young man from Marquette in the late 1800s by the name of Will Adams. Will, I came to understand, was not your typical boy. Adopted as a young child by former Marquette Mayor Sidney and wife Harriet Adams in the early 1880s. Growing up at 200 East Ridge, the beautiful sandstone house, which is now known as the “Terrace Apartments.” As a youngster, Will sang in a boy’s choir at the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, and was a noted athlete, artist and literary mastermind by the community. After suffering a severe baseball injury to his knee, an ossifying disease began to develop in his legs. As he grew, so did the disease, until it consumed his body, slowly turning his soft tissues to stone before he passed away at thirty-one.

Will’s story is not a sad one, but one of love, ambition, community and courage. After leaving the meeting, I found myself eager and driven. This was a drama I needed to help tell on the historical stage of Kaufman Auditorium. Tyler Tichelaar a well-known local novelist, was hired as the playwright. After Tyler released the first draft of Willpower, I spent an entire road trip reading the play and then reading it again. Tyler’s use of public domain music was thoughtful and clever. His character delineations were accurate, concise and well researched. I could not put the script down. I became fascinated by his depiction of Will.

Will was not the only character in Willpower to stand out. His caring childhood friend Norma Ross also captured my imagination. Norma and Will met as young children, and a friendship was nurtured by their shared love for music, theatre and literature. As Will’s disease became more debilitating, Norma would visit almost daily. They would pass the time singing to one another. When Will began to lose the use of his arms, unable to hold a book, Norma became his eyes and hands, reading aloud to him.

After graduating from college with a degree in music from Northwestern University, Norma returned home to Marquette. Will, now in his late twenties, became fascinated with writing an operetta in which he enlisted the musical talents of his good friend. Norma and Will spent nearly three months preparing the lyrics and music. Will hummed the melodies as Norma played the piano, putting the music down on paper. Miss D.Q. Pons opened at the Marquette Opera House in the summer of 1905. The operetta’s success spread quickly, eventually touring to Ishpeming, Sault Ste. Marie, Hancock and Calumet.

As I read the first draft of Willpower, I couldn’t help feeling that there was more between Will and Norma. I met with Tyler and Jessica “Red” Bays in mid January to discuss the first draft. I hadn’t met Tyler before and I was very nervous to discuss some edits I thought could be made. My approach was only to assist in using my theatre background to help guide the script to the stage. Some minimal character enhancements were made along with some plotline adaptations. Red and I left the meeting with Tyler more excited than ever. I felt he graciously considered my notes, however standing his ground on some changes. Between Red, myself and Tyler ideas bounced back and forth as we found our creative balance.

Poster for Willpower, an original play by Tyler Tichelaar. Poster art by Cory Sustarich.

Poster for Willpower, an original play by Tyler Tichelaar. Poster art by Cory Sustarich.

Tyler quickly came back with the second draft. Every note we had discussed was in the script. Tyler’s attention to detail and respect for my creative vision as director was admirable. I frequently would tell him my job is to bring his story to the stage, but in a way I feel that this play is a collaborative effort between Red, Tyler and I. With only minimal edits to be made Tyler quickly moved on to the third draft.

After the script became finalized, I searched for the best artistic staff I could find. Suzanne Shahbazi, well known for her work with the Lake Superior Youth Theatre, agreed to do costumes. Jalina Olgren joined the production; she is one on the most talented stage managers we have in the Marquette community. Lastly, Jeff Bruning, a brilliant pianist, voice teacher and music virtuoso signed on. To round out the creative production team, Jessica “Red” Bays became my right hand, my support and promotional guru.

Casting is always a wonderful process, offering a director a first-time glimpse into seeing the characters come alive. Within the two-day auditions and one day of callback auditions, I was blessed with an overwhelming amount of talent. I feel fortunate as a director to work in a community with high talent, quality vocals and acting ability. The final casting after auditions can be sometimes difficult. It is important undoubtedly to see a specific character within an actor. A director must also see that the character, small at times, be in the actor’s potential.

Although Willpower is a straight play, public domain music and old ragtime songs are used. This piano style popular from the nineteenth century through the early twentieth century gives the play a musical feel and also illustrates how music was an integral part of Will and Norma’s relationship. There was one piece composed for the play, “You Will Not Love Me,” by Jeff Bruning and lyrics by Tyler Tichelaar. Jeff wrote the piece, which captured the feel of the romantic ballads at that time. Tyler’s lyrics possess a witty touch, as if Will wrote them himself.

The set design I will keep secret. I will only allude to my extensive research done at the J.M. Longyear Research Library. Using the expertise of research librarians Rosemary Michelin and Beth Gruber, the three of us spent hours hunting for Will and Norma’s past in genealogy files, photos, books, newspapers, magazines and plat books. I have great respect and gratitude for all the hard work Rosemary and Beth did for me. This play would not be what it is without their assistance.

Directing Willpower has been an amazing experience thus far. I look forward to every rehearsal, researching each character and also learning more about the community in which I live. Willpower is a production that everyone can relate to, whether you are a history buff or a theatre and music enthusiast. It is a play that will warm hearts and tickle the mind.

Please join us at Kaufman Auditorium on September 18th and 19th at 7:00p.m. For more information, call the Marquette Regional History Center at (906) 226-3571. Tickets are on sale at the NMU EZ Ticket Outlet or by visiting This production is made possible by the Marquette Regional History Center and generous grants from the Michigan Humanities Council in addition to a matching grant from the Marquette Community Foundation and the Upper Peninsula Heath Plan.

Upcoming Marquette History Events

July 9, 2012

Meet at the Superior Dome for the North Marquette walking tour on July 12th at 6:30 p.m.

The Marquette Regional History Center continues to bring our past history to life this summer. Here are a couple of their upcoming events:

Marquette History Bus Tours:

July 11 @ 1pm, July 18 @ 6:30pm, July 25 @ 1pm, August 1 @ 1pm

These bus tours offer an innovative way of bringing Marquette’s history to people in a personal way. A bus tour is an entertaining, narrated journey filled with interest, history and beauty. Meet historic re-enactors and tour the lower and upper harbors, notable landmarks, Presque Isle and the city’s most distinct neighborhoods. Several well-known local people will be reenacting the roles of key personages from Marquette’s past, including Blaine Betts as J.M. Longyear, Vivian Lasich as Olive Harlow, Chet DeFonso as Captain Ripley, and Iris Katers and Fran Darling as friends of Mrs. Kaufman. Discover why Marquette is called the Queen City of the North as you ride in comfortable, climate controlled style on a Checker Bus.

All tours depart in front of the History Center. Allow 90 minutes for the tour. Tickets are $12 and are on sale now online at or at the museum store. Call 226-3571 for more information.

North Marquette Walking Tour: Back to the Swamp!

Thursday, July 12, 6:30pm
Meet at the Superior Dome
Explore one of Marquette’s most interesting and historic areas with Jim Koski. Includes the history of the Furnace Location, North Marquette School, Palestra and Cliffs Dow. $5 donation. I’ve been on several of Jim’s walking tours in the past of the downtown and South Marquette, so I know this will be a treat, and I always learn something new on the tours.

History on Two Wheels: A Biking Tour of Marquette’s Lake Superior Shore

Wednesday, August 8, 6-8pm
Meet at the MRHC
Hop on your bikes and pedal up and down Marquette’s lakeshore  bike path from Shiras Park to South Beach. Start the tour at any of the 6 stops and learn about how Lake Superior shaped the city’s history. $5 donation.

Dandelion Cottage at the Boathouse

Finally, although not sponsored by MRHC but rather the Lake Superior Theatre, don’t forget that Dandelion Cottage, the beloved classic children’s novel by Marquette’s own Carroll Watson Rankin, will be performed at the Boathouse July 18-22 and July 25-29. You can find out more at

Marquette’s history is alive and well, always surrounding and influencing us. Become a part of celebrating it!

Scary Ghost Stories…of Christmases Long, Long Ago

December 19, 2011

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

As some of you may know, the first story I ever wrote set in the U.P. “The Ghost of Stonegate Woods” was set during Christmas Eve and told the story of how a young boy, a fictional me, got lost in a blizzard and had the ghost of Annabella Stonegate lead his parents to where he lay in the snow. I wrote that story in 8th grade in 1985. It was broadcast on Public Radio 90 at NMU that fall and the following spring was made into a video that aired on the Upper Michigan Today show.

You can now listen to me read that story–the original clip from the Public Radio 90 broadcast, at my website, as well as find out more about Annabella Stonegate, who will be featured in my upcoming novel Spirit of the North, coming in Spring 2012, at my website:

While you’re at my website, check out its new look. I’ve remodeled, thanks to assistance from Larry Alexander of Storyteller’s Friend

I’ve also added a new page for the Marquette History Quiz. Take the quiz and find out how much you know about Marquette history – and I have plans for more quizzes to come in 2012, as well as other facts and fun for the website.

Finally, you can now check out on my website the new covers for Spirit of the North and my other upcoming book The Gothic Wanderer: From Transgression to Redemption.

It looks like we may end up having a green Christmas in Marquette this year, but regardless of whether your Christmas is green or white, I wish all my readers and followers a wonderful holiday season!

Tyler R. Tichelaar

MY MARQUETTE is on sale now.

September 29, 2010

My Marquette has arrived and is on sale now. You can purchase it on my website and it is also available in stores around Marquette County – in Marquette – Snowbound Books, Bookworld, Michigan Fair, Superior View, NMU Bookstore, Peninsula Pharmacy, Marquette County History Museum, in Harvey – Wahlstroms, more stores to come in the next few days.

A book like this can’t be written alone – thank you to the many people who contributed photos, stories, history, family trees, and time designing covers, taking photographs, laying out the pages, coordinating the printing, and delivering the books! You are all in the acknowledgments.

Stay tuned for more excerpts from My Marquette in future blog posts.

Here’s the back cover information:

My Marquette is the result of its author’s lifelong love affair with his hometown. Join Tyler R. Tichelaar, seventh generation Marquette resident and author of The Marquette Trilogy, as he takes you on a tour of the history, people, and places of Marquette. Stories of the past and present, both true and fictional, will leave you understanding why Marquette really is “The Queen City of the North.” Along the way, Tyler will describe his own experiences growing up in Marquette, recall family and friends he knew, and give away secrets about the people behind the characters in his novels. My Marquette offers a rare insight into an author’s creation of fiction and a refreshing view of a city’s history and relevance to today. Reading My Marquette is equal to being given a personal tour by someone who knows Marquette intimately.

Praise for the Novels of Tyler R. Tichelaar:

 “Mr. Tichelaar weaves his obvious love of the Upper Peninsula with beautiful and striking descriptions of Lake Superior and the forests. Talented Mr. Tichelaar has brought us a masterpiece!” — Chris Shanley Dillman, author of Finding My Light

 “…a nostalgic ‘old-fashioned’ piece of Americana…” — John Royce, author of Eclipsed by Shadow

 “Never predictable, sometimes heartbreaking, always hopeful, this author’s work is a pleasure to read.” — Laura Fabiani, Review the Book

 ISBN:  9780979179051

Marquette’s First Fourth of July Celebration

July 2, 2010

Happy Independence Day Everyone!

As someone with six ancestors who fought in the American Revolution, the 4th of July is definitely one of my favorite holidays!

Have you ever wondered how Marquette used to celebrate the Fourth of July in its infancy. Below is the passage from my novel Iron Pioneers about the first official Fourth of July celebrations held in 1855, Marquette’s sixth year.

Iron Pioneers: The Marquette Trilogy, Book One

On July 4, 1855, Marquette held its first official Independence Day celebration. The grand master of ceremonies, Mr. Heman Ely, had gone all out for the festivities in the belief that Marquette had plenty to celebrate. Despite many doubts regarding the settlement’s survival, now its success seemed determined. In this year, the locks had been completed at Sault Sainte Marie, resulting in ships making easy travel from any of the other four Great Lakes through the lock at the Sault and into Lake Superior. Until now the differing water levels of the lakes had made it difficult for ships to travel into Lake Superior, but the locks allowed for adjustment of water levels so ships could pass through without difficulty. Trade would now be easier for every city along Lake Superior, and for Marquette, it meant the iron ore would not have to be shipped overland but could be transported by water to the other great ports, such as Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, and Buffalo. With this easier ore shipment, the iron industry would soar to prosperity and Marquette’s harbor would bustle at the center of this activity. Finally, Marquette was realizing its dream of becoming a great industrial metropolis. With such a promise for success, the Fourth of July, until now ignored as a holiday because everyone had so much work to do, was set aside as a day of civic rejoicing, a day of reward for years of pioneer dedication and ingenuity. Mr. Ely, as organizer of the celebration, invited all of Marquette’s citizens to be his guests at a massive barbecue on his property.

            At the party, Gerald had never felt so proud of his role in the birth of this fine community. He gazed with appreciation at the fine estate Mr. Ely had built, with what would soon be one among many prosperous homes in Marquette. The Ely land included a two acre lawn with flower gardens and rustic bridges crisscrossing a small brook that meandered through the grounds. For today’s festivities, Mr. Ely had added a bandstand and a pole to fly Old Glory. The entire community of seven hundred residents–for Marquette had grown until it was almost impossible to know everyone’s name–flooded into his yard. Mr. Ely began the festivities with a welcome speech, followed, to everyone’s astonished pleasure, by the boom of a hidden cannon that would fire continually throughout the day. Fireworks were not yet available for celebrating, but they were scarcely missed amid all the day’s other splendors.

            Gerald admired all these signs of prosperity, as he and Clara strolled about the property with their little girl. While some of the women and children plugged their ears during the cannon blasts, Clara was delighted to see Agnes laugh, her excitement surpassing even that of her parents. The Hennings were raising no dainty little daughter but a courageous native girl of the great North.

            They were soon joined by Fritz and Molly, carrying their baby boy, Karl. Fritz claimed the warm weather put him in good health today, but Clara thought he had looked better ever since the couple’s fear of being childless had been relieved.

            “I’ve not seen a party like this,” Fritz said, “since last Oktoberfest I saw in Saxony.”

            Little Karl struggled to see where the cannon’s boom came from, and he babbled away inquisitive, unintelligible questions.

            “He’s more curious than frightened,” said Gerald. “He’ll be a brave boy.”

            “We hope so,” said Fritz. “You need be brave to live here, but today is worth it, yes?”

            “Well worth it,” Clara said.

            “Air is fresh and healthy here,” said Fritz. “I never see boy grow like Karl. Lake Superior is what does it.”

            Fritz was prone to exaggerate his son’s strength and health, but after his own many years of illness, he could not be blamed for his pride.

            “And now that he’s been baptized, he has God’s favor,” said Molly, who had been overjoyed when the October before, a Catholic church was established in Marquette. The Upper Peninsula had now become a separate diocese of the Catholic Church with its own bishop, Frederic Baraga, stationed in Sault Sainte Marie. Bishop Baraga had come to choose the site of Marquette’s first Catholic church himself, and this year, the building had become functional. Now with a priest in Marquette, the Bergmanns felt they had more cause to celebrate than over the opening of the locks at the Sault.

            But across the lawn, not everyone was enjoying the party. Sophia and Cordelia were deep in argument with their husbands. Tomorrow, Caleb and Jacob wanted to camp overnight by themselves at Presque Isle. Their fathers had approved the plan, but their mothers were convinced the boys would be eaten by bears or accidentally plunge off a cliff to drown in the lake.

            “When I was their age, I had plenty of such adventures and came to no harm,” Nathaniel Whitman told his wife and sister-in-law. “They’re levelheaded boys with ample experience in the woods. If you don’t want them to grow up to be cowards, they need to learn independence, and Presque Isle is the perfect place. They can’t get lost there because it’s surrounded by water on all sides except the narrow land bridge, and it’s close enough that they can run home if there’s trouble.”

            “If anything happened to Caleb, I would never forgive myself,” Sophia objected. “George, how can you agree to this trip? Aren’t you at all concerned of the danger to your son?”

            “Danger,” scoffed George, supporting his brother-in-law. “Ain’t no danger.”

            “What about the bears?” asked Cordelia.

            “Bears are more scared of us than we are of them,” Nathaniel replied. “The boys know better than to rile any wild animals. They were out deer hunting with us last winter so they know how to survive in the woods. And it’s only for one night. They’ll be just fine.”

            “You don’t know how nervous I was when they went hunting last winter,” Cordelia said.

            “It’s a ridiculous idea,” said Sophia. “I don’t want my son growing up to be some wild mountain man. There’s no need for them to go.”

            “Well, George and I already told them they could,” Nathaniel said. “We can’t go back on our word now.”

            Cordelia was angry the men had consented without asking her and Sophia. But she knew further objections were pointless. Men were stubborn creatures who would argue with a woman just to spite her. Cordelia turned away and walked to the picnic table while Sophia remained to glare at her brother-in-law. She hated men who tried to boss her. George knew better than to argue alone with her, yet with Nathaniel, he would always side against her, and Nathaniel was impossible to reason with. She was also angry that Cordelia had given in so easily. When Nathaniel ignored her glares, Sophia also turned away, seeking someone whose society was more desirable than her family’s.

            Peter White stood nearby, engaged in talking to a young couple who had arrived in Marquette on the most recent ship. Ever the storyteller, Peter was recalling how he had rescued Marquette’s mail by hoodwinking the United States Post Office. The mail had constantly been delayed during the winters because of the village’s isolation and a lack of transportation. During the summer, a villager would have to hike some seventy miles south to the shore of Lake Michigan to collect the mail and carry it back to Marquette, but in winter, the only way to cross this distance was by snowshoe, and the constant blizzards and freezing temperatures made such excursions nearly impossible. In January 1854, Marquette had received no mail for three months, so Peter had been elected to go to Green Bay to fetch it. With Indian companions and dog sleds, he set out on the one hundred eighty mile journey. Halfway, he met sleighs coming north with the village’s mail. Eight tons of Marquette’s mail had accumulated in Green Bay, and it took three months for the postmaster to find someone willing to carry it north. Peter sent his companions and the mail back to Marquette, but intent to resolve the situation, he continued on to Green Bay.

            Upon his arrival, he discovered Marquette’s mail was accumulating at the rate of six bushels a day. Frustrated, Peter traveled another fifty miles to Fond du Lac so he could telegraph Senator Cass about the situation. Determined to receive a response, he bombarded the senator with telegrams until a special agent came to Green Bay to investigate. The postmaster in Green Bay, as upset about the situation as Peter, agreed to act as accomplice. Together the two men filled all the post office’s empty sacks, claiming, when the agent arrived, that every bag contained mail for Marquette. Thirty bags of actual mail now appeared to be four times as much. The agent, overwhelmed by the sight, quickly authorized weekly mail delivery to Marquette from Green Bay. Marquette had not lacked for its mail since, and Peter had been hailed as a town hero.

            Peter’s listeners laughed at his story, while feeling relieved to know they would receive their mail in winter. Sophia had listened carefully to Peter tell his tale, all the while admiring the young man’s ingenuity. He had become a jack-of-all-trades in Marquette, not afraid to try anything; recently, he had even become a real estate agent. When Marquette was founded, he had hardly been more than a boy, but now at twenty-five, he seemed destined for a large share of the community’s prosperity. Grimly, Sophia reflected how her mercantile was only making a small profit, while her husband did little to improve their welfare. She almost wished–but Peter was ten years younger than her, and she could not change the past now. But she just wished something . . .

            “Ma!” Caleb shouted, running up to her. “Did you talk to Uncle Nathaniel? Can Jacob and I go?”

            “Yes,” Sophia said, pursing her lips in annoyance and shooing the boy away.

            “Great!” Caleb yelled and ran to tell his cousin; Sophia turned back to hear more of Peter’s interesting conversation.

“MY MARQUETTE” coming Christmas 2010!

June 26, 2010

My next book - coming Christmas 2010

Welcome to my new blog celebrating “My Marquette,” both the upcoming book and my stories about life here in The Queen City of the North, from fiction to history. I look forward here to sharing my love for Upper Michigan with all my readers and hearing your own stories. More to come soon!

In the meantime, be sure to check out my website for information about my previous novels including The Marquette Trilogy: Iron Pioneers, The Queen City, and Superior Heritage as well as Narrow Lives and The Only Thing That Lasts.


Tyler R. Tichelaar