MARQUETTE —Ashlea Nicholson is not new to playing a main character in the annual Marquette Melodrama and Olio.

Now in her third consecutive year with the annual production, Nicholson doesn't plan to switch to a different melodrama character anytime soon.

"I have thought about playing the role of the vamp before, but the heroine just fits. I couldn't imagine playing a different role," she said. "The heroine role is a beacon for truth and when all hopes seems lost, the hero rushes in to save her."

In this year's melodrama, Nicholson's character tries to convince the town to build a library instead of a casino, and dash the dastardly plot of the villain.

"A library card is better than any deck of cards," Nicholson laughed.

Although Marquette may be a small town, it offers big talent.

"My favorite part is being able to spend time with some amazing people. There is so much talent in a small town and the performances are always entertaining because you never know what will happen," Nicholson said.

The 29th annual Marquette Melodrama and Olio will be performed at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 1 and 2, and at 2 p.m. on Dec. 3 at the Elizabeth A Hopp Fine Arts Center, located at 110 N. Washington St., Marquette.

The first half of the show will be Patricia Middleton’s melodrama, "A Sure Bet or Marryin' a Librarian" and the second half will be the olio with the theme "Take A Chance On Me."

A unique aspect of this melodrama is it encourages the audience to take part.

"It's a typical melodrama, where the audience is encouraged to participate by booing the villain and cheering the hero, that's what's fun about the melodrama — you don't sit there in silence," Middleton said.

The melodrama is sure to bring laughter for everyone of all ages.

"The humor is all family-friendly and includes a lot of puns," Middleton said.

The fine arts center has been run by Casie Nelson since 2007 and has been bringing a variety of entertainment to Marquette.

Nelson's mother, Elizabeth A. Hopp, originally used the center for dance lessons, but it has since morphed into a performing arts theater.

"She was driving a van load of kids over to Geneseo, Kansas each week for dance lessons and she thought Marquette should be able to offer classes and then more Marquette kids would be able to benefit," Nelson explained.

The center also uses the proceeds from shows toward building preservation, repairs and utilities, as well as keeping costs of dance lessons affordable.

"It allows us to keep our dance lessons fees at a reasonable level and we have not increased lesson fees in at least 20 years. Without the fundraiser, we would have to increase fees to cover repairs, maintenance and utilities and then some students would not be able to afford lessons," Nelson explained.

As coordinator of the melodrama, Nelson assists in all areas needed as well as handles behind-the-scene tasks.

Nelson has been in the Marquette community for quite some time and hopes in the future to pass her tradition on to her children.

"I also enjoy carrying on the family tradition of the theater. I was 6-years-old when my family spent many nights and weekends fixing up the building and then ever year we were involved in the melodrama and olio. Now I have two kids and I can't wait until they are old enough to help out and learn the value of volunteering and giving back to the community," Nelson said.

Tickets are $12 each and may be purchased at the door or at participating locations: Marquette Farmers State Bank, Marquette City Sundries, Marquette MKC, McPherson Sentinel, Sandstone Bridge Center in Salina and Bank of Tescott in Lindsborg. 

Contact Brooke Haas by email at bhaas@mcphersonsentinel.com or follow her on Twitter @ MacSentinel.