With a performance history dating back more than eight decades, Marian Theatre Guild in Whiting is a stage organization that has produced hundreds of plays and musicals.

"But there's always something new to offer audiences," said John Jaros, one of the members of the stage group.

"We have two great, but very different, productions this year."

He said the 2014 season starts in April with "The Guys," about a New York City fire captain who has to deliver eulogies for many of his men who were lost in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Paired with a former female news writer, he must spend a long afternoon together capturing the fallen men's virtues, foibles and fashioning the stories into memorials of words. As they make their way through the emotional landscape of grief, Jaros said they draw on humor and the enduring bonds of common humanity.

Auditions are March 9 and 10 and the performance dates are April 26 and 27 and May 3 and 4.

The second production this year is "Shrek The Musical," the tale of the faraway fairytale kingdom turned upside down. It's up to an ogre to save the day, rather than the usual handsome prince, while a feisty princess awaits.

Jaros said the Marian Theatre Guild, Whiting's longest running community theater, annually presents a fall musical (dates for the run of "Shrek" have yet to be announced) and a spring drama or comedy. The Guild is associated with St. John the Baptist Catholic Church and performs in their Marian Memorial Auditorium located at 119th St. and Lincoln Avenue.

He said the group was originally organized as a social activity for the parishioners in 1926 with its first production called "Mammy's Lil' Wild Rose." In 1928, it officially became "The Drama Club," before eventually becoming dubbed the Marian Theatre Guild.

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Jama Kay Emerson, of Whiting, is directing this spring's production of "The Guys," and has been active with Marian Theatre Guild since she was first cast in the ensemble in their production"Annie" in 1984.

In addition to last spring, when she directed Marian Theatre Guild's production of "The Sunshine Boys," she's also directed "Broadway Bound," "On Golden Pond," "Noises Off" and "The Producers."

"I have wanted to do a production of 'The Guys' ever since I first saw it done a year after Sept. 11, 2001 at Goodman Theatre in Chicago," Emerson said.

"It's a very bare-bones production, with a very big message. I think audiences will react very differently to it now, more than 10 years after this tragic event, compared to the reactions this play received just a year after the events of 2001. And this is the first production of 'The Guys' for Northwest Indiana audiences."

Last November, Marian Theatre Guild produced a successful, multi-weekend run of "Monty Python's Spamalot" directed by John E. Buranosky and Shelley Segraves Crosby. It is also one of the few theater groups in the region to offer dinner-theater ticket packages, which are priced as low as $25 a person.

"Our cast and the people behind the scenes, work very hard to make these productions the best they can be for education and entertainment," Emerson said.

"The only payment they receive for their efforts is the applause from the audience."