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Students rehearse for "Lyrics," which will be presented Dec. 7 at West Side Theatre Guild in Gary.

Mark Spencer, director of Gary’s West Side Theatre Guild’s “Lyrics: Revealed,” thinks of his company’s annual showcases as a necessity as much as a chance to showcase rising area talent.

“I feel that we owe it to our young people to give them the opportunities to both learn and exercise their gifts in performance art,” he said. “It’s grown into a staple, an expectation in the community around the fall of each year. People are looking to this outlet to celebrate the arts and celebrate our young people."

"Lyrics" runs for one night only on Dec. 7. Spencer has overseen West Side’s annual “Lyrics” showcases of song, dance, theater, spoken word and film since its first run in 1996. Save for a couple years of programming changes, “Lyrics” has been a West Side tradition for both performers and audiences ever since.

This year’s “Lyrics” will include a bevy of new faces onstage. With the closing of Gary’s Wirt-Emerson Visual and Performing Arts High Ability Academy earlier this spring, West Side has taken their new students under their wing.

A Wirt-Emerson alumnus, Spencer noted the importance to him both personally and professionally of incorporating his new students into West Side’s annual showcase.

“Because of the teachings from my master instructors (from Wirt-Emerson), I felt a great responsibility to make sure that we present the various disciplines to the best of (West Side’s) abilities,” he said.

Along with dance, drama, orchestral and spoken word performances by burgeoning region talent, “Lyrics: Revealed” will also premiere a West Side-produced 12 minute film, “Help Wanted.”

Joining the more than 120 performers for “Lyrics: Revealed” is veteran Gospel songsmith and singer Marvin Sapp. The Michigan-based performer’s most recent effort, “Close,” came out last fall.

The night’s events will be hosted by Val Warner, co-host of ABC 7 Chicago’s award-winning daily talk show “Windy City Live.”

“It’s a blessing,” Spencer said of this year’s “Lyrics.” “The talent that I witness is just exceptional. It's something that is very gratifying.”

“Lyrics: Revealed” kicks off West Side Theatre Guild’s 22nd season. Forthcoming productions include “A Soldier’s Play” in February and “The Wiz” in May.