LEWISTON — After too many years spent in shadow, Rebecca Tyler will shine in the spotlight Saturday.
Sure, she expects to be nervous when her husband, Chris, escorts her onto the stage at the Franco-American Heritage Center. But there, she can share her voice. And there, in the warm glow of stage lights and applause, she can feel accepted by a community that too often ignores people with mental illnesses.
"Being on the stage and feeling like a star is my favorite thing," said Tyler, who lives in Auburn. "It's a wonderful, wonderful night."
The event is the annual "Inspired Voices" concert. In part, it's a fundraiser for Tri-County Mental Health Services, which hopes to raise at least $20,000.
But it's also a coming-out party for some of the people served by the agency, a time to celebrate their talents and encourage them to grow.
Some write and read poetry. Some sing or play an instrument.
This year, the program will kick off with an art show scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. in the Franco center's downstairs Heritage Hall. The concert is slated to start at 7 p.m. and to feature 14 people served by the agency. Members of the Tri-County staff will join them on stage for portions of the show.
Tickets for adults are $20 in advance or $25 at the door. Admission is $5 less for students and seniors.
The concert began six years ago as an effort to raise money and come up with a signature happening for the 60-year-old agency, which serves people with mental illnesses in Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties.
It began with the knowledge that people with such illnesses have as much talent as anyone, said Executive Director Catherine Ryder, who directs the shows.
Even before the first performance, organizers saw growth among the performers.
For some, it was getting in touch with a part of themselves that had been dormant. For others, it was about breaking through their own walls. Incremental growth could be seen from rehearsal to rehearsal.
"With some people, you can see a physical change in how they present themselves," Ryder said.
Tyler sees it in herself.
Some of her shyness and reluctance to go to new places has eased, she said.
Her husband, Chris, sees the change.
"She feels better all year," he said. "We can go away and get a motel room. There's not so much anxiety."
Jen Cousins of South Paris figures the show will mark a kind of rebirth after a dark time.
"I haven't sung in public for more than 10 years," she said. "It's kind of my debut back."
She plans to sing Ray LaMontagne's "Shelter."
For performers such as Peter Libby of Lewiston, it's an outlet for a personality that doesn't want to be contained.
"I'm a ham on stage," said Libby, who met for his interview wearing a fringe-covered cowboy shirt. He plans to sing Johnny Cash's "Get Rhythm."
Andrew Harris, the former director of L/A Arts, is set to co-host.
"It is a professional night and the music is outstanding," he said.
He was stunned the first time he saw the performers.
"I was absolutely gobsmacked," said the Brit. "I'm having chills just thinking about it."
Rebecca Tyler, who lives in Auburn, revels in the surprise.
In prior years, people approached her after the show for her autograph.
"It's my outlet to be able to share my gift," she said. For this concert, she plans to sing "Amazing Grace."
Chris Tyler figures he will watch his wife and cry at the beauty of her voice. He always does.
"She is a star," he said. "I want her to be known for who she is and how she is."