CYT Chicago’s “The Little Mermaid” Full of Color

CYT leaders as well as cast members for CYT Chicago’s production of “The Little Mermaid” were interviewed by Grayslake’s today.

Marketing Director Lindsey Branson said the show is fun and that the characters and costumes were full of color. Show Director, Michele Christensen, said:

“We’ve really been able to see our actors grow into their roles over the past several weeks. I try to teach them the music, lines, blocking and moves as fast as possible so they can really work on the details of their performance and really develop their character….I think everyone who sees this show will be amazed at the quality of the performances of these kids. It’s going to be a great production.”

Daniel Skinner, who plays Ariel’s father, said his role is his largest to date, “I’ve watched the older kids on stage as my mentors for so long, and now I am one of those older kids….It’s almost a sense of awe. We really have to step it up.”

You can read the complete article, here: CYT Presents: The Little Mermaid.

CYT Weekly Roundup: Jan 16th- Jan 29th

All things CYT, that you may have missed in the last couple of weeks:

CYT Affiliate Services Manager, Joshua Tucker, visited CYT Wichita a couple weeks ago. He took a moment to pose in the Cinderella photo booth!

Don’t miss out on this year’s CYT EXPO. We condensed all the information you need into a blog. CYT Kansas City also released their 2012 Improvathon promo, so if you want to audition, watch this YouTube.

Locals auditioned their dogs for CYT North Idaho’s “Annie.”

Confused about where your life is headed after CYT? CYT Chicago Executive Director, Justin Parks, offers words to the wise. This is a MUST READ.

CYT San Diego Alum Michelle Williams has been nominated for an Oscar! Michelle received a Best Actress nomination at the 84th Academy Awards for her portrayal of Marilyn Monroe, in the film, “My Week with Marilyn.”

Do you live in Chicago? CYT can come to YOUR school! Check out their cyt@school promo video on Facebook.

CYT San Diego Presents “Cinderella”

The Magic of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” will come alive on stage at Mater Dei Catholic High School courtesy of Christian Youth Theater. Production dates are Feb. 3-4 and 10-12.

More than 90 South County students will be involved in CYT’s winter production at the school.

The story of will take theatergoers on the magical and romantic story of a young girl living under the strict rule of her stepmother and two spoiled stepsisters, her fairy godmother, enchanted mice, a pumpkin coach and the dashing prince whose heart she captures.

“Cinderella” keeps true to CYT’s Broadway-style productions captivating audiences with music, special effects and grand staging.

The lead cast features 13-year-old Mia Apalategui (Bonita Vista Middle School) as Cinderella; 17-year-old Landen Baldwin (Otay Ranch High School) as the prince; 15-year-old Elizabeth Figueroa (Eastlake High School) as the fairy godmother; 18-year-old Lauren Gray (Otay Ranch High School) as the wicked stepmother; 14-year-old Amy Wawryznski (San Diego Performing High School) and 18-year-old Jazmin Ruiz (Mater Dei Catholic High School) as the stepsisters.

All seats are reserved. Ticket prices are $12 in advance and $15 at the door. A special rate of $6 is available for groups of 30 or more. For tickets, visit the Web site at or call 619-588-0206.

Show days
Friday, Feb. 3: 7 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 4: 2 and 7 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 5: 2 p.m.
Friday, Feb. 10: 7 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 11: 2 and 7 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 12: 2 p.m.

Mater Dei Catholic High School
1615 Mater Dei Drive, Chula Vista


CYT San Diego Alum Michelle Williams Nominated for an Oscar

CYT San Diego Alum Michelle Williams has been nominated for an Oscar!

Michelle received a Best Actress nomination at the 84th Academy Awards for her portrayal of Marilyn Monroe, in the film, “My Week with Marilyn.”

The Oscars will take place on February 26, 2012, at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, California.

Life After CYT

Confused about where your life is headed after CYT? CYT Chicago Executive Director, Justin Parks, contributes our latest blog and offers words to the wise:

Recently I have had numerous conversations with parents and students about whether or not they should pursue a career in theater and which college I suggest they attend. It has created a lot of soul-searching in me about why CYT exists and has caused me to reflect more on my journey from CYT kid to CYT staff member.

There are some sobering numbers that I feel should be shared: roughly 90% of all SAG union actors are unemployed at any given time and 72% of professional actors make less than $5000 per year. What that means is that if even if you are an elite CYT performer (ie you get all the leads, triple threat, etc) odds are still stacked against you to successfully make a living as a performer.

It is my belief that the CYT experience can help a small percentage of our students get into great theater schools and pursue performing careers. We have had success stories for sure. However, for 99% of our students who will not pursue theater careers, CYT is a great place to build skills, character, gain confidence, make life-long friends and use as a launching pad into life as an adult.

The good news is that all CYT students can enjoy theater into their adult years through community theaters and you can continue to use your gifts in the business world as well. Public speaking skills and relational skills are still among the highest traits sought after in most business, educational fields and certainly for ministry careers.

A wise person in my life once said, “if you are an actor and you can imagine doing anything other than acting, do that.” Another said “if you can’t imagine doing anything else other than acting (and if you are ready to be constantly rejected and have a rough life) pursue it.” I would add, if you feel 100% called by God to pursue a career as a performer, then pursue it. But if you don’t feel that specific calling, I would advise you to pursue another field/ interest.

For me, my story was similar to a lot of CYT kids. I acted throughout high school and college, had lead roles, got decent theater scholarships to several outstanding schools. However, as I dug deeper into the theater scene at the collegiate level I found out quickly it was full of a lot of empty promises. Those institutions were asking for a lot more from me than they were willing to give in return. I got convicted when one of the institutions, where I had a full scholarship waiting for me, made it clear that Sundays were for theater and that church-going wasn’t going to be accommodated.

It was when I heard those words from that administrator that I felt like God pulled me out of that arena. It was pride-swallowing for sure…I had to tell all my high school friends (who voted me “Most likely to win an Oscar”…yeah right) that I was going to community college instead of the other prestigious schools I was considering. It was rough I admit. When you are a junior/senior you tie your identity so closely to the school you select. I think we can admit that vanity can creep in.

Within a few months of this life altering decision to stay (gulp) home and attend community college…God showed me another path. He brought me two significant opportunities: one was to choreograph a CYT show and another was to be a junior high pastor at my church part-time. In the course of pursuing those jobs, I found out that I actually had a greater passion for ministry and directing than I did for acting/performing. Because I attended junior college my first two years and then only had to pay for two years at a regular university after that, I graduated virtually debt-free (Praise God!). In retrospect, I know that if I had accumulated a lot of college debt, I would have been forced to decline the offer to venture out to help begin CYT Chicago because no compensation was available. However, because I had such little financial need, I could volunteer and pursue what God had called me to do unfettered. Fast forward two years into that, I was still making peanuts but it was enough to live on my own and I got to work in my top passion area.

My prayer is for all of you to have those type of opportunities where your passion and career meet up. God certainly wants that for you. He promises that “I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11)

The caution I have for all of you is to make sure you don’t sign on for a college education, you can’t afford to pay back. School is a LOT more expensive than when your parents and I attended school. If a school is $25,000 per year and you are “awarded” a $1000-3000 scholarship from the institution I wouldn’t automatically assume that is a sign that you have a green light as a theater major.

For those of you planning or enrolled in expensive schools, I suggest you choose a major that is desirable in the marketplace. College loans are debts that follow you around the rest of your life. If you are going to be an actor, I encourage you to get your education as inexpensively as you can because theater degrees have limited worth in the real world. But the good news is that people who want to hire you to join their shows/theater companies, are not often concerned about where you got your degree. They are looking for visible talent and professionalism. Lastly, to become a professional actor it’s possible that you don’t even need to attend college. If you are serious performer, you can take adult acting, voice, film, improv, dance studio classes in Chicago. In most cases, you will get better preparation there then you will for most high-priced colleges and for a lot less.

My overall encouragement to you is that God has a plan uniquely set up for you. However, realize that road still comes with lots of pride-swallowing, hard-work and sacrifice. The Bible also teaches us that God is concerned about us going into debt. It hinders our ability to follow His voice. For example, you can’t go out and buy an expensive car you can’t afford and ask God to bless you…that car becomes the elephant in the room. The same has to be true with your college education. You can’t ask for God’s blessing without seek His calling and blessing on those initial decisions of “where do I go to school?” and “which school can I afford?” It doesn’t work that way, we reap what we sow. So be wise, seek His counsel and guidance in His Word, and ask wise adults in your life to give you advice as well. Do the math too. If you can’t afford the school, you should have serious doubts that that is God’s best for you.


Justin Parks
Executive Director
Co-founder CYT Chicago

Q&A with CYT Chicago Prop Mom, Traci Johnson

Our latest Q&A comes from the latest issue of CYT Chicago’s newsletter, The Point. Traci Johnson, who works with props on DuPage’s “Joseph,” shared some thoughts about her experiences. Here is a selection from the interview:

How many shows have you worked on props?
13 shows (so far). Charlotte’s Web in 2007 was my first show and I have worked on each show since then.

What do you like about working props?
I like every aspect of props from pulling props at the CYT warehouse, to shopping at thrift stores, to crafting things we need to create, designing the stage and working with the kids backstage.

What is the strangest or most difficult prop you’ve ever created?
The strangest prop we created (in collaboration with costumes) was the hats and gloves with long fingernails for the Collective in Alice. One of the most difficult props was the wilting rose for Beauty and the Beast. The hard part was we needed the rose to look full and beautiful at the beginning of the show and then look mostly dead with one petal left by the end of the show. Plus, we wanted the flower to look like it was suspended within the glass case. A creative team made the whole thing come together and looked really good for the show, but it wasn’t easy.

Tell us about the prop set up at the theater.
Each prop is then placed on the tables in order from left to right starting with Act 1 Scene 1 to the end of the show. We then outline each prop with a marker onto the paper. We do this for a few reasons: 1. so that the person using the prop knows exactly where to get the prop and where to put it back as soon as they’re done using it and 2. so that the prop team can tell at a quick glance what is missing. That way we don’t have panic moments during a show frantically looking for something that is needed right away.

How have you seen faith and theater work together at CYT?
I have seen faith permeate every aspect of CYT: starting with all the prayer that goes into each and every show– at auditions, at each of the rehearsals, and parents getting together to pray for the show. I also enjoy the many different worship times throughout the process of the show. Then there are the scripture references that the kids put in their bios and those scriptures are posted around the hallways and green room for all us to read and remember during the shows.