Get hyped for HYPE!!

Are you hyped for HYPE?? Lydia, our National HYPE Director, is! We had the chance to ask her a few questions, so take a look and see why she’s excited about EXPO!

What has been your favorite thing about EXPO in the past?
My favorite thing about Expo – which hasn’t changed from the first Expo I went to in 2010 – is that it feels like a giant family reunion. Every year that I go back, I get so excited to see friends from around the country that I only get to see once a year – and to make new friends that I will love seeing again next year. No matter where we live, CYT people are all the same deep down, and there’s nothing that makes me happier than when we all come together each year.

The whole group picture from last year’s Expo!

As the National HYPE Director, what is your goal for the students who attend EXPO? What can HYPE students expect at this year’s EXPO?
My goal for Expo is three-fold – 1) for HYPE students to grow in community with one another and build strong relationships that will continue throughout the year; 2) for HYPE students to share strengths and challenges from this last year and learn from one another as they collaborate for the upcoming year; and 3) to learn leadership skills in specific areas that they can take back home with them and put to use right away.

What part of EXPO are you the most excited about?
Such a difficult question! I think I’m most excited to see all these amazing student leaders face to face and have incredible conversations with them. I keep in touch with them throughout the year, but there’s nothing like seeing them in person and having those meaningful conversations.

Bonus question! You just opened your first show as director – CYT North Idaho’s Snow White and the Prince! Congratulations! Do you have a fun moment from the process you can share?
Thank you so much! The entire process has been more fun than I can even say, but one poignant moment that stuck out was when I was driving over to Coeur d’Alene after a tiring day of teaching. Even though I was exhausted from teaching, I felt so much joy and excitement at seeing my cast for rehearsal. And I realized that – while I love getting to work for CYT, Inc., from home – being involved in a show again after about 3-4 years away reminded me of why I love CYT so much. It felt like I was coming home – and that’s why we do what we do – so that we can allow other people to feel the same way about CYT. The cast and artistic team and staff have been such a joy – the whole thing has felt like a dream come true.

What I love about this picture is that the choreographer, Charlsie Johnston, and I are both CYT alumni working on our first show together. She was a CYT-North Idaho student and I was a CYT-Spokane student – and now we get to work together on this fun show! 🙂

Lydia is such a blessing to leaders and students all across the country. We are so thankful for her and for all that she does! Congratulations on your show, Lydia, and we can’t wait to see you at EXPO!


Are you registered for EXPO yet?? Get online and register today!!

My CYT Story: Passing on the Legacy

Landon B. from CYT Santa Cruz very recently transitioned from the role of “student” to “alumnus”. He wrote his CYT Story and shares how, after countless prayers, Landon is given an opportunity to give back to the community that has given so much to him. CYT is blessing students all across the country. It’s amazing how God works!!


To every season, there is an end.

Almost five years ago, I began my journey with Christian Youth Theater Santa Cruz. When I began, I was nervous, shy, and unsure of what I was getting into. I didn’t think I would ever like performing, and after my first class, I swore I was done. That wasn’t what God had in mind. He continued to place amazing, inspiring people in my life, and they encouraged me, mentored me, and most importantly, believed in me. I am so thankful for the wonderful role models he provided, who I have been able to do life with nearly every day for the whirlwind year that was 2016, and they continue to inspire me daily.

Last night, I aged out of CYT. For those of you who don’t know, aging out means you have turned 19 years old, and therefore are no longer able to participate as an actor. Leading up to this, as I mentioned briefly, was the whirlwind of 2016, where I had a massive theatrical experience crammed into the tiny space of 365 days (plus a few). I was blessed to participate in four productions with CYT, as well as two ballets with Agape Dance Academy. I went down to San Diego for the CYT national expo and performed with our Improv team at the beginning of summer, and came back and assistant directed a CYT summer camp at the end of summer. Throughout these experiences, I was overcome by the genuine, loving community of CYT, and it has been one of the two things that has really shaped me as a young man over the past few years, the other being my trips to Africa with Santa Cruz Bible Church.

Leading up to the moment of taking my final bow on Sunday, I thought I would be devastated emotionally, and was preparing to be unbelievably sad. I pictured myself crying uncontrollably throughout the entire performance, and thought that I would be a wreck. The fact is, that happened on Friday. I was taking part in a encouragement exercise, where you build your fellow cast mates up by speaking words of affirmation and telling them what you admire about them. I ended up paired with six people who have been some of the people who I have worked the closest with during my time with CYT. That was when I cried my tears, that was when I acknowledged my grief. When I was standing with those people, and looking at them and around the whole room at the bunches of people who I love and am inspired by, I felt the sadness of what I was moving on from.

When it came time to take my final bow, I was blessed to have one of those people standing directly next to me, and the look they gave me was one of deepest understanding, they knew what was going on for me at that moment. More tears came, and these were from the sheer weight of what was occurring in the symbolism of the final bow.

And then they stopped. For a time.

At the post-show party (strike), we celebrated the fruits of our labor, and laughed at some of the hilarious moments we had shared during the run. I watched my dear friends receive recognition for their theatrical growth, caring hearts, and Christ-like character. Then, as the end of the night drew near, I took the stage next to people that I had sat in the audience and watched, stunned by their performance, before I ever took the stage with CYT. We were presented with mason jars full of words of encouragement from our fellow cast members, to keep and cherish for life. As I left the stage, I found myself engulfed by a tidal wave of crying children. At this point, I found myself crying too, but these tears were not the tears of sadness. These were the tears of joy.

These children were telling me how much they looked up to me and the other people who were aging out, and it was in this moment that I comprehended fully something I had been thinking about since the beginning of my theater experience. It’s not about me. It’s not about the laughs I get out of the audience from stupid puns during Improv shows. It’s not about the high G I had to hit during Elf. It’s not about the stilts, the baguettes, the tights, or the middle-age makeup. It’s not about the endless hours spent onstage during Q2Q, the smoke that filled Louden Nelson, the paper snowflake chain, or the wig mic.

It’s about a legacy. The legacy that I received from my teachers, mentors, and peers, who received it from their mentors, teachers, and peers, and it is the legacy that I and my fellow age-out friends have now passed on to a new generation of young men and women. It is a legacy of love, of compassion, of dedication to the arts, and of sharing Christ’s love to the world. When I cried with those youth last night, I finally realized why God had placed me in theater.

It has been a long journey, and I am thankful to have shared it with so many amazing people. I’ve made life-long friends, and CYT has really become my second family. I am so thankful for the many, many hugs, kind words, and cards I received last night. I will treasure these memories always of the tremendous impact that CYT has had on my life.

As I take off the metaphorical hat of a student and hang it up, I am overjoyed to say that my prayers have been answered twofold. Firstly, I have been blessed with the opportunity to participate in Cabrillo Stage’s professional production of the Addams Family Musical alongside several of my friends and CYT alumni, which is a bucket-list item for me. And secondly, I am delighted to announce that I will be coming alongside the wonderful Kaitlyn Atchley as the assistant director of CYT’s Spring production of Honk! Jr. This is a miraculous answer to my prayer, because what I have prayed for most in this time of transition is a way to start giving back to CYT.

Never forget, “The best way to spread Christmas Cheer is singing loud for all to hear”.
With love and heartfelt gratitude,
Landon Baker

EXPO 2017 Keynote Speaker!

We are so pleased to announce our Keynote Speaker for EXPO 2017: Jon Jorgenson!

As a CYT alumnus from former CYT Chicago, Jon understands our world and CYT Culture! We are so excited to have him share his passion and expertise with us.

Jon Jorgenson is an author, speaker, and spoken word poet whose YouTube videos have been viewed by more than 15 million people. Jon partners with numerous organizations including Awana International, Moody Bible Institute, the Willow Creek Association, and hundreds of other churches, colleges, and conferences all over the globe. His spoken word poetry provides a dynamic and creative experience that captures the imagination of audiences everywhere. As a former Broadway actor, Chicago native, and very lucky husband, Jon hopes to provide a fresh, unique voice to some of life’s most difficult and challenging questions.

We recently sat down with Jon for a Q&A.

Our theme verse for the conference is Hebrews 10:23-25. “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” How has this verse been meaningful in your life?

Every opportunity I have ever received came at the hands of someone who was spurring me on toward the person God had created me to be. We’re often blind to the gifts, abilities, and callings that God has bestowed upon us. And even if we could see them, we’d probably be too afraid to take hold of them. My life is a recurring story of Christ like mentors throwing a microphone in my hand and saying, “Go, do someone constructive with what god has given you.” To me, this verse is about seeing the God-given beauty and potential in all people, do playing our part by drawing it out of them.

I know you are a CYT Alumni, what was your favorite CYT production and why? (Bonus if you have a photo. Double bonus if said photo is somewhat embarrassing.)

My favorite CYT production was probably Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamboat. I got to play a brother and Pharaoh, which essentially meant I never left the stage. I felt real bad for the costume moms, or whoever had to handle my costumes though. I’m a sweater.

What advice do you have for current CYT students?

The community you have around you right now is so special, and it is unlike anything else you are ever likely to experience. Do not take that for granted. Enjoy it, and take an active role in making the community even better.

Any last thoughts before we see you in June?

Come find me. Say hello. Tell me your story. And let’s take a picture.

Don’t miss the opportunity to hear from Jon and learn more about his experience with CYT, Broadway, and in ministry! To register for EXPO 2017 visit our EXPO site HERE!

“Expo captures and magnifies the soul of CYT.” Interview with CYT and HYPE Alumnus, Jensen Kirkendall

Lydia Kinne, National HYPE Advisor, recently had the pleasure of interviewing Jensen Kirkendall, former CYT Santa Cruz student and originator of the now-popular phrase, “Awkwardly Closer than Family,” about his past experience with the CYT EXPO. Jensen has attended four EXPOs in all three capacities – as a HYPE student, an Improv student, and as a “general” student, and today he’ll be sharing with us some of the highlights of those experiences – especially as it relates to HYPE.

EXPO 2011

EXPO 2011 – Jensen is sitting on the wall, far right

Q: What is the best part of EXPO for you?

Jensen: My favorite part is being able to see how similar all the different CYTs are and being able to interact with everyone. There are always a few people that I really connect with in a very short time, and that would not happen at a typical conference. You take a regular conference with old people, and you throw in some teenagers; some acting, singing, and dancing; and some Jesus: that’s what EXPO is. There’s nothing like it.

EXPO 2012

EXPO 2012

Q: Why should a HYPE student come to the HYPE workshops at EXPO?

Jensen: HYPE students are a special part of CYT that I believe add an essential element. I have always said that it emphasizes the Christian in CYT. Building leadership qualities in high school Christian actors is a remarkable opportunity for making a difference in the world of the arts. EXPO gives a fantastic opportunity to gather like-minded people in order to compare methods, assess universal priorities, and better understand the leadership roles. It is both helpful for new HYPEs–giving definite direction and understanding of the mission– and for longstanding HYPEs–providing and receiving encouragement and guidance.

 

Q: What were some of your favorite moments from the 2015 EXPO?

Jensen: I technically wasn’t a part of a CYT Affiliate in 2015, so I was a little bit out of place in HYPE. However, despite this I greatly enjoyed my time and always felt welcomed by all. One of my favorite memories from the most recent EXPO was renting out a 4 person pedal cart and almost crashing it into a wall repeatedly. However, in the past EXPOs when I was a part of a CYT, my favorite memories have been the trust exercises and problem-solving activities that we have to do with people we just met and simply spending time with other groups informally and sharing laughs and life.

EXPO 2013

EXPO 2013

 

 

Q: What are some ways that students can grow in leadership at EXPO?

Jensen: CYTers are two-fold leaders. We see in our culture how heavily media and acting influences people. This, in itself, is a form of leadership. This defines leadership as having influence over someone’s thinking and potentially their behavior through telling a story about life. Then, add to this the Christian faith. Jesus shows leadership in the form of servanthood. We as Christians lead through serving. So, what does this have to do with EXPO? EXPO is a grand-scale integration of acting and faith that takes place in each CYT. It is about combining the art of portraying the human spirit (which is made in the image of God) with the practice of serving with the Holy Spirit. EXPO is a blown-up image of how this integration can take place in each CYT. This may not be what most people take from it, but as a HYPE student, it is there if one simply looks and listens.

EXPO 2015

EXPO 2015

Q: If a student was undecided about coming to EXPO, how would you convince him/her to come?

Jensen: If you are undecided about coming to EXPO, then I would ask you if you love CYT. If you answer yes, then you should definitely try and get to EXPO. EXPO captures and magnifies the soul of CYT. Simply observing all the kids and adults interacting shows this, oftentimes more than the actual activities (however these are essential and fun). If you love CYT, you will love EXPO.

 

Price goes up May 1st. Don’t miss out on the fun; register today HERE.

Thankful: CYT Alum, Kaitie’s Story

CYT North Idaho Alum, Kaitie Hunt, shared the following letter with us. Enjoy!

To the people who shaped my life:CYT North Idaho

These last two weeks have been odd for me. For the first time in more years than I care to count, I’ve missed a CYT North Idaho show. I can’t remember having not been present for a show since CYT North Idaho began its journey as a family.

Along with more than a little bit of sadness and a healthy dose of nostalgia, I’m filled with gratitude when I reflect on my years spent as a (CYT) student.

This gratitude is felt for every person who touched and altered my life during my most beautiful and precious years. There is not a lesson I learned at CYT that I don’t continue to carry with me and utilize on a sometimes hourly basis. My best qualities I owe to CYT and the family I was adopted into there.

Although I’ve chosen to pursue Chemistry – a far cry from the theater of my youth – not a day passes when I don’t silently thank CYT and praise God for placing such a wonderful organization in my life. Thanks to you, the beautiful humans who were willing to be the hands and feet of our creator and do High work in my life, I am confident, I am a cirtical thinker, and I know how to admit my mistakes and short-comings. These skills may not have made college and learning to “adult” a walk in the park, but they have certainly made is easier.

I’m sure there are ways of getting through life without confidence, but that’s a life I’m grateful not to lead. Because of CYT I have an ingrained confidence. Learning to sell raffle tickets and stand in fron of hundreds of people, even while wearing a ridiculous costume, taught me to be sure of myself. because of CYT I’m not afraid to approach professors with problems I’m having or raise my hand in a crowded lecture hall to ask or answer a question, even though I run the risk of sounding silly or illiterate. I’m not afraid to be vulnerable and to show people my silly side and to admit when I don’t know how to do something. Thank you to every director who reminded me to cheat out, every parent volunteer who made me look good, every fellow cast and crew member who offered a prayer or a pat on the back when I needed encouragement, and every audience member that gave me a chance to entertain them.

CYT also taught me how to think and to think well. Through the Improvathon, mistakes happening onstage and crew catastrophes I learned not only how to solve problems, but how to do so quickly, calmly, and while maintaining my character and composure. Every time I make a mistake in a chemistry lab, attempt to solve a new Calculus problem, or have a quarrel with a roommate or dreaded group project team member, I am grateful to CYT. While it may be a while before I have the opportunity to spit out a witty joke in an improv scene or cover for someone’s forgotten line, the thought processes and mental acuity learned there have served me well. I offer my thanks to every teammate who ever set up the perfect one-liner for me to drive home, every cast member who missed their entrance, every set piece that ever broke and every costume that ever malfunctioned for teaching me patience, calmness, and mental dexterity in times of crisis.

Above all else, though, CYT had a knack for knocking me down just when I needed it most. In all of the directions and correction that I’ve received and the failures I’ve experienced, CYT has taught me that it’s okay to make mistakes, and it’s even better to take and apply constructive criticism. To every director who told me “no,” every choreographer who fixed my footwork, every fellow HYPE member who held me accountable, every musical director who grimaced when I was flat, and every crew boss who ever shushed me backstage, you have my undying gratitude.

Indeed, the most valuable lessons I’ve learned in life, all the instruction God knew I needed, has been delivered via the tough love, the smiles, the high-fives, the warm embraces and the instruction of CYT. So to all of you, thank you for being my brothers, my sisters, my mentors, my coaches, my advice-givers and my closest confidants. Thank you for giving me such great laughter and such beautiful tears. Thank you for being my family, and for allowing me to be a part of yours. In your arms I was molded and crafted into the daughter of the King I am today. No individual or group has been more influential than you. You’ve shown me what’s important and what to laugh off; you’ve built my confidence, strengthened my thinking, and proven the value of taking instruction. You’ve changed my life. You, CYT family, are one of the greatest blessings I have ever received, and for that I am eternally thankful.

Sincerely and forever yours,
Kaitie

Thanks for the reflections, Kaitie! We’ll be praying for your continued successes! For more on CYT North Idaho, click here. 

Have your own CYT Story to share? Click here.

Who’s that? It’s a CYT Alum starring in a National Broadway Tour!

Thanks to Allison Mayberry, the Marketing and Publicity Director at CYT Fredericksburg, for this joyful letter! We love it when CYT sneaks up on itself!

Hello AMAZING CYT family,
I wanted to share with you blessing that CYT Fredericksburg came upon. This weekend, 50+ CYT families headed to Richmond, VA to see (the Broadway national tour of Disney’s) Newsies. Everyone came away from the show inspired and refreshed.

CYT Fred at Newsies

Many of the kids headed to the stage door and got to meet many of the cast members and get autographs and photos. We even got to sing with three of the Newsies! You would think meeting the Newsies could not be topped, but God continued to bless us. While speaking to one of the leads (Morgan Keene, who plays Katherine Plumber in Newsies) we found out that she was from CYT Spokane!!! Can you imagine the faces of our CYT kids? A CYT alumni is touring the country in Newsies???? They were thrilled.

Read all about it! CYT kid in National Broadway tour of Newsies!

Morgan spent a pretty long time with our CYT kids, answering questions, giving them tips and was above and beyond kind, sweet, and loving. She is the perfect example of what CYT produces. She inspired so many that day.

So,  THANK YOU ALL!!!!!! Thank you all for your hard work, dedication, long hours and patience with us all. Sometimes we get bogged down with all the paperwork and day-to-day tasks that it takes a blessing dropped in front of us to remind us of why we do what we do in the busy times. I can not thank you all enough. And of course, Sheryl and Paul…God bless you for dreaming this program up and NEVER giving up! I cry tears of joy quite often not just for this organization, but for my children who have grown up in this family and I can’t imagine life without CYT! My oldest ages out after our Winter show and the anxiety has already began.

I hope you all have an amazing day!

Thanks for the great story, Allison! Keep up the great work & continue to Seize the Day at CYT Fred!

 
For more info, check out:
Morgan’s website here.
CYT Fredericksburg here.
CYT Spokane here.
Newsies FB here.

An Open Letter to the Director Who Changed My Life

My name is Marisa Gomez from CYT San Diego, and this is my CYT Story.

Marisa Gomez. CYT Kid and Distinguished Young Woman.

Marisa Gomez. CYT Kid and Distinguished Young Woman.

Dear Janie,

It has been just over five years since I stood in front of you for the first time as I auditioned for Alice. I had little confidence, had little experience performing, and had little dreams for myself. Yet, you saw some sort of potential in me and I was cast. You gave me the first opportunity that I had ever had to push myself, to work hard, to become comfortable, to explore my capabilities. I fell in love with CYT immediately, but still was not 100% comfortable, no matter how nice everyone had been to me. It took me quite some time to realize that it was me who was the problem. I was holding myself backhand I hindered my own opportunities for growth.

I remember my mom walking me in on my first day of classes, making sure that I had people to talk to and introducing me to people despite my dismay. I remember as she watched my first audition and drove me up to Escondido during tech week and spent hours sewing costumes. This was less than five months before she passed. My mom allowed me to do CYT and encouraged my dad to allow me to continue my involvement, even though it would be tough on his lifestyle as a single parent. She knew that this is where I would grow the most, she knew that this was what I needed during that time, and she knew that performing would be the place where I would feel most myself after I got over my own insecurities. So she gave of herself in order for me to do what I love. She passed the summer between Alice and Tall Tales.

CYT has been an integral part of my life, but I would not have learned as much in CYT if it had not been for you. You were my first and second director and you gave me a chance despite my horrible auditions and lack of dancing and acting abilities. All I needed was that chance. You gave me callbacks for roles that challenged to learn quickly. You taught me how to tap dance which led to more open doors during auditions and you made my first experience in CYT feel like home. Because of you, I was determined to get better.

CYT San Diego's, Marisa.

Marisa as Maria in CYT San Diego’s Sound of Music.

Then you gave me my favorite onstage experience of playing Maria (Sound of Music). That changed everything for me. I worked so hard leading up to auditions and all throughout rehearsal and the show and it finally felt like I had done something right. Yes, I do wish I could play it again and do it better one day, but 17 year oldie will have to suffice for now. I have so much love for that show for so many reasons. I was challenged and played an incredible, complex woman, who also happened to have the same name as my mom. I bonded with my onstage family and I still see all of my “kids” when I can.

I used songs from the Sound of Music for my talent for Distinguished Young Women and CYT lent me the costume that I used for both the state and national competitions. I had no problem competing on stage because I was used to being in shows. I could speak in front of a crowd and I did well in my interviews because I was finally comfortable with who I was.

I took a break from CYT during my DYW of CA year and while I missed it terribly, everyone still made me feel included and when I returned to Peter Pan, it was like no time had passed.

This brings me to my very last CYT show, Peter Pan. I went into auditions thinking I wanted Wendy because she got to fly, and also, no one was going to see me as any part other than Wendy or Mrs. Darling. Well, I wasn’t very good at being Wendy because I typically play older, not younger, and I quickly learned that it was not the part for me at callbacks. So then I was called back for Peter Pan, Mrs. Darling and Tiger Lily. Well, I honestly started laughing when I was called back for Peter because I didn’t think anyone would EVER see me as someone who could play a boy, because I typically play very girly roles. But somehow, I made it to the end of the Peter callbacks with Courtney and Nick and I left having no idea what role I was.

I was also called back for Tiger Lily which was honestly even more surprising because she is a dancer and I am not. I could have seen myself getting Hook before Tiger Lily. Yes, it was that foreign of an idea to me. I did the indian dance callback and then read for Tiger Lily and I was pretty sure they had me in the callback just because I’m tan or they needed more people to call back for it. I did my Mrs. Darling callback and I was afraid of being typecast as the mom again, but it’s a lovely role and I was still okay with being cast as that.

Marisa as Tiger Lily

Marisa as Tiger Lily

Then the cast list came up and I may or may not have had a mini panic attack. There was no way I could be Tiger Lily! I was going to stink. There was no way. This was a mistake. And then I got really excited because this was an opportunity to push myself. I refused to be bad and so I worked harder than I’ve ever worked for a role. I rearranged my sister’s room while she was away at college so that I could have a dance studio because she had closet doors that were big mirrors. I practiced every day for at least 2 hours and carefully thought through each movement. I had so much fun onstage every night I did it. I played a role that I never saw as an option for myself and I finally realized that I have the capacity to do anything. This is all because you gave me a shot 6 years ago. And then to top it all off, you said the kindest words about me before naming me the CYT San Diego 2015 MVP at the Director’s Choice Awards. I never thought that this award would go to me. It was such an honor to be awarded with this and I can’t tell you how much it means to me.

Thank you for constantly believing in me, challenging me, and supporting me. Than you for changing my life and for allowing me to become so much more than I used to be. I will always treasure my time with CYT and the friends and family that I’ve made through this organization. You are changing lives. So once again, thank you.

Love,

Marisa Gomez

Do you have a CYT Story you’d like to share? Submit it!