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,