Tuesday Crew Day – Meet your Improvathon Crew!

Crew Days are our favorite Tuesdays. This week, we’re introducing you to your Improvathon Crew!

Meet Hannah Taraschke from Fredericksburg, VA, and Gabe Bates from San Diego, CA! These two Crew interns are going to rock EXPO with Riley Taylor, our radical Improvathon Director (who is back for year two!). They’ve both been to plenty of EXPO’s, and it just so happens that their favorite EXPO memories are both from 2015! Read on to learn more about Hannah and Gabe.

How did you start with CYT, and how long have you been involved?

HannahI saw CYT’s production of Seussical when I was 12 years old and ever since that moment I have been hooked on CYT! I was a student for 6 years and I have been working for CYT as an improv coach, stage manager, and camp director ever since I graduated.


Gabe: I started CYT@school when I was 8, and did my first “big” CYT show when I was 11 and participated in 20 shows until I aged out.

Top two musicals of all time and why?

Hannah: I love Hairspray because of the fun dancing and Tracy is the most iconic character of all time! I also love You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown because the music is so beautiful and it’s just so sweet and funny.

Gabe: Number 2 – Heathers because it has great music, a great story, and discusses teenage issues such as peer pressure and mental health. Number 1 – Newsies because it is a story near and dear to me and it’s a show that let’s young men know that theatre isn’t just for girls.

What’s your favorite memory from a past EXPO?

Hannah: It’s almost impossible to pick just one, but one of the most beautiful moments for me was at the 2015 EXPO. I was a student and a member of my improv team got a call from his family saying that his grandma just passed away. We all prayed together and we were so shaken up. But we all worked together and decided to still go on stage to perform at the finale. And it was one of the most magical improv experiences I have ever had.

GabeIn 2015 I was in CYT Tour Company and we performed and later got a chance to meet other students from other affiliates.

What are you most excited about for this year’s EXPO?

Hannah: I can’t wait to affirm and love on the students just as the leaders and crew members did for me when I was a student! I’m also excited to see some fierce improv!!

GabeGetting to see other students from other states compete in improv and getting to meet other interns from other locations.

Those are our Crew Interns for the 2018 EXPO Improvathon. Check back every other week to meet more of our Crew, or read some of our past posts to get to know our Student and HYPE track crew! If you’re not registered for EXPO yet it’s not too late – get registered today!


Tuesday Crew Day – Meet your Student Track Crew!

It’s once again Tuesday Crew Day and this week we’re introducing our Crew for the CYT EXPO 2018 Student track!

This year we have two Crew Bosses on the Student Track. Meet Tyler Tafolla and Danny LaPointe! These guys are pros and have been involved with CYT San Diego for years, both on stage and behind the scenes. Tyler and Danny will be assisting this year’s Student Director, Kara List from CYT Fredericksburg! Read on to get to know your Crew Bosses!

What are some fun facts about you?

Tyler Tafolla

Tyler: I graduated college with my BFA in Musical Theatre last summer, I wrote a musical called “Scott Robbins and the Traveling Show”, and I worked as a performer at Sea World for the last 7 years. I met Larry the Cable Guy once at a party. He did the Mater voice for me. It was awesome. Also, I make really convincing dinosaur noises.

Danny LaPointe


DannyI love archery because it’s fun and it makes me feel powerful, my best friend is my 4 month old niece, and I’m American, Canadian, and I was born in South Africa.



What are your top two musicals and why?

Tyler: “The Drowsy Chaperone” and “Little Shop of Horrors”. Drowsy was the first show I ever saw on Broadway. I was in 6th grade and couldn’t stop laughing. I’m a huge fan of puppetry and am a puppeteer myself. Watching the plant sing in Little Shop is always exciting for me.

DannyNewsies because my childhood was basically built watching Christian Bale dance to Seize the Day. And The Lion King because how could you not love grown adult men dressed as rhinos dancing down the aisles?


What is your favorite memory from a past EXPO?

Tyler: I have always been a fan of Improvathon! I use to compete in the San Diego teams and I just love watching improv. It is definitely a highlight of my summer.

DannyLast year, during the screening of Newsies a bunch of students stood at the back of the room and danced along with choreography they had learned in their own affiliates. It warmed my heart.

When you’re not at EXPO having the time of your life, what do you do?

TylerI’m a working actor living in Los Angeles. I am a writer and musician as well. You can find me playing in local coffee shops in North Hollywood. I just recently performed in a staged reading of the musical that I wrote and am currently working on producing a full production in Los Angeles by the end of this year!

Danny: Well, since I graduated from college last May, I’ve just been seizing opportunities where I feel I can help others and share God’s love, so this year I’ve been living in Indiana helping take care of my baby niece and I’m loving every second of it. Next year, I’m hoping to get a job at either Compassion International or Mount Hermon (a year round Christian camp) 🙂

What are you most excited about for this year’s EXPO?

Tyler: I love getting to know people from all different CYT affiliates. Making connections and growing the CYT Family is always the most rewarding part of Expo.

Danny: I am very excited for building the stage and set for expo on the first day, because that’s when I can bring my own tools and impress all of the cyt dads with the fact that I own my own drill and vaguely know about building things. That is the honest truth.  

There you have it, our Crew Bosses for the 2018 EXPO Student Track. Check back every other week to meet more of our Crew! If you’re not registered for EXPO yet it’s not too late – get registered today!



Tuesday Crew Day – Meet your 2018 EXPO Crew!

For the next few weeks, every other Tuesday is now dubbed “Tuesday Crew Day“. Why? Because those days we’ll be introducing you to your 2018 CYT EXPO Crew!

2017 Crew

Since 2014, the EXPO Crew began as one person helping out here and there. Last year, there were 5 Crew members from various affiliates. Now, we have 12 members representing 8 different CYT affiliates from across the nation!

This totally rad group of people are helping make EXPO happen. They’re the ones giving you a tour of the hotel, cleaning up after meals, setting up CYT Ninja Warrior, greeting you at the ballroom doors every morning, and getting you pumped to be at EXPO! It takes a certain kind of person to be on the CYT EXPO Crew, and these people are top-notch.

Now. For your 2018 CYT EXPO Crew!! Here’s a quick introduction, but we’ll get to know them better over the next few weeks.

Crew Bosses – Danny LaPointe, Jensen Kirkendall, Kristina Sims, Donavon Potter, Scott Worley, and Tyler Tafolla!

These guys are pros. If you were at EXPO last year, you totally saw them hanging around being awesome. We’ll have some fun questions and pictures to share later so you can get to know them again!

Crew Interns – Alex Redd , Gabe Bates, Hannah Taraschke, Kalla Mort, Ryan Ramsower, and Tim Chapman!

These interns are the bomb. They haven’t been on the Crew before, but they are no strangers to CYT or EXPO! Be on the lookout for our upcoming posts so you can meet them! Maybe they’re from your CYT!!

Well, that’s all we have for now. Check back every other Tuesday for our latest Tuesday Crew Day post! Seriously you guys, these people are the best. We can’t wait for EXPO!! If you’re not registered yet, Register Now! Prices go up Thursday, March 1!





CYT: More Than A Theater Company

Landon B. from CYT Santa Cruz experienced how CYT is unique when it comes to theater companies. The CYT family is something special that will always be there to welcome you! Read his story!

This summer, I took part in my first theatrical experience outside of CYT or the dance company I train with, which is based in Christian beliefs. It was with a professional company, Cabrillo Stage, which puts on fabulous productions that I have enjoyed watching. I auditioned and was cast in their production of the Addams Family Musical as an ancestor, something that had been on my bucket list ever since I worked a spotlight for CYT Santa Cruz’s production. I was so excited to work with the artistic team and cast for this show, especially because quite a few of them were from CYT as well.

The production experience was AMAZING. We had a fantastic artistic team, who directed us in a show that was exquisite in all accounts, whether it was the incredible vocals, the powerful dance, or the insightful acting. The cast was tight-knit, and we made it through a lot of hard stuff that went down with this particular show. The times I was onstage were some of the most fun I have had in my short time as an on-stage performer.

But there was something missing.

After the final bow, the final curtain, the cast party, I had no big emotional reaction, other than being proud of my young friend from CYT who played Pugsley, who did an amazing job and was sad to be done with the show.

I was confused.

Normally, I feel at least a touch of the melancholy as I say goodbye to a show. Yes, I felt disappointed that I wouldn’t be doing the show with the same cast again, but I didn’t cry. Not a single tear fell from my eyes (and believe me, that’s unusual). I couldn’t figure out why, and it was quite strange. Well, tonight, not 24 hours after closing Addams, I realized why.

Let’s pause for some background.

CYT Santa Cruz has recently launched a CCT, and their first production is Godspell, a show I honestly knew very little about before tonight. I would have auditioned, but was already doing Addams Family and a production of Swan Lake, and didn’t feel like I could devote the time necessary to be involved. It was hard to say no, especially because so many of my dearest friends were taking part in it. I had come to terms with not being involved at all, and just coming to support them by seeing the show.

But that was not God’s plan.

During CYT’s National Expo, I was prompted by a good friend of mine to ask if they needed help on the stage-management side of things for Godspell, as I would be able to help once I finished the run of the Addams family. I followed up, and was asked to come on as the assistant stage-manager.

Flash back to the present.

I went to rehearsal tonight with no idea of what I was about to walk into. I hadn’t been in very close contact with many of these people, and knew I was walking in on something that I wasn’t really a part of. At least, that’s what I thought. Tonight was the night they were blocking the final scenes, from the final parable through the last supper, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I was at first unfazed, as the tone of the last parable is somewhat corny, since Godspell was written by a secular writer.

Then they moved into the final hours of Jesus’ life.

As I watched my friends pour their all into conveying this beautiful story of redemption, I was struck with deep emotion. Here was a group of people, united under the common goal of performing live theater for a greater purpose; giving glory to our almighty God, the one who sent his ONLY son to die a horrible, miserable, ruthless death on the cross as payment for any sin, past and future, that we might commit. Watching my good friend and mentor Conrad Useldinger portray the chaotic, confused, scared character of Judas brought me to tears, as did the performance of all the other people in the room. And when we gathered in a prayer circle afterwards, that was when the plentiful tears came.

And came, and came, and came.

I finally realized what I had been missing, and it was the unity that CYT and CCT bring. Being united under a common goal of bringing glory to Elohim, no matter what petty human vices we may fall into. It was then in that circle that, that I am never really gone, and that we will always have the knowledge that we perform for the same end goal.

The family we have at CYT and CCT are deeply special. I hope you cherish every moment you spend with your own community, and realize, as I did tonight, that truly “We Are CYT”.

God bless.

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!