2014 CYT Improvathon Comes to a Surprising Finish…a Wedding!

The soon to be Mr. & Mrs. Norris

The soon to be Mr. & Mrs. Norris

Improvathon is all about the unexpected. Last year, CYTer, Hayley Sharpe from CYT Kansas City, got something really unexpected: her future spouse! Enjoy her darling letter to our CYT founders (Paul & Sheryl Russell), sharing her good news:

Hi there CYT Family!
My name is Hayley Sharpe, and this year I’m one of the coaches for CYT Kansas City’s Improv team.

I wanted to share my story with both of you. Last year at Improvathon, I was on the Kansas City team, House of Shards. It was my last year as a CYT student and I was just going to improvathon because I loved to perform and I loved CYT. At the final performance, Paul got up and said something along the lines of, “Careful, you might meet your husband or wife here!” I immediately thought, no way. There’s absolutely no way I’d meet mine here.

Hayley & Bailey competing head to head at Improvathon 2014.

Hayley & Bailey competing head to head at Improvathon 2014.

But then I met a boy from CYT Riverside named Bailey Norris. Over the past year he and I not only kept in contact, he eventually moved to Kansas City to be with me through my hip surgeries (I recently had a hip replacement due to a birth defect in my hips) and now we are engaged to be married!



We will both be at Improvathon in San Diego (at EXPO 2015) this year as an engaged couple, and we’ll be married August 22!

I wanted to thank you for starting this wonderful organization that led me closer to God and to my best friend, and man of my dreams.

I hope to see you all in San Diego!
Thanks and God Bless,
Soon to be Mrs. Norris

Once upon a time, two kids competed at CYT Improvathon...

Once upon a time, two kids competed at CYT Improvathon…

Congratulations Bailey & Hayley! May God continue to bless your union with peace, joy, & laughter! Now THAT’s why you should go to EXPO!

CYT Alumni Spotlight: Jenn Lindsay

With shows, rehearsals, classes, Improv trips, etc. it often seems we don’t go more than a few hours without seeing our CYT family. However, eventually, those familiar theatre faces graduate and move on to the rest of their lives. We always hope & pray that they take the lessons & spirit from their time at CYT with them into the world. Recently, we checked in with CYT San Diego (East County) Alum, Jenn Lindsay, to see what she’s been up to. Please enjoy her most recent bio:

CYT Alum, Jenn Lindsay (CYT Student: 1985-1990)

CYT Alum, Jenn Lindsay (CYT Student: 1985-1990)

Jenn Lindsay is an American anthropologist of religion, documentary filmmaker, journalist, and anti-folk singer/songwriter currently based in Rome, Italy. Her music blends elements of folk music, indie rock, and protest songs. She is the founder of No Evil Star Records, an independent social action record label, and through it she has released ten studio albums. She produced 6 documentary films and screened them at various international conferences and festivals. She has a bachelor’s degree in playwriting from Stanford University and attended the arts management graduate program at Yale School of Drama. She attended the acting program at the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts in 2000. She studied Interfaith Relations and Ecumenics at Union Theological Seminary of Columbia University in New York City, graduating with a Master of Divinity in 2011. She is presently a PhD candidate at Boston University in the Gradate Division of Religious Studies.

Regarding her time with CYT, Jenn says:

I’m sure that my participation in CYT planted many seeds that have continued to feed my professional momentum–the joy of art and theater, the drive to contribute to a community effort with my utmost efforts and cheer, and comfort in front of audiences of any size. CYT participation honed my energies and helped me learn about discipline and friendship.

Thanks for the update, Jenn! No doubt your star will continue to rise & brightly shine!

Heads up, CYT Alums! CYT will be introducing The National Alumni Association at our upcoming EXPO in San Diego as we celebrate 35 years of CYT history! Please, contact Sheryl Russell at srussell@cyt.org if you want to be a part of the national committee.

CYT Alum, Daniel Kendrick, at the 2015 Golden Globes


At CYT, nobody celebrates the success & talents of our kids like their own parents. They pack the audience, wrangle backstage, chauffeur to rehearsals, & applaud like crazy when it’s all said & done. Turns out, just because our kids grow up & graduate from CYT, that doesn’t mean their parents stop applauding…or that we stop celebrating!

Recently, one such CYT parent, Kathy Kendrick, mentioned that her son, Daniel, was working in LA & Brazil and recently attended the 2015 Golden Globes! Say what?! We instantly reached out to Daniel to see if he’d be willing to let us feature him in an upcoming CYT blog post & he joyfully replied, “Thank you for reaching out! I would LOVE to be featured.” Turns out, not only is Daniel an exuberant & talented CYT alum, he’s also quite a funny guy! Enjoy out our Q&A with Daniel Stellan Kendrick (psst, he captioned the photos, too):

What was your involvement with CYT? 

I was in CYT from my first Our Gang Class in 1995 until my last show, (CYT San Diego) Central’s OLIVER! in 2008. I went to camp twice, competed in Improvathon once, and ate many a Denny’s meal with CYT. It was my main scene growing up, and I met many lifelong friends during my years at CYT. In the end, I think I was in 15 shows.

Daniel Kendrick & Becca Downing as Mr. & Mrs. Sowerberry in CYT San Diego, Central's Oliver! (Winter, 2008)

Daniel Kendrick & Becca Downing as Mr. & Mrs. Sowerberry in CYT San Diego, Central’s Oliver! (Winter, 2008)

Which CYT affiliate/area did you perform or work with?

SOCO (CYT San Diego, South County) was my home base. I did most of my shows there, starting with THE HOBBIT in 2003. I also dabbled in (CYT San Diego) East County and (CYT San Diego) Central, and made some awesome friends in those areas too!

the poster for South County's CALIFORNIA GOLD ( Spring, 2005). Also featured ( clockwise from top left) are  Mallory Johnson, Tiffanie Tellez, Tyler Payton, and Michael Covington

The promo poster for CYT San Diego, South County’s California Gold (Spring, 2005). Also featured (clockwise from top left) are Mallory Johnson, Tiffanie Tellez, Tyler Payton, and Michael Covington

Please, tell us about what you’re doing in LA?

I’m a literary manager at Chatrone LLC, a production company for Film & TV. A literary manager is very similar to a talent agent, but we get to wear jeans. I represent writers, directors, and artists in the animation industry. Some of my clients have worked on Spongebob, Robot Chicken, and Futurama. It’s tons of fun!!

(Click here to check out Daniel’s webinar, which he hosted, titled, “Writing for Animation; What ACME Doesn’t Tell You…”.)

Your proud mama tells us that you were involved with the Golden Globe nominated animated feature film, The Book of Life. What was your involvement?

Chatrone LLC produced The Book of Life, along with Guilermo Del Toro and Reel FX. When I first came to Chatrone, I was an executive assistant to the producers on the film. It’s a really incredible experience to see a film go through the phases of production all the way into theaters!

We also hear that you actually got to attend the Golden Globes! That must have been awesome! What was it like?

It was AMAZING! My amazing boss, Carina, took me as her guest since The Book of Life was nominated. To sit there in the audience among other executives from all over town, rooting for a film I was involved with, was a lifelong goal realized. It was surreal and awe inspiring; not to mention a total blast and a good reason to put on a tuxedo!!

Any good stories from the Globes you’d like to share with us?

The hor’s deurves were delicious, the women beautiful, and the celebrities clumsy.  Particularly, the persimmon salad was delish. I recommend it.

What about the after-parties?

Okay, okay… this time, I got one for ya! So I was at the Warner Bros after party — just standing there — talking to my bosses and some D-list celebrity or something. And I feel a hand grasp my left elbow. I turn to face the culpit. And — woe-is-me— I find myself gazing into the blazing blue eyes of a nightmare dressed like a daydream. Taylor Swift. Making eye contact with me. ME! And Lorde is standing right behind her. We gaze deeply into each other’s eyes; our souls intertwine for a brief second. She parts her sweet, scarlet lips, and she says, “Excuse me, we’re trying to get to my friend.” She then shoves me out of the way and keeps talking to Lorde. It was a brief interlude in my career, but I like to think that in that singular moment, we lived a thousand lifetimes of love and passion.

Indeed, you did! Now, please tell us about Gaby Estrella, the show you are working on in Brazil. 

Gaby Estrella is a Brazilian Telenovela that my boss, Carina Schulze created. It’s a fun little musical show about a girl from Rio who moves to the country and rediscovers her heritage and musical roots. It’s a total hoot, and a huge hit in Brazil. Hasn’t really made it’s way stateside yet, but the soundtrack is on itunes! It’s been nominated for an Emmy too! We find out next week about that one!

And, how did you wind up working in Brazil?!

I ended up working in Brazil with Chatrone mostly through UCLA. When I was a senior at UCLA, I thought to myself, “Gee, I ought to get ready to graduate and find a job.” So I put on some pants, went outside, and found an internship listing at Chatrone. I worked there for about three months, and then ended up at ICM, a major talent agency in Century City. After 6 months at ICM, I graduated, began to search for a job, and landed an executive assistant position at Chatrone! It’s been a lot of fun since. I’ve learned Portuguese, traveled to Rio & Sao Paulo, and immersed myself in Brazilian culture!

Daniel as Will Scarlet in SOCO's Robin Hood (Spring, 2004). CYT makes it easy to meet groupies.

Daniel as Will Scarlet in SOCO’s Robin Hood (Spring, 2004). “CYT makes it easy to meet (devoted fans).”

Many of our CYT kids would like to work in LA. What advice to you have for them about bridging that gap?

For myself, I think that attending UCLA really helped smooth that transition. When you move to a new city, everything is scary. All of your friends are back home, it’s all unfamiliar, etc. But going to college in the city in which you would like to work, allows you to integrate into a social system that facilitates friends and a social network. So I would say go to college or school here.

Another tip is that internships are the gateway into the industry. Do an internship for 3 months in 3 different companies, kick butt for them, and impress them. You’d be surprised how much people like helping young up-and-comers out. Everyone works for free for a while to get their foot in the door, so be prepared for that.

Daniel as The Mad Hatter in central's ALICE IN WONDERLAND (Fall, 2007).

Daniel as The Mad Hatter in CYT San Diego Central’s Alice in Wonderland  (Fall, 2007).

Was there something in particular about your CYT experience that has helped you in your current career?

CYT was an invaluable training tool for me growing up. I attribute almost all of my creative pedigree to CYT. The amazing people in CYT taught me creative taste, confidence, and salesmanship. I would not be where I am or who I am without CYT.

 me at teen camp 2008 lookin' fly.

“Me at teen camp, 2008, lookin’ fly.”

In your opinion, what makes CYT unique?

What makes CYT unique is that it is they are the largest Children’s theater company in the world, and in my opinion, the best. When you have such a large pool of talent from all over the world coming together to create and perform amazing shows, the enhance each other and strengthen one another’s talents. CYT trains successful entertainers, and people know that.

My mother's collected assortment of statuettes from my illustrious CYT career.

“My mother’s collected assortment of statuettes from my illustrious CYT career.”

What is your favorite CYT memory?

OH MAN. I don’t think I could pick just one. Hm… alas! There were so many fun nights that I recall so fondly. Some of my favorite shows: The Hobbit, The Jungle Book (in South County), Oliver!, Once Upon a Mattress, and so many more! Some great experiences at camp too. I was also a fan of the skit game at camp.

Though most of my favorite memories ended up with me getting into trouble, so I probably should not go into those details. Haha.

Thanks, for the info & laughs Daniel! We think you’re golden.

2015 My CYT Story Competition!

It’s that time again! Has your life been impacted by CYT? Tell us how, and you might be the next “My CYT Story” competition winner! You’re officially invited to participate in the 3rd annual nationwide CYT Essay Competition, where one winner from each Affiliate will win a free registration to the 2015 National CYT EXPO in San Diego, CA from June 21-24th!

Competition Details:

  • In 500 words or less, tell us what CYT has done in your life
  • Submit your story to your local affiliate’s Artistic Director by April 1, 2015
  • Stories will be read anonymously by your affiliate’s Board of Directors and a local winner will be selected by May 1, 2015

For the sake of clarification/ultimate excitement: there will be one winner per participating affiliate (ask your local Artistic Director if you’re participating), and each individual champ will receive a free registration.

  • Each winner will be submitted to CYT Inc, from which a GRAND WINNER will be selected
  • On Opening Night of CYT’s EXPO, all winners will be recognized and a grand winner will be announced
  • The grand winner gets bragging rights, a feature on the National Blog, and a free CYT sweatshirt from the CYT store!

Happy writing!

2014 My CYT Story Winner - Aubrey Muffett (with Paul Russell, Heather La Forge and Sheryl Russell)

2014 My CYT Story Winner – Aubrey Muffett (with Paul Russell, Heather La Forge and Sheryl Russell)

Here’s a excerpt from last year’s winner, Aubrey Muffett from CYT Sacramento.

“No other community of brave, precious souls could have planted and grown me so securely in Him, all the while allowing me a chance and plenty of room for my once timid personality to unfurl. I have been more warmly accepted and firmly encouraged at CYT than any other group. CYT has helped me develop different characters on stage, but even more so my identity in Christ.”

Q&A with CYT Spokane’s Scott Worley

In continuing my obsession with interviewing CYTers around the nation, I recently spoke with CYT Spokane student Scott Worley. And in continuing my being so impressed with the caliber of people involved in CYT, Scott did not disappoint. Spokane is a lucky CYT Affiliate, indeed!

Ladies & gents, meet Scott Worley

Ladies & gents, meet Scott Worley

Let’s do a little get-to-know-you. Tell me your name, age, current location, and an interesting tidbit or two that we’d be surprised to learn.

My name is Scott Worley, I’m 19 years old, and I live in Spokane, Washington (I’ve lived here my entire life). Interesting tidbits…I have grown a beard, shaved my head, and been painted green for several CYT shows. And for Christmas the past four or five years, I’ve asked for a pair of red converse high tops. They usually last me a little over a year and so I get the perfect time span out of them and I wear them with everything no matter what I’m wearing.

An example of Scott being green...

An example of Scott being green…

I love it! Tell me your experience as a student at CYT Spokane. How long were you involved, and what were some highlights?

I’ve been involved with CYT Spokane sense the age of 11. I was in the cast of 10 shows and on crew for four shows. Some of the highlights have been meeting amazing people who I truly believe will be my friends for life. There also isn’t a whole lot that can compare to the feeling of singing your heart out to a sold out theater of 750 people at the breathtaking Bing Crosby Theater.


Any favorite roles or shows?

Some roles I’ve had the honor to play were the Beast and Shrek. But my all-time favorite roll was Jud Fry in Oklahoma!. The stretch as an actor I was able to experience was amazing! My favorite show, however, would probably be A Christmas Carol. We had a bit of a smaller cast for that one so everyone was playing several roles and we just had a blast doing such a exciting and fun show.

Not looking so scary as the Beast...

Not looking so scary as the Beast…

What was your go-to audition song?

“I’d Rather Be Sailing” from A New Brain. I was fortunate enough to be able to perform it for the I.E. Thespian Festival and qualify nationally for Solo’s.

I’m told you recently interned for a production of Peter Pan. How was that? What were some of your responsibilities?

That was an absolute blast! Some of what I did was block scenes, as well as fight choreography and assisted with character work and development.

What was the main part of that experience that you didn’t see coming? 

I really didn’t realize how big of an undertaking the whole process really is. As a director you are responsible for everything from the the casting of the show to the set design. I learned you need a solid vision as a director because while you do have a team of dedicated and amazing parent volunteers, they are all going off your vision for the show.

And the second thing that really caught me off guard was the thing you are constantly told when in CYT but never fully grasp until you see the full picture –  how much the parent volunteers really do for a show and for us all. A show would crumble if it was not for the parents giving their time, energy, resources, and GAS for these productions. So to all CYT parents everywhere, thank you for everything you do. You are really changing lives with the work and time you are putting into your CYT.

You attended the 2014 CYT EXPO. Best three days of your life?

I did attend this year, as well as the one before and they were both awesome! Not only did I get an original CYT tie out of it from the good Dr. LaForge herself but met a lot of amazing CYTers and had a blast! It seems like another one of those sayings you always seem to hear but it is oh so true – a CYT’er is a CYT’er no matter where they are from.

Modeling the CYT tie!

Modeling the CYT tie!

What are you currently up to and what is your future looking like?

Right now I am in my first year of college and am involved with community theater around Spokane, as well as teaching Drama 101 this winter semester at CYT. Down the road I am working towards getting a degree in Secondary Education to become a high school Social Studies teacher and will hopefully direct a CYT show of my own some day!

So awesome! Thanks for humoring me and all my questions. Best of luck Scott!

Spotlight on CYT North Idaho student Kalla Mort

Sigh. I just love CYT students. I recently got a chance to speak with CYT North Idaho student Kalla Mort and she’s a gem of a human. In the below interview, we discuss her various roles, her favorite CYT moments, and what she’s up to now. Enjoy!

How did you first get involved with CYT?
A family friend of mine invited me to come see her in Snow White. And after, that I auditioned for Jungle Book and was hooked from the start!

As you know, CYT is one huge pseudo-family that loves to spread the love to actual family members. Are your siblings or parents involved? 
I have three siblings – two older sisters and a younger brother. My older sister Kelsea was only able to do a few shows before graduating, and my brother Bryson only did one show. My mom always loves being a part of the Make-Up Committee. She loves being around all of the CYTers and being able to connect with them on their level!

Kalla at her sister Kelsea's wedding!

Kalla at her sister Kelsea’s wedding!

What has surprised you the most about the world of theater?
Probably the instant familial bond you have with your fellow actors. Even outside of CYT, the family aspect is there. I never realized you could find a group of “misfits” and imperfect people who still love and support each other like a family would.

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CYT Alumni Jason & Danica Russell want to share the ABC’s of Activism

Jason and Danica Russell are not just CYT alumni, they’re CYT lifers. Jason is the son of CYT co-founders Paul and Sheryl Russell, and Danica was a CYT student starting at the ripe ol’ age of six. Their journey began 30 years ago on the CYT stage with a best friendship (and dance partnership)…fast forward to today and they’ve been married for 10 years and have two kids.


Jason is the Chief Creative Officer at Invisible Children, a non-profit organization that exists to stop a brutal rebel group of abducted soldiers in central Africa (the Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA) which is overseen by the warlord Joseph Kony. Danica is the jack-of-all-trades wife/mother/writer/artist/first lady of Invisible Children who dabbles in anything and everything creative.

They’ve spent the last decade devoted to their “firstborn child” Invisible Children, teaching people to fight injustice by taking action (cc: KONY 2012). They’re now applying all they’ve learned and writing a children’s book aimed at anyone who wants to get involved and give back, but feels overwhelmed about where to start.

They say it best on the book’s Kickstarter page:

We wanted to write this book for our own children, Gavin Danger & Everley Darling, as a way of explaining to them what we believe is worth fighting for, while teaching and empowering them to do the same. That they may realize: We are doing our best as parents – to give them the world, and we are doing our best as people – to make that world something worth having.

Take a look at their project page and consider making a pledge to support their efforts. And then watch the video below and join me in hoping they adopt us all.