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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The journey from CYT student to CYT director (sorta)

You guys. You’re about to meet an extraordinary gem. Caleb Craig is a former CYT San Antonio student, and current intern director for CYT San Diego‘s production of The Addams Family. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with him about CYT life, college life, and future life. Lucky me!

Here's Caleb, ladies & gentlemen.

Here’s Caleb, ladies & gentlemen.

Not so long ago you were a CYT San Antonio student. What were some highlights from your days on the CYT stage? 
I was part of CYT San Antonio’s ambassador group, the Encore! tour group. That has by far been my favorite part of CYT. We had the privilege of working directly with Sandi and Scott Mitchell producing and performing medleys and arrangements of songs from various genres and shows. That group of people have become my closest friends. They’re like family to me.

The Encoure! group with their Artistic Director Sandi Mitchell

The Encore! group with their Artistic Director Sandi Mitchell

Any favorite CYT roles or shows stand out to you?
I was Peter Pan in Disney’s Peter Pan Jr. and it was a dream come true for me. That was my first lead role in any show I’d done. One of my favorite shows that CYT San Antonio put on was definitely The Wizard of Oz. It was filled with so many incredible moments, including a 12-minute quick change from Ms. Gulch to the Wicked Witch of the West. Watching the make-up and costume crew backstage move super fast to completely change the actress’s appearance was something to behold.

caleb2

 

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Spotlight on CYT Alum (and Expo guest!) Jon Lorenz

Jon Lorenz: the man, the myth, the legend.

Chances are you (inadvertently) know him. You may have performed in a CYT show that he’s written, been in a show that he’s directed, or you’ve seen him on stage in one of a gazillion productions. He’s among the most talented people on the planet and he’s going to be at the upcoming CYT Expo. Score!

I sat down with him to pick his brain about all things CYT, songwriting, and his role this weekend at the Expo.

You’ve been involved with CYT forever. Your history with CYT in four sentences or less:

In high school, I performed in CYT shows like Bye Bye Birdie, Little Shop of Horrors, Annie, and Mary Poppins. In college, Paul Russell saw me writing music for a variety show and talked me into writing music for Russell House’s version of Aladdin, Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast. After that, I pitched my own projects (Little Women, The Legend of Pocahontas, and Looking Glass Girl) and directed/musical directed 30+ productions for CYT/CCT. On staff at CYT, I wrote and arranged music for Traditions of Christmas, special events and many, many summer camps.

The shows you’ve written for CYT are infamous (embrace it). Which ones are you most proud of?

That’s tough. Honestly, it’s hard for me to watch or listen to anything I have worked on so early in my development as an artist without thinking about how I could do it much better now! I will say that, whatever shortcomings The Legend of Pocahontas may have, it never ceases to amaze me how many people write me yearly about how doing the show has touched them in some profound way. That show is 18 years old and still playing a vital part in people’s lives! I am particularly proud of the 2003 CYT East County production – an exemplary fusion of dance, music, earnest performers, and clear storytelling. It felt like we really “got it right.” And we did the script as written (which, for some reason, rarely happens!)

Where did this gift come from and how long have you had it?

All good gifts come from heaven above. My desire to write music and tell stories comes from a lifelong love affair with stories and music – on page, film, and stage – and my desire to write and direct comes from a longing to share with others what I felt while immersed in my favorite stories. Every show I’ve directed is strongly influenced by every book, record, film, cartoon, play, and radio program I’ve ever consumed. I never considered myself a script writer, but as a director, I had lots of ideas of the kind of story I’d like to tell onstage. So when it didn’t exist, I tried writing it myself.

You’re attending the 2014 CYT Expo as a special guest. What cool things are in store for attendees that you’re involved in?

Lots! I’ll be involved in different workshops –co-leading an Audition Workshop with Paul Russell & teaching a Songwriting Workshop, to name two — and I’m directing the showcase that students will be putting on at the end of the Expo. I have my hand in other exciting parts of the Expo, but you’ll have to be there to find out! It will be epic. And fun. And useful. Don’t miss it.

Fill us in on what you’re doing now.

I just finished writing 1930s style songs for Lamb’s Players production of Twelfth Night in San Diego. It was a privilege to collaborate with a renowned lyricist like William Shakespeare – and a lot easier to not have to write the words! Currently, I am looking at moving forward on a few shows which may come into rotation in CYT in the next year or so (fingers crossed!), but mainly working on a rewrite of Alice for NBC/Universal Stage Productions: new music, new dialogue!

Let’s play word association. What is the first word that comes to your mind when I say the following:

Auditions - Which side of the table am I on? Me auditioning? Stress. Watching auditions? Hopeful.
Alice - Grateful
Opening Night - Ahhhh!
Broadway - Dream
Piano - Friend
Movie musicals - Moulin Rouge
CYT Expo - Opportunity

Thanks for your time, Jon. Have so much fun at the Expo!

Hi Jon!

Hi Jon!

Born and raised in San Diego, Jon Lorenz works as actor, director, playwright, composer, and teacher. He studied acting, directing, and music at Cal State Fullerton and Chapman University, and has spent the last nine years as a Resident Artist and Musical Director for Lamb’s Players Theatre. Jon is the co-creator of Mixtape: a Totally Awesome Musical Journey Through the 80s (book, musical arrangements) which was named by the Union-Tribune as “San Diego’s longest running home-created show.” His musical, Alice (book, music, lyrics) was selected by Stephen Schwartz to be a part of the 2005 ASCAP/Disney Musical Theater Workshop, performed at NYU in 2010, and optioned by NBC/Universal Theatricals in 2013. He lives in San Diego with wife and muse Julie, and their two children Hudson and Macy.

Get ready for hilarity at the Improvation

Improv

Real talk: the CYT Improvathon is legendary.

If you’re lucky enough to be going to the CYT Expo in July, you’re going to get to witness it (or be in it — lucky!)

Bobby Marchessault, CYT’s Improvathon Director, is the brain behind this epic entertainment. He filled me in on all things improv and what people can expect this year at the Expo.

Break it down for me Bobby. Explain the Improvathon.

Break it down…in some ways that’s like asking me to untangle a giant hairball. Let’s just say it’s two days of absolute hilarity and fun as teams from all over the county come together to celebrate and share their love for all things funny and improv. All of these actors get together regularly around the country and create stories and entertain, and for this brief event they get to learn from each other, get to know each other, and root each other on in what really is a very difficult art form.

What do attendees and participants have to look forward to at the Expo?

This year, attendees have the opportunity to see 18 teams present their own pre-scheduled improv show. Two shows will happen simultaneously, all day long, every half hour. That’s day one. Then, on Friday, we switch up the format with what we call TheaterSports. All day in the ballroom, teams will perform together in a farcical sort of head-to-head comedy sporting event. One of our judges will “ref” these shows and the audience will help us to award “points” to teams. It’s gonna be a blast and Expo attendees are gonna wanna see as much of it as they can.

The Finals are on Friday night of the Expo. How many teams, and how do you win?
In those first two days of performances, we have judges who will be watching and “scoring” games. The top three teams will put on an awe-inspiring, life-changing, earth-shattering display of improv genius for all the attendees of Expo 2014. Our judges will have the unenviable position of deciding which of those three teams did the best storytelling and entertained us all the most. There are some ideas in the works to include the audience on a percentage of that decision making, but you might just have to show up to see how that comes into play.

What other fun stuff will the Improv students be doing over the long weekend?
As if that isn’t more fun than one can safely handle in two days already? One of the beauties of the Expo this year is that Improv students will also be invited to jump into all the events that the other students are taking part in as well. And on Thursday, we’ll have a giant workshop where both improv students and HYPE students will get to hone some improv skills and play games with actors from other cities and teams. I’m anticipating a pretty amazing couple of days and can’t wait to get to Houston to meet all the actors and see them do their thing.

Thank you so much for all the insight, Bobby!

Dear reader – read up on anything more you’d ever want to know about the Improvathon HERE.

Bobby

This is Bobby.

Bobby Marchessault grew up in Chula Vista, CA and had his first theater experience at CYT South Bay in the chorus of Oliver. He was hooked and performed in several more CYT productions before becoming a member of the Young Americans where he taught  singing, dancing, and improv in over 100 schools across the U.S., New Zealand, and Australia. Bobby especially loves teaching and investing in youth, using theater and the arts as a way to teach and learn about life. His favorite thing about improv? Not only do actors learn to think fast and respond to our surroundings, it helps us all forget about our inhibitions and hangups and not take ourselves or life so stinking seriously!

CYT Expo: It’s all in the family

The CYT Expo is less than three weeks away! As we continue the countdown, CYT co-founder Sheryl Russell shares her thoughts on what the Expo means to her and why she’s so excited to see you in Houston.

Sheryl (center) with CYT leadership at the 2011 Expo.

Sheryl (center) with CYT leadership at the 2011 Expo.

The CYT “awkwardly closer than family” gathers once a year at EXPO to celebrate our accomplishments, to learn new best practices, to encourage each other, and to just have fun. We also have our national Improvathon competition, HYPE training, and this year we’ve added student activities.

Technology had helped us in so many ways… Email, texting, FB, Instagram, Dropbox, iPhone & on & on. But there’s nothing like a face-to-face conversation. EXPO allows us to look each other in the eyes & listen with our hearts.

I think one of the greatest benefits to attending EXPO is mentioned in Philippians 2:1-2 Living Translation:

Is there any such thing as Christians cheering each other up? Do you love me enough to want to help me? Does it mean anything to you that we are brothers in the Lord, sharing the same Spirit? Are your hearts tender and sympathetic at all? Then make me truly happy by loving each other and agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, working together with one heart and mind and purpose.

We definitely cheer each other up…it’s amazing to watch the Affiliates sharing ideas with each other and going the extra mile to make sure that not only is their program successful but all Affiliates are successful. It is about helping each other… learning from our wins and our failures. We share the same Spirit… we love God and we love people… we celebrate Christ’s gift of life to us. As a nation we have rallied with tender hearts to support those who have lost loved ones.

As a parent, one of my greatest joys is having my children and grandchildren together at in the same place at the same time. I believe EXPO brings the CYT family together in one place at one time. EXPO is a time to get our “emotional tanks” full as well as the opportunity to reenforce the “CYT Model”. We are a unique entity and it’s very reaffirming that we have our own “normal” when we are all together.

I had a CYT Mom share with me recently that she thought her daughter might be a little different and then she joined CYT. She saw kids who were exactly like her daughter and was over joyed and realize they had found their “like-minded” community.

Excited to see everyone and give and get the CYT hugs!!!

Get details about registration HERE.

What’s in store for HYPE students at the 2014 CYT Expo

Before continuing with our exciting updates about this year’s Expo, here are two quick things you need to know about this blog post:

1. It was written by Lydia Kinne, CYT Inc’s National HYPE Director (more about her below).

2. A reminder of what HYPE is: High School Youth Pursuing Excellence – a program through which teens of CYT can develop their leadership skills. 

Proceed.

HYPE

This year’s CYT Expo is about unity on so many levels. We are coming together in Houston to remember that we are all part of one CYT, whether we are there for Improv, HYPE, student activities, or adult leadership workshops.

As such, this spirit of unity is also a main feature of the HYPE workshops. Yes, every HYPE across the country is unique and special in its own way. But at the very core, all HYPE groups should be unified by following the same model and reaching for the same goals.

The Expo workshops (from “Down the Rabbit Hole” to “The Looking Glass Girl” to “The Wonderland of HYPE” – and more!) are focused on that unity in a two-fold way. One, by training every group to be on the same page about HYPE and how it should be run; and two, by actually having all HYPE students in attendance work together toward a common goal.

If you’re not even sure what HYPE is and what it takes to start/run one, no fear! We will also have a special “Taste of HYPE” workshop (prepared by HYPE students themselves at the Expo) for all who might be interested in joining or starting a HYPE someday.

I’ll see you at the Expo in July – where we’ll laugh, maybe cry, hug it out, dance it out, make new friends, take tons of pictures, get barely any sleep, and fall in love even more with CYT.

P.S. Just in case you haven’t registered yet – you can do so HERE.

Lydia Kinne

This is Lydia!

A bit about Lydia Kinne: She has been involved with CYT Spokane for ten years on many levels, but for the past four, she has served as HYPE Adviser. She is pursuing a degree in elementary education and theater at Eastern Washington University, which she will finish this year (Lord willing). She is seriously passionate about student leadership, and loves helping to grow the impact of CYT and HYPE throughout the nation. She co-planned and led the National HYPE Conference for the past two years and can’t wait to continue to see what God has in store for this group of young leaders!

CYT Expo 2014 – aka The Ultimate Student Experience

Okay, fine. We’ve been talking a lot about the upcoming CYT Expo lately. Perhaps we assume that you know what we’re talking about and perhaps that’s why we haven’t thought to properly break down why you should be as excited as we are. Until now.

EXPO 2014

This year’s Expo theme: The Looking Glass – Who Are You Reflecting?

The bottom line is that the Expo is one big celebration of our CYT family. It exists to bring unity to CYT Affiliates across the country through workshops, gathering, sharing, and more (read: singing, dancing & performing – we are CYT after all). This includes CYT students as well as Affiliate leadership.

As if that paragraph did not not get you excited enough, did you know this year’s Expo is officially unlike any that has ever been before?  Here’s why.

Historically, the CYT Expo has been host to one of CYT’s most hilarious, annual events – The Improvathon! Not too long ago, CYT high school students who belonged to their local HYPE groups were invited to come to Expo as well. But now, this year we are happy to include all CYT students ages 12-19 to come be a part of the complete Expo student experience.

The student schedule is specially designed so that specific activities (Improv, for example) will be just one of the many shenanigans planned for the weekend-long program (not to mention the schedule allows for everyone to be available to watch the Improvathon Finals on Friday night! All of the other students and leaders can be there to cheer them on!)

There will be amazing HYPE sessions and back-to-back activities for those who are “students only” (that just means they aren’t in Improv or HYPE). As an entire group, we will be holding a very special “Audition Workshop” where students will have the chance to audition and get feedback from Special Guest Artist Jon Lorenz, and CYT co-founder Paul Russell.

Another fun thing (new this year) is CYT After Dark, where all students will gather to rehearse a showcase to be performed at the end of the weekend. What better way to come together as ONE CYT than to Act, Sing, Dance, and Live as one big happy group!

These are just a few of the highlights from this year’s plan of events at the CYT Expo. It’s not too late to register, so what are you waiting for? These are going to be three days in July that you do not want to miss.

Oh, one more thing. We’ll be blogging more Expo-isms in the upcoming weeks and highlighting certain peeps who are overseeing various aspects of the weekend. The person responsible for the incredible student experience that we have described above is CYT Inc’s very own Creative Director Renee Kauffman.

face 1

Hi Renee!

A little about her: She began her CYT journey by attending Summer Camp in 1995, where she met the world’s greatest friends and became a “lifer”. She has gone from CYT student to teacher, camp counselor, Choreographer, Director, and now full-time staff member. She has graced the stage with some fantastic roles but her all-time favorite role is being wife to Curtis Kauffman, the really cute Production Shop Manager at CYT San Diego, and mother to 8-month-old, Sailor Alice.