“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.

Leadership Guru, Pastor, and CYT Dad

We are so pleased to announce that Sam McKee will be joining us at EXPO this year to spend some time with our leaders in encouragement, focus, and training. Sam brings a breadth of knowledge on leadership, as an ICF-Certified Leadership Coach, and is excited to share his giftings with us all! We sat down for an interview with Sam. Read below to learn more about who Sam is and what he plans to do with us at EXPO 2016.

samhs

Tell us about yourself!

Sam McKee loves CYT because it’s given his director wife (Myronie) and actress daughter (Kiera) a place to serve and shine. Sam is the founder of Evergreen Leadership LLC which is based in the Portland Metro Area. Sam has 13+ years of experience coaching leaders from stellar companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Mars Inc. He’s taught Ivy-League leaders at Columbia University about personality types and leadership.  He has a special passion for organizations with a mission, so he has coached leaders of Guide Dogs for the Blind and spearheaded leadership development efforts for Neptune Aviation, an aerial firefighting company. From New York to San Francisco to London and Dubai, from Beyoncé’s musical director to an NFL coach, his diverse clients have taught him leadership lessons he passes on to others.

Coming from a pretty broken and violent home, Sam became a Christian during his college years through a homeless man and an energetic African-American Church near Chicago. Now he loves to share the joy he’s found in Christ with anyone who’s searching for something more. He’s spoken to youth and young adults in colleges and churches in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Denver, Chicago, and Australia.

Sam earned a bachelors degree in journalism at Eastern Illinois University and wrote for a Chicago newspaper before going to seminary. During seminary, he was part of a team that planted a church in one of the murder capitals of the US. After seminary, Sam served as a snowboarding youth pastor in Colorado and California.  In 2008, he and his family moved to the Portland, Oregon area to plant a church for people who are far from church but hungry for God. This group also started an orphanage for 57 “sons and daughters” in a zero-income village in Uganda. This past year, he passed the church leadership torch to some younger pastors who are taking the church to the next level.
In his free time, Sam plays football, soccer, golf, ice hockey and almost every other sport. But his favorite times are spent hiking, biking, rafting and otherwise exploring the beautiful Northwest with his wife and their two children, who have more energy than the sun.

The Amazing McKees. Recognize Myronie? She's an Improvathon judge again this year!

The Amazing McKee Family. Recognize Myronie? She’s an Improvathon judge again this year!

 

What are you looking forward to sharing with CYT leadership?
I’m excited to say that the best way to develop kids, volunteers and directors is by developing a positive eye and a positive voice. Psychology for many years focused solely on brokenness and dysfunction but in the past two decades, a revolution began. Positive psychologists asked, “Why can’t we study wholeness, health, happiness and high performance so we can get more of it?”  They’ve found that the highest performing teams and families have a 5-to-1 positive to negative ratio!  So instead of asking “What’s the biggest problem here?”  leaders ask, “What’s the smallest change that could make the biggest difference?”  We focus on the good and positive and we enlarge it and multiply it. We replace negativity and superiority with positivity and curiosity!

Jesus said, “”The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”    Matthew 6:22-23
Paul said, “You’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.    Philippians 4:8-9 (MSG)

Positive Strength-Based Leadership inspires athletes, leaders and companies to achieve wholeness, completeness and greatness through leveraging each person’s unique strengths.

The session will draw leadership lessons from Facebook, Zappos, M&M’s Mars Inc., and the U.S. Navy and the latest research in positive psychology to lead our theaters, children and families to be their best. We’ll find time to celebrate our peak moments from the past and envision where we want to be 1-3 years from now and beyond (legacy). Then we’ll dig into our unique strengths and how we can use them better and the pitfalls of overusing a strength. Leaders will leave with fresh inspiration, a new paradigm for leadership and the Strengthsfinder 2.0 tool which they can use with everyone on their team back home.

Anything the leaders need to do prepare for our time together?
Yes! Please do the following:

  • Please order a copy of Strengths-Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath. Both the Kindle and paper versions include the assessment. http://amzn.com/159562015X
  • Take the StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment. A unique access code is enclosed in the back of your book or e-mailed when you purchase the Kindle version. After you complete the 25-minute assessment, Gallup will tell you how to access your strengths report. Make sure you download and print your “Strengths Insight and Action Planning Guide” which is an 18-page report.
  • Go through your Strengths Insight and Action-Planning Guide.
    1. Identify the top two insights about you that you want your theater team to know to work best with you.
    2. Which strength do you want to use more effectively?
    3. Share a time when you have overused a strength and it may have negatively impacted the team.

Please take a look at your Strengths Report and be ready to share:

  • What you think are your Top Three Strengths (you might agree with the order in the report or not…)?
  • Personal or professional examples of each strength in your life?
  • What strength(s) do you want to use more effectively to help your team?
  • What was your greatest insight as you read your report or the Strengthsfinder book?

Our theme verse for the conference is Ephesians 3:20-21, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” How has this verse been meaningful in your life?
When I was a pastor in the Bay Area, I whispered this verse in the ear of a mom who was in ICU. She had two teenage kids she was about to leave behind. She was the sickest woman in the hospital and she had used more blood products than any patient in their history. I read her the verses and I said the word “power” in the Greek is “dunamis” which is the root word for dynamite. I told her that God had more power than any doctor and that her kids needed her to stick around so I was praying in the name of Jesus for her to live and recover. At the same time, her teenage daughter felt like Jesus was saying that her mother was going to recover but that it wouldn’t be overnight. She would gradually get better and two months later walk out of the hospital in January. Her doctor was famous for having treated Hall-of-Fame 49er receiver Jerry Rice’s wife had one last method he hadn’t tried to stop her uncontrollable bleeding:  a Vietnam-era compression suit. He did it and it worked and this mom is still around loving her kids who are now in their 20’s. As a former pastor, I know that not all our prayers get answered this way, but some of them do. Miracles still happen when we have the guts to pray, believe and act.

 

Haven’t registered yet? Do it before the price rises on May 1st. Register HERE!

Act. Sing. Dance. Live. at EXPO 2016

ACT. SING. DANCE. LIVE.
These four words sum up the focus of CYT. At this year’s EXPO all registered students will participate in master classes focusing on these elements. These talented artists are all qualified educators, who believe in passing on their knowledge of their craft. The workshops will explore not only the practices of Acting, Singing, and Dancing, but also how the tools learned through these crafts translate to living a God-fueled life.

So sign up today, and be ready to learn, play, and grow in these incredible master classes. Read below to learn more about these teaching artists!

Heather LaForge, Ph.D.

heather

Act
Heather LaForge (CYT Inc. Director of Operations) comes to us from Northern California where she was the Artistic Director of CYT Santa Cruz. Prior to moving up north in 2009, Heather received her Ph.D. in Theatre from UC San Diego. During college and graduate school, Heather honed her acting and directing skills. She’s directed a variety of plays and musicals, specializing in character-driven dramas. She is passionate about educating students about technique in acting, focusing on physicality and voice work to create meaningful text-based characters. Heather makes her home in San Diego with her husband and two young daughters.

J. Mark McVey

mcveySing
J. Mark McVey made his Broadway debut as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables after having won the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Actor while in DC. The first American to perform Valjean in London’s West End, J. Mark also reprised the role with the Los Angeles Philharmonic to sold out crowds at the Hollywood Bowl and once again in the 25th Anniversary Tour of Les Miserables where he won the Ovation Award and the Broadway.com Award on his way to eclipsing more than 3,200 performances in the worlds favorite musical Les Miserables. J. Mark McVey made his Carnegie Hall Debut with Mr. Marvin Hamlisch and continues to perform with numerous symphonies around the country and the world. J. Mark’s Television credits include America’s Got Talent and Days Of Our Lives. Mark made his PBS Debut with the Boston Pops and followed that performance with the PBS Christmas Special for the U.S. Military Troupes where he was featured with Marvin Hamlisch and The National Symphony Orchestra. Mark also appeared in the PBS Special ‘A Tale of Two Cities in Concert.’ Other Broadway, NY and regional theatre credits include; The Who’s Tommy, The Best Little Whore House Goes Public, Chess, Carousel, My Fair Lady, South Pacific, Seven Brides, Show Boat, Hey Love, A Helluva Town, Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil, Rocket Boys and many more. J. Mark McVey earned a Double Platinum record for his participation on the Trans-Siberian Orchestra recording of ‘The Lost Christmas Eve’. He also has 3 solo CD’s: “Broadway and Beyond” “If You Really Knew Me” and “One Among Few”, as well as a Family Christmas CD. Mark continues to record having a new project due out this year. Mark’s greatest achievements are his 2 beautiful daughters, Grace and Kylie, a collaborative effort with God and his incredible wife, actress and singer, Mrs. Christy Tarr-McVey. Mark thanks God for his gifts, his family for their love and you, for supporting the arts!

Colleen Kollar Smith

Colleen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dance
A native of north San Diego county, Colleen is proud to be the Executive Director at San Diego Musical Theater. Prior to SDMT, she served as Director of Organizational Advancement at New Village Arts and before that as Director of Development and a member of the resident acting ensemble and resident choreographer at Lamb’s Players Theatre. Achievements include: 100 Hours of Stories – in which Lamb’s broke the Guinness World Record for Longest Marathon Theatrical Performance and raised $200,000; and co-creating Mixtape, San Diego’s longest running home-grown musical, which ran for 3 years. Colleen’s work has been seen at Cygnet Theatre, Moonlight Stage Productions, Intrepid Shakespeare, and La Jolla Playhouse. After earning a BA in Drama from UC Irvine, Colleen started her career as an intern at Steppenwolf Theatre Company. She holds an MA in Nonprofit Leadership and Management from the University of San Diego and is an inaugural recipient of the Galinson Fellowship with AFP San Diego. She makes her home in Oceanside with her husband, local playwright and actor Lance Arthur Smith, and their two daughters, Scottie and Pepper.

EXPO 2016 – Invite from Paul Russell

I just finished directing You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown at San Diego Christian College. (The college where CYT students get a $5000 scholarship just for being a CYT student!) It was an amazing experience. Most of the leads in the show are from CYTs across the country and are now CYT teachers, directors, and musical directors for CYT San Diego. It’s amazing to see God raising up a new generation of students who are committed to using the arts as a means of reaching the world for Jesus.

Cast

There is a line from the musical Snoopy that is our theme for EXPO 2016: If just one person believes in you… Anything CAN happen if we believe in each other and in the power of our Lord to reach our communities. With the power of theater in a God-centered environment, miracles can happen!

That is what CYT is all about! And that’s what CYT EXPO 2016 is all about – seeing and hearing the miracles of CYT.

EXPO is about how we can help change the world to be a better place by using one of the most powerful methods known to man – THEATER!

EXPO is about coming to together as believers and worshiping with the most exciting, motivated, creative, and crazy people on the planet.

expo

EXPO is about taking amazing, practical workshops on how we as CYT students, staff, and artistic teams can be the most effective servants of God.

EXPO is about having outstanding motivational speakers that challenge us, encourage us, and excite us to do our jobs better and more effectively.

EXPO is about laughing your heads off by watching some of the funniest, brightest, and creative young people do their thing at the national Improvathon. It’s fun, silly, and exciting and it only happens once a year!

improv2

 

EXPO is about being with people who are like minded and sharing ideas that actually work in the field of children’s theater. We explore how to build a program, sell more tickets, grow classes, recruit outstanding teachers, cost saving ways to produce shows, and integrating our faith into our mission.

EXPO is about having the time of your life and enjoying fun in the sun experiences like eating by the bay, playing volleyball, swimming, watching the sunset and fireworks, and hanging around the bonfire. Don’t forget that before or after the EXPO, you can experience local San Diego traditions like water skiing, sailing, the beach, surfing, Sea World, Old Town, Downtown Gaslamp Quarters, San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park, Mexico, and so much more!

exposun

EXPO is about rubbing shoulders and having meaningful conversations with other successful CYT leaders who can partnership, mentor, train, and encourage us to reach our community, families, and students.

EXPO is about hearing the miracles of what God is doing around the world in the lives of children, parents, and communities. These touching stories is why we do what we do and will be a highlight of your year.

EXPO is the one place where over 450 people come together and party, play, strategize and work together to make a difference in the world. If there is one thing that you do this year – make sure it is CYT EXPO.

Together we can believe in each other . . . to produce the best in children’s theater in a Judeo-Christian environment!

Consider this your invitation from Sheryl and myself. See you at the EXPO!

Paul Russell

P.S. Sheryl and I would love to sit down with each one of you and hear what God is doing in your area!

exposhark

EXPO 2016’s Keynote Speaker is… J. Mark McVey!

We are thrilled to announce EXPO 2016‘s Keynote Speaker, J. Mark McVey! Mark is a seasoned performer and Christian speaker. Read below to learn more about Mark and what he plans to bring to us this year at EXPO!

J.Mark McVey as Jean Valjean in Les Mis

J.Mark McVey as Jean Valjean in Les Mis

Who is J.Mark McVey, you ask? The question is…who ISN’T he? I mean…besides infamous prisoner 24601…

J. Mark McVey made his Broadway debut as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables after having won the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Actor while in DC.  The first American to perform Valjean in London’s West End, J. Mark also reprised the role with the Los Angeles Philharmonic to sold out crowds at the Hollywood Bowl and once again in the 25th Anniversary Tour of Les Miserables where he won the Ovation Award and the Broadway.com Award on his way to eclipsing more than 3,200 performances in the worlds favorite musical Les Miserables.

Photos courtesy of jmarkmcvey.com

J. Mark McVey onstage as JVJ in Les Mis. Photos courtesy of jmarkmcvey.com

J. Mark McVey made his Carnegie Hall Debut with Mr. Marvin Hamlisch and continues to perform with numerous symphonies around the country and the world. J. Mark’s Television credits include America’s Got Talent and Days Of Our Lives.  Mark made his PBS Debut with the Boston Pops and followed that performance with the PBS Christmas Special for the U.S. Military Troupes where he was featured with Marvin Hamlisch and The National Symphony Orchestra.  Mark also appeared in the PBS Special  ‘A Tale of Two Cities in Concert.’  Other Broadway, NY and regional theatre credits include; The Who’s Tommy, The Best Little Whore House Goes Public, Chess, Carousel, My Fair Lady, South Pacific, Seven Brides, Show Boat, Hey Love, A Helluva Town, Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil, Rocket Boys and many more. J. Mark McVey earned a Double Platinum record for his participation on the Trans-Siberian Orchestra recording of ‘The Lost Christmas Eve’.  He also has 3 solo CD’s: “Broadway and Beyond” “If You Really Knew Me” and “One Among Few”, as well as a Family Christmas CD.  Mark continues to record having a new project due out this year.  Mark’s greatest achievements are his 2 beautiful daughters, Grace and Kylie, a collaborative effort with God and his incredible wife, actress and singer, Mrs. Christy Tarr-McVey. Mark thanks God for his gifts, his family for their love and you, for supporting the arts!

J. Mark McVey. Photo courtesy of jmarkmcvey.com

J. Mark McVey. Photo courtesy of jmarkmcvey.com

We asked Mark to share with us some thoughts about our 2016 CYT Theme Verse, EXPO, & his master class: 

Without giving away your keynote, what are you looking forward to sharing about at CYT’s EXPO?
That is a bit of a challenge, but, just because most Christians know that God is the source of all gifts doesn’t automatically mean they know how to find or recognize their special gifts.  So, I think I will spend some time exploring that process.

Our theme verse for the conference is Ephesians 3:20-21, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” How has this verse been meaningful in your life?
I like this verse because it sums it all up for believers.  It helps me focus my life on the infinite power of my creator, while reminding me of all the players on the team and the necessary confidence that I am an integral part.

Students will get an opportunity to participate in a master class with you. What should they expect to learn?
I will probably spend a bit of time teaching a breathing technique and a short stretch and vocal warm up.  Then I want students to know how to critique their peers and when it is appropriate, so, I want to show that through demonstration.  Which means I will need some volunteers.

Finally, what one piece of advice would you give to young performers?
Show business is a tough business!  If you want to become a professional actor/singer, or performer of any kind really, it will take more than desire.  You will face constant rejection.  You need to know who you are, what you can and will do and have an insatiable desire to learn.

Thanks, Mark! We can’t wait to play in the sun with you at EXPO 2016! To read more about Mark, check out his website here


Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 9.06.17 PM

Don’t miss out on Mark’s Keynote Speech, his master class, or any other EXPO 2016 awesomeness! Register for EXPO 2016 here!

NLC in NYC

What can we say? It was awesome! The blizzard and the wisdom gained were equally overwhelming & beautiful. Thank you to CYT, Inc. staff for organizing such an informative and unifying event. And thanks to CYT NYC for hosting!

IMG_0161

You, too, can rock one of these CYT beanies! Grab one at the online CYT Store.

IMG_0120

Some awesome welcome gifts from CYT NYC!

We prayed for, praised, & encouraged one another. We revisited the CYT Model and why it works (Hint: it was designed by CYT Leadership FOR CYT Leadership to provide the best opportunity to achieve our mission.)

We reflected on our 2016 verse:

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭3:20-21‬ ‭ESV‬‬

We shared challenges and triumphs. And all left feeling inspired and called to action to continue making CYT our favorite place to be.

If you are CYT Leadership and need the materials shared at NLC, please email Heather at: heather@cyt.org.

NLC in NYC!

Getting excited to head to the Big Apple for the CYT National Leadership Conference (NLC)? Here are some more NLC 2016 deets from big wig CYT Inc Director or Operations, Dr. Heather LaForge

1. Who will be there?

55 leaders from across the country! The NLC is such a great conference. Although, I love EXPO for all its excitement and the energy of the students, there’s something really special about the NLC. It’s the one time a year that we get to really focus on leadership. I’m looking forward to a weekend of good conversations; brainstorming with fellow leaders; and of course, fun.

NLC_EXPO_2015_silly.pic_

Super serious NLC Meeting at EXPO in summer 2015.

 

2. What are the highlights of this year’s NLC?

This year we’re really trying to keep our talks discussion based, which allows folks the chance to share ideas and learn from one another. We also will be meeting with an MTI staffer, who will be providing insight into how royalties work. But perhaps the most exciting thing is that we will be LiveStreaming our talk about EXPO 2016! Anyone can hope online and listen in to learn more about what’s going to happen this year at EXPO. We have a Facebook event here, if you want to learn more!

CYT Inc.'s Director of Technology, Travis Russell, will be back at NLC this year for awesome discussion & inspiration

CYT Inc.’s Director of Technology, Travis Russell, will be back at NLC this year for awesome discussion & inspiration

3. What Broadway show are you seeing?

I’m seeing Finding Neverland with the group, but I’m also planning to see Matilda, and maybe The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. I want to see a ton of other shows, but I don’t think the planner of the event should skip out on the conference. Nor, do I want to!

4. What should affiliate leadership expect from this year’s NLC?

They should expect a gathering of amazing people where ideas are shared, discussion flows, and training occurs. Our hope is that leaders leave the conference feeling encouraged and armed with new ideas for the year ahead.

NLC2015

CYT 2015 in Lafayette, LA

5. NYC is such an amazing location for the NLC! Anything NYC specific planned for the NLC?

There are loads of CYT Alumni who live in the city and we wanted to make sure they had an opportunity to participate in the NLC. So, Thursday night, we are hosting an alumni gathering for any and all CYT alumni who happen to be in the area. We want to see everyone! More information on that event can be found here!

Can’t wait for the NLC in NYC! Start spreading the news…