An Improvathon says what?

Facebook-Groups-header-ImprovathonThe deadline for Improvathon 2015 team sign-ups is Friday, May 8. That’s TOMORROW people! And, I’ve got it on pretty good authority that if you don’t sign up tomorrow, the sun will not come out and you will be stuck in a day that’s gray and lonely. You should probably head on over to the Improvathon website right now. It’s ok…we will wait…

OK! Now, that you’re all amped up about Improvathon & are counting the days until CYT EXPO, let’s play a little blog-improv* with Improvathon 2015 Director, Bobby Marchessault, and one of the Improvathon 2015 judges, Chris Gott.

*NOTE: It is a stone cold fact that questions kill improv. Thus, no questions were asked during the course of this interview. Also, it’s long because we forgot to set the timer. No apologies, just commit! Off you go…

CYT: Neither of you are first timers at CYT Improvathon.

BM: Nope. I’ve had the privilege of experienced both sides of the table. Having been a coach a while back, and now having the opportunity to direct it 2 years in a row.

CG: Last year was my first year actually attending Improvathon, though I did see some of the finals in Santa Cruz a couple years ago. Our primary goal has been to make Improvathon a more enjoyable experience for everyone that attends, while also promoting our CYT values. Personally, I’m excited about pairing up teams and giving them the space to play together, learn from each other and build relationships across the country. While competition drives us to do better, building community can help us to make each other better.

CYT: Yes, and the 2015 EXPO theme is a spin on The Wizard of Oz. That has inspired some really rad team names.

BM: Word. Not sure if I’m supposed to have favorites already, but based solely on names, Kansas is awesome. (And those are words I never thought I’d say…no offense Kansas.) Fitting I guess. But now I have high expectations for their puns, if I’m able to listen at all while slaying Guitar Hero in my head to the sounds of Kansas.

CG: Yes, the Kansas team name “Kansas: Carry on My Wayward Puns” is epic. Any team name you can sing earns bonus points. Every year teams show off their s-pun-tacular skills. This year, my favorite is the “L. Frank Bombs” from Sacramento, but my wife is partial to Kansas City’s “The Flying Pun-keys.”

CYT: Yes, and I’m sort of obsessed with “The Rainbroz!”. They have a z and an exclamation point in their name. (New choice!) Registration for Improvathon can be done at a website.

BM: Yup. I believe the deadline is tomorrow (It is!). So get a team together quick! And make sure if you’re coming you really pay attention to the playbook rules. If you have any questions, use the email on the website!!

CG: I’ve heard from a few people who didn’t know that they can go to to get loads of information on all things Improvathon 2015. Beyond the basic date information is the rules for this year’s Improvathon (which are fine tuned from last year’s rule set), there is also detailed rules for each of the games in the Playbook. I think the best/worst thing about the Playbook are all of the videos. I DEFINITELY haven’t gotten lost in the Who’s Line/Improv-a-ganza YouTube universe. Nope. Not me.


Improvathon 2015 Director/Judge, Bobby M. He slays at Guitar Hero.

CYT: (Don’t deny in improv, Chris.) You both do other things for CYT, yet, you choose to also lend your genius to Improvathon. 

BM: Uh oh. No one told me I was expected to bring some genius with me. This could be a problem. Hopefully our other judges can bring on the genius.  In the past I have had the privilege of directing some CYT shows, vocal directing, and even a stint as managing director for a season. Nowadays I teach a class on occasion and recently had my first experience as a parent volunteer, but for the most part I need all the genius I can muster for Improvathon.

CG: Officially, I’m the Communications Assistant for CYT Inc., which is a delightfully squishy job that includes tech support for all of our affiliates, hosting a weekly Q&A Office Hours meeting Tuesdays at 10AM Pacific/1PM Eastern time, being the first point of contact for people interested in starting new affiliates, and generally writing a lot of emails. Helping with Improvathon lets my creative side get a little bit of exercise, too :)

CYT: Yes, and neither of you are from CYT San Diego, yet, that is where EXPO is being held this year. It is quite sunny there and also the birthplace of CYT.

BM: Well, if we’re being technical (Of course we are.), I kinda am from CYT San Diego. But my last gig with them was in 1993. All of a sudden I feel old. I digress, whenever someone asks where I’m from, I say San Diego and since no one knows where that is, I let them know it’s sunny and the birthplace of CYT. It makes me an instant rock star when I drop Paul Russell’s name.

CG: My original affiliate is CYT Santa Cruz, where it is often sunny and beautiful as well. However, several years ago I moved to Northwest Ohio. There is almost nothing that Ohio has in common with San Diego. There is no ocean, no mountains, no ocean breeze, no CYT and no ocean. It will be great to get away from the humidity and experience the awesomesockness (that’s a real word – trust me, I’m a Communications professional) that will be on display at EXPO and Improvathon.

CYT: Yes, awesomesockness is a real thing. I accept that. (New choice!) You’ve got some veteran Improvathon teams and some newbies this year. Sometimes nervousness and confidence both show up at Improvathon. 

BM: If only they all realized that everyone else is both nervous and confident at the same time. Chances are whether you’re a veteran team or a newbie, you feel the nervousness no matter how confident you are. It’s kinda the nature of Improv, right? (No questions! It is the nature of improv)  Who knows what could happen to trip you up. When it comes to the experienced teams, I love watching how supportive everyone is of each other. I know when I brought a team for the first time ever, the more seasoned coaches were super supportive and encouraging. This year we are taking the opportunity to pair up experienced teams with a newer team so they can learn from each other and root each other on. I’m looking forward to seeing how that works to hopefully build some relationships and gives everyone another affiliate in their corner.

CG: One of the great things about Improvathon, I think, is the variety of experience that the teams bring. We are doing some things to try to break down the walls between teams as we move forward, but teams should bring their best – regardless of where that is in the development cycle. Beginning teams should know that the judges are there to help them develop their skills, not to tell them what they are “doing wrong.” Experienced teams should remember that good improv is fun (even when you aren’t doing comedy), and that they can ALWAYS develop their skills. All of the teams can benefit from each other’s experience and perspective. I’m hoping that teams work together and help each other develop, either by watching (and cheering for) each other’s showcases and performances, or in the breakout workshops.

Improvathon 2015 Judge & CYT, Inc. Communications Guy, Chris G. He believes strongly in the existence of awesomesockness.

Improvathon 2015 Judge & CYT, Inc. Communications Guy, Chris G. He believes strongly in the existence of awesomesockness.

CYT: Yes, and in many cases Improv games are weird & make no sense except as Improv games. 

CG: That’s true. I’m pretty sure that I’ve seen some guys walking the street doing some version of our improv games, but they just needed their medication. Remember, one person doing improv games while mumbling to themselves and arguing with their fictional teammates isn’t funny, but a group of people doing them on stage (or in the city) is hysterical.

BM: Whatchu talkin bout Willis? (No questions!) I thought everyone played improv games everywhere. Hmm. Maybe that explains the looks I get at social events when I pull a piece of paper out of my pocket and read a random line as part of our conversation.

CYT: Yes, that is why. (New choice!) Some say Jesus is/was great at improvising. Example: “Dang, I had that cup of blood here a second ago…no worries, Decipes (rhymes with wipes). Bam! I’ve turned this wine into my blood.” Example #2: “Only 2 fish & 5 loaves ya say? And…feast!”

CG: Jesus was an excellent storyteller and improviser. He was fully present in every moment and knew how to guide those around Him to become better. Nothing threw Him off His game. Crazy demon child? No problem, I’ll use those sheep. Short guy in a tree? Sounds like a great guy to have dinner with. Decipes freaked out, hiding in some upstairs room? Drop in their midst and casually ask for a bite.

BM: Hmmmm.  While your premise regarding his improv skills may be correct, we have some deep theological implications if we consider whether Jesus turned the wine to actual blood or if it was metaphor and how that effects our current doctrines of transubstantiation, consubstantiation, sacramental union, or ordinance. I’m sorry, am I missing the point? (No questions! But, yes, you just killed the scene when you denied another player’s information. You’ve lost 10 points, but carry on my wayward son…see what I did there?) In an effort to remain ecumenical, let’s return to your hypothesis that Jesus was great at improvising. Now we should look instead at the nature of Jesus. Was he omniscient or did he lay aside that part of his Godhood in the fullness of his humanity? Because one must ask, if he always knew what was going to happen next, could it really be considered improv or was it more like a scripted musical? Hmmm…a musical about Jesus. That’s an idea. I’ll bet Andrew Lloyd Webber could make that work. Am I off topic?

CYT: Jeeeeee-sus Christ! Suuuuuu-perstar! Do you think you’re what they say you are? …(pause mid-dance-break)…(exchange blank stares)…(pull themselves together)… Eh-hem, yeah, I think this got away from us a little bit… But there are no mistakes in Improv, only opportunities! Here we go! Wrap it up! Finish strong!

CG: Improvathon is going to be outstanding this year. It is shaping up to be our largest one ever, with over 20 teams from 12 affiliates in a whole range of skill levels. Bobby and I are working to continue to build a positive atmosphere for everyone, whether they are expecting to compete for the championship or to help develop their team’s skills.

BM: I like the final commandment of the ten commandments of improv: “When thy faith is low, thy spirit weak, thy good fortune strained, and thy team losing, be comforted and smile, because it just doesn`t matter.” In the end, Improvathon is an annual opportunity to come together to laugh a lot, learn from each other, and celebrate all that is improv and comedy. As you prepare to come, take it seriously in making every effort to be the best you can be, and don’t take it so seriously that you forget that it’s all about laughing and having a great time together.  I can’t wait to see everyone in San Diego next month. Holy moly. Next month y’all!!

Annnnnd….scene! Nice finish! You both advance to the finals of blog-improv! Thanks, guys!

Wanna play some more? Join the conversation around this year’s Improvathon & check out their Facebook group

A recap of the 2014 CYT EXPO

It has been a couple weeks since the 2014 CYT EXPO. And it has taken us that long to come down from the high and wrap our brains around what a fantastic weekend it was. We are going to go out on a limb and say that this year’s EXPO was the best yet! With over 300 in attendance, students and leaders reconnected with their fellow CYT friends from across the nation and experienced what it truly means to be a part of one big CYT family.

CYT Expo

This year’s theme, “Through the Looking Glass”, really hit home when it was revealed that whether it’s through joy or tragedy, triumphs or defeat, happiness or sadness…when you look in the mirror, you can see everyone from your CYT family standing by you in the reflection. We are all in this together and there is no place we’d rather be than CYT!

My CYT Story Winners

My CYT Story Winners

There were so many incredible highlights from the weekend – guest artist Jon Lorenz, the closing night showcase with exceptional solos, harmonies, featured dancers, and the worlds greatest teenagers (can I get an “eye-five”), worship in the morning, HYPE breakouts, Improv rounds, workshops throughout the day, special evening events, late night rehearsals, and dance parties. It didn’t matter if you were in HYPE, Improv, or neither, we all came together for a common goal and it was such a huge success.

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Speaking of Improv…the Improvathon was AMAZING. Congrats to the Improvathon team “Stay Glassy San Diego” from CYT San Diego for taking home the trophy! 

Improv Finals!

Improv Finals!

Perhaps one of the most special times of all was when all the CYT leaders from around the country gathered together. One point that was made in the meeting by the CYT Spokane Artistic Director is that “we are all called”… it doesn’t matter who we are, or what job we perform, we are all called to be a part of this organization.  

The incomparable CYT leaders

The incomparable CYT leaders

Thank you to everyone that was a part of the jam-packed, fast-paced, memorable weekend…it was one none of us will soon forget.

P.S. Stay tuned for the our EXPO Through Instagram blog post. Hilarious.

Get ready for hilarity at the Improvation


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.


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.

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. 

The 2014 CYT Expo // details

CYT Inc’s Creative Director, Renee Kauffman, has some exciting plans for you in July:

It’s that time again! We’ve changed our clocks, the sun is shining a little bit longer each day, and warmer weather is on the horizon. Before we know it, July will be here and we’ll be watching fireworks, singing “God Bless America”, and hopping on a plane to Houston! That’s right, I said Houston. That’s where the 2014 CYT Expo is taking place, and registration is officially open.

EXPO 2014

There’s plenty in store for this year’s event, but I can hardly give away every detail just yet. One thing is certain: you don’t want to miss it. If you are a CYT Affiliate Leader (Artistic Director, Managing Director, staff member, Area Coordinator, Board Member, Production Team member, or someone who is ready to take on a larger leadership role) or a CYT student between the ages of 12-19 (students do not need to be in HYPE or Improvathon to attend), then the 2014 CYT Expo is for you!

You can get every detail you’d ever want to know and also register here. See you in Houston!

CYT North Idaho’s Improv Team Takes Top Prize at Local Improv Competition

From L: Kaitie Hunt, Tyler Nethercott, Presley DuPuis, Joy Weadick and Trenton Klinkefus.

CYT North Idaho’s Improv Team recently won the top prize in a local Improv competition.

ImprovOff!, put on by Chill Bucket Productions, was their first venture into Improvisational competition. Five teams competed, including four high school teams.

CYT NI’s Improv team is currently busy raising the necessary funds to attend the 2013 CYT Expo in Santa Cruz, CA, where they’ll be competing in the National Improvathon, June 24th-26th. In their spare time, the team is practicing for the competition and hoping for a “two-winning” streak!