Either you’ve met her, heard of her, or stumbled upon this post because you googled “amazing woman.” Here’s the deal about Sheryl Russell: she is among the most Godly, encouraging, patient, and organized women ever. She is half of the CYT co-founding duo (Hi Paul!), and I recently stole a few moments amidst her busy schedule to pick her brain about what, why, and how she does what she does for CYT.
Paul & Sheryl Russell looking fancy at a recent CYT Portland gala
Let’s ﬂashback to 1981. What was the thought process in originally starting CYT?
Paul was a teacher and needed a summer job. His friends were painting houses or selling air conditioners and that didn’t excite him. He had just ﬁnished a successful run of a musical at the school where he was teaching, came home one day in March and asked, “What if we put on a play this summer?” We opened The Sound of Music that August.
CYT has come a long way. Did you always intend for it to grow into a national organization, and what has it been like to witness?
No, we didn’t have a business plan to expand into every major city in the U.S. After 15 years, families moved to other cities and called to ask how they could have CYT in their local community. It’s pretty amazing to visit other CYT’s across the country and pause and ask yourself if you’re in San Diego or Kansas City…the model is working. It also ﬁlls my tank to see our CYT Alumni’s children now involve in CYT. We are truly the grandparents now.
Sheryl (center) at the 2011 CYT Leadership Council Meeting
You’ve worn many hats for CYT. What do you currently do, and what does a typical day look like?
My current title is co-founder and my time is spent with CYT Inc., the national company that manages the CYT afﬁliates across the country. I don’t think there’s ever been a typical day working for CYT…everyday has it’s opportunities and challenges. I currently do the accounting for CYT Inc. and I’m beginning to revise all of our business manuals as well as create new support materials for our afﬁliates. I’m also working on a development plan to increase our contributed income. And I do some traveling to visit new start-up areas and to keep in touch with current afﬁliates.
Judeo-Christian values are at the core of CYT. What programs are in place / how do you and Paul ensure that it mindfully remains centered around Christianity?
We’ve always believed we are Christians involved in a children’s theater arts program, not a Christian theater arts program. As we continue to love God and love people with our actions, we believe our Judeo-Christian values will continue to ﬂourish.
You have 4 children and 5 grandchildren (with a 6th on the way!) Most of your brood is involved in CYT in one way or another and it’s a lovely example of how family-oriented CYT is. What do you attribute to the involvement of family in the operation of CYT afﬁliates around the country?
CYT has created an atmosphere that involves the whole family. We not only involve the child but we ask parents to serve on a production committee. We’ve had grandmothers on the sewing committee, dads on the make-up committee, and moms helping to build sets. We’ve all been given different talents and no matter what age, CYT has a place for each individual to use their God-given gifts.
The entire Russell family on Easter Sunday (2014)
If forced, would you rather sing, dance, or perform a monologue?
Do you have a favorite show? As in, when you hear an afﬁliate is doing it, you get a tinge of excitement & want to hop on a plane to go see it?
Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat…and I did hop on a plane one time when CYT Spokane did it!
Can we play a little Word Association? What is the very ﬁrst thing that comes to mind when I say the following…
Opening night – The gift of hard work
Paul – Energizes others with his passion for the arts through his love for the Lord
HYPE – leadership
Auditions – Hardest weekend for moms
Broadway – Someday a CYT show will premiere
Showcases – Fun
The future of CYT – This verse was shared with us in 1981 and it remains true today. We ask God daily to direct our steps in fulﬁlling His plan for our lives:
“But these things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulﬁlled. If it seems slow, do not despair, for these things will surely come to pass. Just be patient! They will not be overdue a single day!” Habakkuk 2:3
Sheryl, you’re the dream. Thanks so much for taking the time!