Merry Christmas from the Russells!

Paul and Sheryl Russell are the co-founders of CYT and the pseudo mom and dad to everyone in the CYT family. Below they reflect on the year and wish you a very Merry Christmas!

It’s hard to believe 2014 is coming to a close. As we look back over the year, we’ve had some new births… welcome CYT Tri-Valley and CYT Waco! That makes 24 Affiliates, with Austin joining the CYT family in 2015.

The Russell family has grown this year too…we welcomed a new granddaughter! Kinley Merae Cox born October 17 to Janie & Jon. Grandchild number seven is due June 2015 to Amy & Ryan. Keep them coming…more future CYT students!


Clockwise from left: Travis, Kim, Audrey (2), Sheryl, Paul, Jason, Danica, Everley (5), Gavin (7), Janie, Jon, Kinley (2 months), Crosby (5), Ryan, Millie (2), and Amy

Below is an excerpt from a speech that theatre blog writer Lyn Gardner made at the Unicorn Theatre in London.

“Theatre, particularly theatre for children, fires the imagination, it gives our children the skills and the creativity necessary to face the world, to understand it and perhaps to change it too. We should value children’s theatre and take it seriously and that means treating it with the respect that we would any work of art including reviewing and critiquing it.”

Thank you for valuing children’s theater, for taking it seriously, and for having a positive impact in your local communities. One of the CYT Affiliates asked their students what CYT meant to them and here are some of their responses:

“When I walked into rehearsal on the first day and so many people came up to me and said hello and gave me a big hug, in this moment I realized I was a part of something really special and I really do have a home away from home.”

“GROW… from having bad grades and a hard time in life to GROWING and now having all A’s and best friends I can hold onto forever from CYT.”

“… to connect… to meet new, cool and kind people… to make lifelong friends… to be supported… to build character…”

We wish you a very Merry Christmas!
Paul & Sheryl

Paul Russell: Practical uses for CYT’s Values & Objectives

CYT co-founder Dr. Paul Russell wrote the below blog post, and it sort of makes me want to go back to college…well, maybe just one semester so I could take his Musical Theater class. Enjoy (and see you on the first day)!

As I am teaching four new Musical Theater students in the Micah program at San Diego Christian College, I once again get to review with the kids the uniqueness of CYT. It all starts with our Mission Statement and Values and Objectives.

The four new college students have found them helpful as they are all assisting in the direction of CYT shows this Fall. Here’s a great review of how the ideals can be used in practical, everyday interaction with our CYT students.

CYT’s Values and Objectives

Placing the maximum worth on people and treating each individual with respect and significance.

It is important that people are always placed at a higher value than product or production. Therefore we will work tirelessly to insure that people are our first priority. We require all staff, directors, teachers, volunteers and students to show respect to each other and do all we can to build up and encourage each other realizing that each person is a special creation of God, each having unique skills, talents and gifts.

Developing character values in individuals including commitment, discipline, self-esteem, confidence and integrity.

Developing character traits in individuals can all be learned in the environment of the theater. Some of the most important character traits that we hope to instill in participants are the following:

Commitment: The character quality that says, “My word means something. If I said I will do something, you can count on me.” In making a commitment to a theatrical production, you learn to follow through, not give up, finish a job, and do it well. It is important for students to learn the importance of both promptness and regular attendance. If they say they will be there (via their audition form), they need to follow through with their commitment. Consistent class attendance is also to be expected.

Discipline: The important character trait of discipline is taught through a multitude of skills that are used in theater arts training. Such discipline of memorizing lines, learning dance steps, consistent blocking on stage, and faithfulness to a production are all great means of building discipline.

Self-esteem (belief in oneself–self-respect) and confidence (belief in one’s own abilities): Artistic teams have the opportunity to help students discover how God has uniquely gifted them, and thus build their confidence and self-esteem in the process. It is not about “how wonderful I am”, it is about “how wonderful God is.” In the teaching process, it is important to encourage and lift students up even during instruction.

Integrity (the quality or state of being of sound moral principle; uprightness, honesty, and sincerity): CYT desires students to be the cream of the crop at school, church, and in the community. Integrity is when no one has anything to hold against you. This is perhaps the most difficult trait to attain. It involves being beyond reproof, as the Bible describes it. The best way to develop integrity in students is to be a leader with integrity. The old saying: “Monkey see, monkey do” is appropriate, especially with children. Students will model what they see. Be an Artistic Team of integrity and your students will follow you!

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Sheryl Russell: “Chair time…”

Below, CYT co-founder Sheryl Russell reflects on what she took away from her recent attendance at the Global Leadership Summit, a two-day event that serves pioneering pastors and leaders through world-class leadership experiences and resources.

global-leadership-summit-2012 I had the opportunity to attend the Global Leadership Summit in August and Bill Hybles was the opening speaker. His latest book is Simplify and I would recommend it for every leader.

“If you’re not in the daily habit of reaching for God’s hand and listening for His agenda, let me offer you a challenge: Find a spot in your home—for me, it’s a wooden rocking chair by the fireplace—and sit there for fifteen minutes a day, connecting with God. Read His Word, open up your life to Him, and listen for His whispers. When you’re in that chair and you’re in a right relationship with God, it secures your identity. It simplifies your agenda. You won’t be so tempted to run out and do all the other stuff that doesn’t matter a hill of beans to God. So, chair time. Start there.” – Bill Hybles, Simplify

“The biggest battle you will face in life is your daily appointment with God; keep it, or every other battle will become bigger.” – Ravi Zacharias, Christian apologist

“But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’ ‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’” Luke 10:40-42 NIV

What was Mary doing? “Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what He said.” 10:39

My challenge to you…

Start by reading a Proverb a day that correlates with the date. As you read it through the first month, September pick out verses that refer to “words”. October look for “wisdom”, November “poor” and December, any verse that speaks to you.

“My son, if you accept My words and store up My commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding—indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” Proverbs 2:1-5

Being a “doer” has had its challenges. Most of my life, I have been the Martha, squeezing in a little of the Mary. When I began making it a daily routine and started renewing my mind by “putting off the old and putting on the new,” God’s word began to change me from the inside out. The peace that surpasses all understanding is real. Life will always be difficult… we will never be problem-free but remember, Jesus said He left us with His peace… it’s in His Word; we just have to dig for it.

CYT founders celebrate 40 years of marriage!

Paul & Sheryl Russell looking fancy at a recent CYT Portland gala

Paul & Sheryl Russell looking fancy at a recent CYT Portland gala

CYT founders Paul and Sheryl Russell celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary on Sunday! That is a huge milestone that should be celebrated!

We thought we would rally everyone together to give them the best anniversary gift ever: a donation to CYT Inc. What better way to honor Paul and Sheryl than by helping to support the organization they built from the ground up?

A gift of support to CYT will act as a thank you for them pouring their effort and love into the organization that has changed all of our lives.

To make a gift, simply go to When you make your gift you can also leave a message of congratulations for them in the “comments” box!

Let’s celebrate with Paul and Sheryl – 40 years is amazing!

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.

Paul Russell: “Some things never change!”

[The following was contributed by Paul Russell, co-founder of CYT]

There is nothing like directing a CYT show.

I just finished directing Rapunzel (a new CYT original for CYT San Diego) and I have to tell you – it was messy, emotional, and bumpy. We went through major changes in the script, new songs, and testing out some new special effects (the release of 30 light lanterns into the auditorium). It was challenging to be in dress rehearsal and still re-writing the script, cutting songs, and re-blocking numbers right up to and after opening night.


I have to admit that I love the process of creating something new and wanting to see “if we can do it.” I love the rush of adrenaline that comes from mounting a new show. I enjoy watching little children laugh at slapstick humor and see them fall in love with live theater. I get pumped up in seeing if we can make a brand new work come to life in a fresh new way. That feeling is something that never seems to change.

Here are other things that never seem to change at CYT:

1. CYT students are fully committed to “putting on a show.” I’ve never seen such determination from students who will stay late, come early, and practice over and over again to get it right.

2. CYTer’s believe in the power of prayer and they expect God to show up on opening night. Prayer is not just a good luck charm that is tagged on at the beginning or end of a rehearsal. CYT kids really believe in a God who wants to bless His children.

3. CYT students seem to come alive with the Spirit of God when they get out on stage. Such joy, such bliss, such show-offs. Just like a 3-year-old yelling out, “Watch me, Daddy.” And of course, our Heavenly Father is watching and smiling and laughing.

4. CYTer’s really do care about each other. One girl stepped on some broken glass and cut her foot needing 17 stitches. The cast rallied around her and demanded that she still do the show – just with crutches.

5. CYT parents are AMAZING! Everything from fantastic costumes, wonderful sound, terrific crew members, clever props, fun souvenir gifts at the specialty table, great looking programs, outstanding sets, profitable refreshments, and ridiculous hair and make-up (we needed 90 ft. of braided hair for Rapunzel!) all to help make the show come to life. It was trilling watching the body of Christ come together like I’ve never quite seen before in any other organization.

Some things never change – thank goodness!

Q&A with CYT co-founder Sheryl Russell

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

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.

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 clan on Easter Sunday (2014)

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!