Heather LaForge is just trying to help

Here’s the deal.

Heather LaForge, CYT Inc’s Director of Operations and occasional blog contributor, sends out a weekly email to CYT leaders around the country. The emails are entitled “Helpful Hints” but vary from inspiring insights to company updates to personal stories.

She has her Ph.D., she’s a mom, she directs CYT San Diego shows, and she works incredibly hard at keeping CYT Inc on track with her oodles of experience in the theatre world. Each week I look forward to what she has to say in her group email, and this week, I found it particularly resonated with me. You can read it below. Go Heather!

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Hello Faithful Leaders,

I’ve been thinking recently about what makes CYT unique. You see, probably 2-3 times a week, we receive an email from a family (one of your, our, families) saying “I just moved from a town where there was a CYT to a town where there isn’t one. … Help.” We reply to each one, pointing them to the closest CYT, connecting interested parties, and walking through start up steps. And for each email, I think “I am so lucky to be part of this organization.”

You all know, better than anyone, that running a theater organization is not easy. We are all stressed about finances, audition numbers, ticket sales, and parent concerns. We all worry about royalties, and selecting a season that engages our young kids, while challenging our teens. We all get the hard emails more frequently than the good ones. This is a hard job, but oh how remarkable it is to do it.

Because you all also know, better than anyone, the joy of seeing families work alongside their kids. You know how amazing it is to feel part of a larger network of individuals who pray for its leaders, and lift up one another in times of trial. You all know the incredible feeling of seeing an eight year old nervous, quiet individual blossom into that leading role by their last show–confident in the giftings they have been given by God.

CYT is unique because of you all. You, who work so hard, who worry about the little details, who celebrate moments big and small in rehearsal. CYT is unique because we believe that God is asking us all to step up, to pray together and lead together to make an impact on the lives of families across the country.

CYT is unique.

And we get to participate in that uniqueness.

Grace and Peace,
Heather

CYT 2014 Verse
So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord–who is the Spirit–makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.
2 Corinthians 3:18

What a CYT Director wants you to know about Auditions

The below post was written by Heather LaForge, CYT Inc’s multitasking Director of Operations and CYT San Diego show director. Enjoy!

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As each new CYT session approaches, students across the country scramble, frantically trying to choose that perfect audition song. Your mind brims with questions. Does it fit my vocal range? Does it align with the show? Can I demonstrate my acting abilities through it? Nerves run high and dreams get stressful as students await…dun-dun-dun…audition day.

Students, did you know that your directors are feeling many of the same emotions as you? Audition day is just as nerve-wracking to us! For months we are thinking, pondering, wondering how we will do this show. Scripts are read over and over again. Cuts are made. Question marks riddle the score. And all this is done in anticipation of just who will be cast in these roles.

You see, there’s so much work to be done in preparation for a show. But until we know who is cast, we can’t really visualize what the show will be. Then auditions arrive and we are greeted by you all. You all who are filled with nerves and excitement. You all who are praying desperately that God would calm you enough so you don’t get weird nervous shaky voice. You all who remind us so much of ourselves when we were your age but of whom we think they are so much braver, better, stronger than I ever was.

The secret, friends, is that while you are desperately trying to appear calm, so are we. The big smile we give you is real. Because we have had those dreams where literally no one shows up to auditions and we are left to cast our own gerbil as the role of Annie. So when you are there in front of us, with your brave voice, and strong character, and (hooray!) you can pirouette too, we are thrilled. Because with your talent and eagerness, and our guidance, this show will go on.

I’m looking forward to my auditions next week. Praying for all of you as you prep your songs across this country; and I’m praying for all you directors too.

CYT presents: Video Curriculum

Wanna learn a triple time step from the comfort of your living room? How about learn how a CYT director prepares for callbacks? Or a helpful game to hold the attention of students and keep them quiet?

Enter CYT Video Curriculum.

CYT thinks it’s important for everyone to have access to arts education, so they started a small library of dance, theater games, and director videos via a playlist on their YouTube channel.

Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 3.49.36 PM They want to develop more and more instructional videos so CYT students can work on their craft whenever they have free time. In the future, CYT plans to incorporate these videos with registration software so students can automatically have access to them when they register for a CYT class.

Making quality videos takes time and resources, and if you’d like to contribute toward making them possible, please donate at: http://donate.cyt.org

I’d write more but I’m going to go learn how to do the buffalo.

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.

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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 joy (and dread) of Tech Week

[The following was written by Heather LaForge, the Director of Operations of CYT Inc and director of the upcoming Thoroughly Modern Millie at CYT San Diego]

Thoroughly Modern Millie

Members of the Thoroughly Modern Millie cast: (L-R) Jimmy, Millie, Dorothy, and Graydon

Tech Week. The phrase itself drives fear and dread into the minds of directors, area coordinators, and parents. To me, the phrase conjures up images of exhaustion, tears, sickness, and caffeine. Did I mention my tech week is next week? Pray for me, if you will.

Yet, tech week doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. I recently overheard my students saying, “I can’t wait for tech week! It’s so fun! Costumes, props, lights, and then we get to perform!!”

I wonder when I lost that energy and excitement for the magic of the theater. I imagine it was around the time I became a mom, or perhaps it was years earlier when I first began directing. Regardless, it makes me a bit sad. I wish I could conjure up that energy again.

Theater is my chosen career; I went to school for way too long for it not to be a passion! I love theater. I believe in its power, its ability to change minds and develop character in its participants. Add God into the mix (as CYT does) and theater is basically the best ever. Yet faced with having to spend a week in a dark theater watching kids perform, I get grumpy. That makes me sad.

So this coming week, I’m going to try to change my perspective. I’m going to pray for a transformation of my mindset. Tech week is exciting. What a privilege it is to participate in it! When I find myself bordering on frustration, I will seek out the 8-year-old who is in her first show and try to steal a bit of her awe. I will notice all the parents who are dedicating hours and hours of time to allow their children the chance to perform. I will be thankful–because getting to spend a week in a dark theater watching kids perform is a blessing. And that fills me with joy.

So instead of praying for my sanity next week, perhaps you could pray for my perspective. Pray that I might remember the magic that theater brings. I’ll be praying too.

P.S. After you pray, head over to buy tickets and see for yourself just how tech week worked out.

What is CYT? Travis Russell (and a video) explain.

You may have seen the new What is CYT? video circulating around the webiverse recently. It’s an awesome look into the CYT program as a whole and highlights kids from Affiliates around the country having a blast putting on various productions. It sort of makes me wish I was under 18 again.

And while many people had a hand in making the film, I sat down with the guy who ultimately put all the pieces together: Travis Russell, CYT Inc’s Director of Communications.

Travis, break it down for me – technically speaking, why are videos a good idea?

Videos have a much greater impact connecting with people. If you look at the analytics for different mailers, posts, and pages that contain video, its engagement is easily 3-5 times higher than content without video.

A few CYT Affiliates had been asking for quite some time for a short video that would act as a “teaser trailer” to explain what CYT is. With the Spring 2014 shows quickly approaching, the time seemed right so I sifted through hours of footage and selected the best clips.

The video is super rad and I know it took a lot of work from a lot of people. Let’s give credit where credit is due.

Most of the footage came from CYT Lafayette and their amazing videographer John Rabalais from Focus Productions. Some of the footage was from Corrie Cooper from CYT NYC, and CYT San Diego. I did most of the editing which was fairly easy due to the great “CYT Theme Song” written by CYT Inc’s own Renee Kauffman.

I know nothing about making a professional video. Take me through the process.

First, using Final Cut Pro 10, I laid down the music track and marked any key music changes that needed to be on beat. I laid in the clips we selected and then trimmed each transition. The hardest part for me, not being skilled with words, was coming up with concise, explanatory text. Being simple with your text is hard.

Yes, it is. Thank you for acknowledging. Continue.

I previewed the whole video a few times making little tweaks and changes. Once it’s done you have to export it, upload it, and share it with the world. I can only watch it a few times before I go crazy wishing I had more time to make it even better.

Spoken like a true creative.

The hope is to one day be able to curate quality footage from all CYTs so everyone is represented. I hope to make many more videos about CYT so we can really get the message out about why arts education and teamwork are so important.

Thanks for the insights, Travis!

You can watch the video on YouTube, and then head over to CYT Inc’s Facebook to share it with your network of peeps.

Yet again, theatre teaches us about God

[The following was contributed by Heather Laforge, Director of Operations for CYT Inc.]

directors chair

CYT Students, can I let you in on a secret? Lean in, because this may rock your world. Are you ready?

Your directors want you to be awesome.

Let me back up. If you are an actor, you have likely been told, asked, begged to “Do it again! Bigger!” As an actor, I imagine that’s frustrating. You are trying. But you have your lines, your blocking, the song, your choreography, and oh-my-gosh there are other people watching you right now! Yet, here before you stands a director, who is jumping around like a moron, arms flailing, trying to get you to look like a fool.

I get it.

But friends, I’m going to be honest. Your directors want you to be bigger because doing so will make you be awesome. And that is the goal.

Practically speaking, in theatre you have to be big with your movements, emotions, and expressions because you have to reach a large number of people. Live theatre is not the same as television. We cannot zoom in to allow the audience to catch a nuanced lift of the eyebrow. We need you to go for it. Don’t hold back out of fear of embarrassment. Break through the wall of hesitation and take the leap. Nine times out of ten, when you let go of worry, that’s when you will nail your performance.

But wait.

This is a lesson we can all take to heart in our day-to-day lives. There is a director above us constantly asking us to try again. He begs us to be bigger, to be willing to risk even in the face of fear. Again and again, I find myself hesitant to step out of my comfort zone for God, and yet he repeatedly whispers, “Just go for it.”

I think – scratch that – I know God wants me to be awesome. Let’s be awesome together, shall we?

(Photo credit)