Spotlight on CYT North Idaho student Kalla Mort

Sigh. I just love CYT students. I recently got a chance to speak with CYT North Idaho student Kalla Mort and she’s a gem of a human. In the below interview, we discuss her various roles, her favorite CYT moments, and what she’s up to now. Enjoy!

How did you first get involved with CYT?
A family friend of mine invited me to come see her in Snow White. And after, that I auditioned for Jungle Book and was hooked from the start!

As you know, CYT is one huge pseudo-family that loves to spread the love to actual family members. Are your siblings or parents involved? 
I have three siblings – two older sisters and a younger brother. My older sister Kelsea was only able to do a few shows before graduating, and my brother Bryson only did one show. My mom always loves being a part of the Make-Up Committee. She loves being around all of the CYTers and being able to connect with them on their level!

Kalla at her sister Kelsea's wedding!

Kalla at her sister Kelsea’s wedding!

What has surprised you the most about the world of theater?
Probably the instant familial bond you have with your fellow actors. Even outside of CYT, the family aspect is there. I never realized you could find a group of “misfits” and imperfect people who still love and support each other like a family would.

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Q&A with CYT Indy’s Artistic Director Tyler Hutchinson

To know him is to love him. Tyler Hutchinson is the (new-ish) Artistic Director for CYT Indianapolis, and he recently sat down with me to talk about how he became a part of the CYT family, the scope of his job, and his big dreams (which are both centered around animals). Intrigued? Read on!

You’re the new Artistic Director for CYT Indy. How did that opportunity come about?

CYT Indy had an amazing Artistic Director before myself, Angela Manlove. She was amazing. However the Lord called her and her husband to Boston. Upon her departure, the position became available and gratefully the Board of Directors felt that I was the best fit for the job after reviewing my resume and my involvement with CYT students and families.

What did you do prior to coming on at CYT?

Locally, I was a director for high schools and other independent groups. I also worked for a company where I traveled the country auditioning and developing talented actors, models, singers, and dancers that have a desire to perform for God. It kept me pretty busy, and to be honest…I was on a plane every weekend going to a new city. I actually still do it every now and again, just not as much.

Tyler with the CYT Indy Tour Group singing the national anthem at an Indiana Fever Basketball

Tyler with the CYT Indy Tour Group singing the national anthem at an Indiana Fever Basketball

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Meet CYT Baton Rouge student Jackson Pierce

I’ve been on an interviewing kick lately. There are just so many rad people that are a part of the CYT family! And CYT Baton Rouge student Jackson Pierce is no exception. Do yourself a favor and read my recent Q&A with the guy whose name we’ll definitely hear again.

This is Jackson. And I think I speak for everyone in the world when I say that his shirt wins.

This is Jackson. And I think I speak for everyone in the world when I say that his shirt wins.

Hi Jackson! Tell me first, how did you first get involved with CYT?
My family has homeschooled me since I was in the fourth grade and we are currently involved in a very large homeschool community. A year or so ago, we heard of a theater group starting up and we decided to get involved with the program. My dad is on the Board for CYT and my mom is an Area Coordinator, and we’ve been involved all three sessions that CYT Baton Rouge has had.

CYT is indeed a family affair. Do you have siblings? Are they involved?
I have a nine-year-old sister who is in CYT (she does pretty much anything I do) so we spend A LOT of time together. My mom is a costumer with the rest of the “Costume Diva’s” as they are so appropriately named. And my dad helps build sets and manages to find some crazy way to injure some part of his body at least twice a show.

Ha! Sounds like my dad. I heard you recently went to the CYT EXPO. How’d you like it? 
My experience at Expo was amazing! I met so many cool people and I was able to hang out with my CYT family from Lafayette. It was a great weekend in Houston.

What has been the best part about CYT for you? 
The best part about CYT for me is the experience I’m gaining by performing and just doing what I plan to do for the rest of my life.

I’m a fan of word association. I’ll say a word or phrase, and you say the first word or phrase that comes to mind. Cool? 

Auditions: Scary
Favorite show: Shrek the Musical
Tech week: Mic interference
Broadway: Maybe
Choreography: Improving (slowly)
Favorite movie musical: The Muppet Movie (the old one!)
If I’m not at CYT after school, you’ll find me…Doing CYT stuff at home

Thanks Jackson! 

One-on-one with CYT Inc’s Dr. Summer Moshy

CYT is chock full of the most incredible people. From affiliate leadership to volunteers to students to staff, there are phenomenal people everywhere you turn. Recently, CYT Inc’s Curriculum Coordinator, Dr. Summer Moshy, humored me while I peppered her with questions about what she does for CYT and why she thinks the organization is the most special one around.

Summer (right) with CYT Inc's Director of Operations, Heather LaForge

Summer (right) with CYT Inc’s Director of Operations, Dr. Heather LaForge

First things first. You are CYT’s Curriculum Coordinator. Break down for us what that means.
Basically, I organize and maintain all of the available CYT Inc. curriculum materials that we’ve got and make them accessible (via the Curriculum link on the CYT NEXUS) to all of our CYT affiliates for use in planning the class schedule for their respective areas. I try to keep the resources current with accurate listings/descriptions of what materials we have available, so that the Area Coordinators, Managing Directors, and/or Artistic Directors can request what they need for their area teachers. I also facilitate the requests from the ACs, MDs, or ADs for the materials and answer any questions they might have about our current materials.

There are oodles of classes and even more affiliates. Your job sounds busy!
It took me a a while to recover and organize all of the curriculum stuff CYT Inc. has amassed over the past 30 years, but now that that’s done (though we do still unearth buried treasures from time to time!), I’m starting to work on creating new curriculum materials for our affiliates. I also try to solicit materials from our affiliates to enhance the variety and quality of curriculum goodies we have for them. I am also about to send out my first Curriculum Newsletter highlighting what’s new and what’s coming up for CYT Curriculum.

Summer wiith CYT student Emily Smedley at EXPO 2014

Summer wiith CYT student Emily Smedley at EXPO 2014

I’m told you’ve worked with a variety of other theatre programs. What is the main difference you notice about CYT?
The willingness of everyone involved to “give it to God” at the end of the day. To me, it’s comforting to feel that the common denominator among CYT peeps is devotion to a power greater than ourselves.

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CYT Santa Cruz proves it’s a family affair

Perhaps one of the best things about CYT is that it can involve the entire family. That is the case with the Hash family, and I recently got to speak with parents Phil & Cheryl about their involvement with CYT Santa Cruz and the positive impact it’s had on the lives of their daughters (Hi Caryn & Monika!) and on their family as a whole. Truly a remarkable family. Enjoy!

How did you and your family first get involved with CYT?
Cheryl: For about a year my friend Mary Jo Epperson kept telling me about a Christian-based theater group she was helping to get started in Santa Cruz. The day before the first CYT class/session, my daughter was begging to take dance classes (which didn’t appeal to me because of a previous negative experience with another dance studio). I remember saying to her, “Let’s go check out this theater group Mary Jo keeps telling us about. You prefer acting over dancing anyway. First classes are tomorrow. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to continue.” Well, as you can guess, we haven’t looked back.

Caryn as a Who Citizen and Monika as Thing 2 from Seussical

Caryn as a Who Citizen and Monika as Thing 2 from Seussical

Was this your first foray into theater?
Phil: No. We had been involved with another theater group when the kids were younger.  It was less than satisfying for many reasons.

Cheryl: As Phil mentioned, when our girls were younger, they danced and acted with another studio. Wasn’t entirely bad, but was not the greatest.

I’m told you both wear many hats in regards to helping out with CYT Santa Cruz productions. What have your various jobs been?
Phil: I’m head of the Set Committee (I organize and help build the sets; we have a set designer), I’ve ushered some of the shows, and ran a “follow spot” for a show.

Cheryl: Costume Designer and Costume Committee Chair. I also make cookies, brownies, etc. for refreshments, and manage our costume storage area.

Phil working on the set during Tech Week of Jungle Book

Phil working on the set during Tech Week of Jungle Book

What’s the most gratifying part of being involved together as a family?
Phil: When a show comes together we all take great pride in its success, even though we contributed in different ways. We can appreciate each other’s contributions, the kid’s performances, Cheryl’s costumes, and my sets.

Cheryl: The friendships we have gained as a family. Families that have the same values, interests (theater!), experiences, life stories. Yet we are all unique and bring many gifts to CYT. It’s been wonderful to see our girls grow in theater and to be a part of that growth. And as adults, I think both Phil and I have grown as well and have learned a lot about theater. It’s fun to be creative together! It has also been good for our girls to see that Phil and I are still learning and growing; it’s a life long journey.

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The journey from CYT student to CYT director (sorta)

You guys. You’re about to meet an extraordinary gem. Caleb Craig is a former CYT San Antonio student, and current intern director for CYT San Diego‘s production of The Addams Family. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with him about CYT life, college life, and future life. Lucky me!

Here's Caleb, ladies & gentlemen.

Here’s Caleb, ladies & gentlemen.

Not so long ago you were a CYT San Antonio student. What were some highlights from your days on the CYT stage? 
I was part of CYT San Antonio’s ambassador group, the Encore! tour group. That has by far been my favorite part of CYT. We had the privilege of working directly with Sandi and Scott Mitchell producing and performing medleys and arrangements of songs from various genres and shows. That group of people have become my closest friends. They’re like family to me.

The Encoure! group with their Artistic Director Sandi Mitchell

The Encore! group with their Artistic Director Sandi Mitchell

Any favorite CYT roles or shows stand out to you?
I was Peter Pan in Disney’s Peter Pan Jr. and it was a dream come true for me. That was my first lead role in any show I’d done. One of my favorite shows that CYT San Antonio put on was definitely The Wizard of Oz. It was filled with so many incredible moments, including a 12-minute quick change from Ms. Gulch to the Wicked Witch of the West. Watching the make-up and costume crew backstage move super fast to completely change the actress’s appearance was something to behold.

caleb2

 

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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.