“The King and I” has nothing on CYT!
Janie Russell Cox, Nicole Lindsey and myself just returned from Shanghai, China after conducting a three-week CYT musical summer camp for 60 students performing a CYT version of “Aladdin.”
It all began when Mrs. Lilly Tan had the vision of having her students in The Singing Hearts Choir experience the process of being in a musical. The children of China have never had that experience. She had seen the transformation of her own son’s life when he was in a musical at Francis Parker High School in San Diego. She wanted that kind of transformation to take place with her choir kids in Shanghai. Lilly then contacted CYT and the process began.
The ages of the children ranged from 8 to 14 and out of the 60 students only about 15 could speak enough English to understand direction. Every part of the rehearsal process had to be translated from English to Chinese. From learning musical terms during music and vocal training, to dance steps, to character development, to staging the production- everything had to be translated so it took twice as long as normal. CYT staff worked with volunteer college students from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. These young men and women were outstanding to work with, and they were eager to learn themselves how to put on a musical in just three weeks. Classes were held everyday at the newly constructed Shanghai Cultural Arts Center from 9pm to 4pm. The facilities were first rate and professional. We shared the same facilities as the visiting Broadway cast of Shrek performing there at the center.
It was an amazing experience to see these kids transform from shy, nervous children to expressive, confident, performers doing a full one-hour version of “Aladdin” in English in just three weeks. Parents, teachers and the students were overwhelmed with emotion at the end of the show. Many tears of joy were shed because of the experience of performing live. One parent expressed it by saying,
“There is simply nothing like it in the world. Seeing your child come to life on stage by singing and dancing and expressing themselves with confidence. It’s a parents greatest joy.”
The magic of the performing arts works in any culture. The power of music and the power of theater in a Christian environment can transform people. It’s the way God created us – we were created in His image – to be creative, expressive people. It was exciting to see that the CYT model for teaching and putting together a show works, not with just English speaking children, but with children who speak Chinese. If it can work in China, it can work in any culture.
It was exciting for me to see first hand that after 32 years of working with children’s theater, the methods work any place. I now can see CYT working in any culture, any place and with any people group. Children are children anywhere you go in the world. Love is truly the universal language. It was life changing from both sides of the world. They learned a lot and so did we.
Plans are already being talked about for 2013. CYT will be looking for outstanding teachers to go next year.
Contributed by Paul Russell
Video contributed by Janie Russell