Surprise Homecoming at CYT San Diego

At CYT, we do become each other’s extended family! However, we know that we can’t replace the real thing. Recently, a CYT San Diego family, enjoyed the thrill of a surprise reunion with their dad/husband upon his return from serving overseas as part of our U.S. Military. Watch the sweet video below. Then, dry you eyes and read the touching interviews describing how this joyful reunion came to be on a CYT stage and how CYT helped this family keep their chins up while their soldier was deployed.

Thank you to Vittoria Allen from CYT San Diego for this precious story!

Q&A with Erin Kelly, CYT South County Area Coordinator

Q: How long have the Stellas been doing (CYT San Diego) South County CYT?

A: The Stellas started doing CYT around 5 years ago. I met them when I directed my first show in South County, Seussical. Our girl’s (both Madi and Maddie) started Wiggles together when they were 4 and 5. They were best friends since day one and so were Rachel and I, really.

Q: When did Rob get in touch with you to plan this surprise? What was
your reaction?

A: Rob contacted me about two weeks prior to the BIG surprise. He said I’m coming home for a week, on opening night, and asked me to help orchestrate a fun surprise for his family. I was BEYOND thrilled of course. And I LOVE surprises. I would have to say we pulled off the best surprise yet.

Q: We see videos of military personnel reuniting with / surprising their family in the media, but what was it like being a part of planning it and seeing it happen in person?
A: It was extremely emotional and exciting! The Stellas are our best friends and seeing the kids and Rachel react was a moment I will treasure and never forget. That created a memory for our entire CYT family.

Rob & Justin Stella celebrate their reunion with a Mulan photo op!

Q: What is your favorite thing about the Stella family?
A: They are CRAZY! But in the best way. You know….that good kind of crazy that always keeps you on your toes and totally wondering what they will do next. They make me laugh like no one else. And that alone would be my favorite thing about them, but they are so much more than humorous. They are the most genuine, kind, and loving family you would ever meet. It is an honor to have them in SoCo CYT and an even bigger honor to have them in my family’s life. I just love them to the moon and back. Families like this one are the heart and driving force of CYT and what we are all about.

Q&A with Rob and Rachel Stella
Q: Rob, when were you deployed?

A: December 1st, 2014 to Bahrain for 12-13 Months

Q: How are you able to be home for the week?

A: I was sent to the U.S. to attend a school in Mississippi and was afforded a week of leave prior to so I could surprise the family.

Miss Maddie Stella welcomes her daddy, Rob, back from overseas.

Q: Rob, tell us about your family’s reaction!

A: My heart melted when I saw my family’s reactions.  Made it all worthwhile.  Rachel said later how sad she was that our oldest son, Dylan, was not here since he just left for a camp for the weekend.  I told her I had the Pastor taking the kids to camp bring him to lunch and I surprised him there. Best part is Rachel dropped Dylan off and picked him up but never knew any different.  I was hiding across the street until she left.

Rob & Rachel Stella.

Q: Rachel, were you expecting this at all?
A: First off, kudos to Erin and Rob. I was 100% not expecting something like this. Rob has been deployed several times and has never done anything like this. This is also a hard one for us as it’s a lot longer than past deployments. Plus, the kids are older and it seems to get harder for them the older they get.

Q: How has CYT helped your family during deployments?

A: Actually, CYT blessed us for the first time, in a great way, 5 years ago. Rob was deployed to Afghanistan and our son, Justin, was having a hard time with the separation. Honestly, though I tried not to show it, deployment was hard for me at times too. It was hard to not think about him being in danger all the time. This is where CYT saved us. Justin started spring classes and auditioned for Narnia. The CYT environment was just what we needed. My little boy was welcomed into the group like a long lost little brother. I had never experienced anything like it. He came alive. Truly. It was magic to watch. The director, Brad Davis, was so great with him too! He let him be himself and never lost patience with him. We will forever be grateful for that. As for me, CYT became my support system. The other parents were so nice and always willing to guide me through the process. They were also so great with my other two kids. No one complained when I had to bring my little one to the theater. In fact, they doted on her. That little girl grew up backstage and it’s so cool to see her ON the stage now. I looked forward to the time we would spend at the theater. I still do! Time flew by. Rob returned a day after the show closed. He tried desperately to get there for the show but it just didn’t work out. But when that next show came, he jumped in full force and has been a part of every show since. Our oldest son, Dylan has also crewed a few shows. We love that our whole family can be involved in something like this. Rob once told me he was afraid that someday the kids would look back and be sad about all the time their dad was gone. I told him that if they have so much fun when they are together, they won’t remember all the time he was gone. CYT will always be a big part of our happy memories!

Bravo, Stella Family! We all send you a standing ovation!

2015 Improvathon Information


It’s that time again! The CYT 2015 EXPO is fast approaching (this year, in beautiful San Diego, CA), which means the Improvathon is coming too! Improvathon is a CYT improv competition that takes place during the EXPO each year. Last year we had almost 300 students attend the EXPO in Houston, and many of them took part in the Improvathon competition.

Even though EXPO registration does not begin until March 30th, the Improvathon information has been released and coaches, leaders and teams can check out what’s in store for this year’s competition HERE.

Aside from participating in Improvathon this year, students will have the opportunity to receive a special training session with their Improv Team, to join other EXPO activities like After Dark dance parties, guest speakers/workshops, the National Showcase performance and more! There is so much going on at EXPO and Improv is just one, very exciting slice of the pie! All CYT students ages 12-19 are welcome to register for this year’s EXPO, even if you are not on an Improv Team.

Check out the Improv info HERE and find out more about the 2015 CYT EXPO. We hope to see you there!

Doogles Bee! By Paul Russell & Doug Schmitt

Doogles Bee the Wanna-a-bee written by Paul Russell and illustrated by Doug Schmitt

Doogles Bee the Wann-a-bee written by Paul Russell and illustrated by Doug Schmitt

Did you know Paul Russell and his good friend Doug Schmitt created a children’s book called Doogles Bee the Wann-a-Bee? And you can download it in iBooks!

Doug Schmitt was in the very first CCT’s production of The Sound of Music in 1980. It was at that time that Paul Russell and him struck up a life time friendship and they have been friends now for 35 years. Doug is an artist and art director for Suzy’s Zoo, a greeting card company. Much of his work can be seen in Hallmark stores all over the world.

During his free time, Doug would sketch up cute little characters and make personal cards for people. Paul saw one of the characters Doug called Doogles Bee and they got the idea of coming up with a series of stories about the cute little character. Paul would write and Doug would do the illustrations and together they produced a series of stories teaching young kids the values of being yourself, appreciating your heritage, working hard and the importance of NOT comparing yourself with others.


Doug and Paul hope these stories will be an encouragement to parents and grandparents now that Paul is getting number seven grandkid this year. With these grandkids there is a storehouse of stories to tell.

Click HERE to see more about Doogles Bee the Wanna-a-Bee and to get your very own digital copy!

Advice for Actors about working with Directors

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When working with a director, don’t: throw wild punches; give noogies to people in beanies; push people over from behind; or take random naps. This all looks bad to the director & will not help your chances of being cast again.

The Samuel French sponsored everything-theatre website Breaking:(Character), recently posted an article (originally from Dramatics Magazine) discussing the “dos & don’ts” of working with a Director. As varied as directors can be in personality, style, & taste, there do exist some basic theatre etiquette truths that actors (young & old) would be keen to observe when working with the old head honcho in the theatre space.

Key tips from this article include:

  1. Do the basics. Be on time. Know your lines. Be a pleasant as well as creative part of the room. Listen carefully. Contribute. Directors notice all this. They will give more to those who are readily helpful to the process.
  2. If you have a complex question or issue that will take some time to hash out, ask to see the director after rehearsal or before the next one. Directors would rather not bring the rehearsal to a screeching halt for an endless discussion.
  3. Do compliment the director when you feel a compliment is richly deserved. […] (However) we don’t like being buttered up when we know it’s butter. Real interest in what’s being done is always a pleasure for the director. We are in this together.
  4. You can, and should, ask for more time on a moment or scene when you are sure that the time will improve the work. However, don’t do this too often (unless you are playing Hamlet or Hedda), lest you be thought a rehearsal hog. Say, “Could we run those eight lines again?” or “Sometime could we have another work session on this scene?” But keep in mind that directors never have enough time. They may not be able to do what you wish immediately. The phrase “whenever you have time” helps.
  5. Discuss with the director—don’t argue. The rule of thumb is that directors always win an argument, but everybody wins in a discussion.
  6. Don’t say that something the director proposes “won’t work” or “can’t be done” until you’ve tried it three times. Then “discuss.”
  7. Learn your lines on time. If you are playing a smaller part and the guy playing Hamlet knows his lines before you do, the director will notice and make negative judgments about your work habits. Remember, when you need work or want more casting, you’ll wish you had been noticed positively.
  8. Please, please, please, please do not say, “My character wouldn’t do that.” First, it’s not “your” character; it’s the playwright’s character. Second, the shape of the character is a coproduction between you and the director. You don’t own it. Discuss the moment but do not say… you know what.
  9. Be sensible about the time you demand from the director. Everybody wants and needs her attention. […] Remember that there is never enough time. Have a sense of proportion. And don’t keep asking, “How am I doing?” It’s annoying, and it’s an unanswerable question. Basically, if you are in rehearsal, you are “doing” and it’s getting better. That’s how you’re “doing.”

Click here to read the entire article at Breaking:(Character).

Also, click here for past CYT Blog post on “What a CYT Director wants you to know about Auditions” or here for a CYT Blog post on the transition from “CYT Student to Director (Sort of)”.

Hope this helps! Wishing you a happy theatre life!


God has Shown Up at CYT Austin!

As the largest youth theatre company in the United States, you’d think CYT wouldn’t get as giddy as we do over a new affiliate. But, the truth is, we love it every time God shows up in someone’s heart & places CYT in their path. Please enjoy the following guest post, written by Julie Novak, the Artistic Director of CYT Austin (our newest affiliate!) as she describes just how God has shown Himself in her journey thus far:

CYT Austin, our newest affiliate!

CYT Austin, our newest affiliate!

Last year, around February, while working as the Theater Arts Director at Summit Christian Academy, I felt God was calling me to not re-sign my “intent to return” letter. I wasn’t exactly sure why. It was a position I absolutely adored, but through several difficult circumstances, I knew He was shutting that door and asking me to step aside. I had spent nine years growing their theater arts program from non-existent to flourishing and successful. It was full of students whom I loved dearly, and I could not for the life of me figure out how I would be able to breathe without it. But God was clear, and despite my push-back, I knew he was asking me to walk away and to go sit down and shut up.

Inspirational image from CYT Austin's Facebook page.

Inspirational image from CYT Austin’s Facebook page.

After directing my last show there, and saying my goodbyes, I sat and prayed and begged God for direction. I did not feel lead to seek out another school, so, I sat down and tried to shut up. I cried a lot. I could not imagine Him calling me out of the arts and away from young people. Although I love to write and speak, that just didn’t seem to be the whole picture I desired or was ready for. So I waited.

My daughter–in–law, Brooke Novak, was working as the Artistic director at CYT Santa Cruz (in CA). I had no real concept of what CYT was, but she mentioned that their Expo was going on in Houston in June and that I should go and be a fly on the wall. Just go investigate she said. And so, I did.

I hauled my master craftsman, Rebecca, to the Woodlands to see what it was all about. She, an optimist, was completely on board from the minute we arrived: excited, ready to go. I, being the cautious planner, melancholy perfectionist, was not so sure. What I did know was that their mission statement and how they operated was my own mission statement and was how I had been operating for over 16 years as a teacher/director. I was amused and amazed that I had been using theater as a platform for all these years to speak life, encouragement, and value into my students, and this was what CYT was all about. In fact, in their manual, everything they were saying to do, I had been doing! But I knew I was not going to jump in before knowing God was calling me to it and so, even though I was intrigued, I went home and continued to sit down and shut up. (Except to pray of course.)

In July, my husband and I traveled to Santa Cruz to watch Brooke’s show, chat with her about CYT and get an idea of the set up and how it worked. We were very impressed. My husband was sold on the fact that God was calling me to open an affiliate in Austin. Me, not so sure. We returned to Austin and continued to pray over it. We had a call with Renee and Heather (CYT Inc. Creative Director and Director of Operations, respectively), who answered the many questions we had. In September, we returned to Santa Cruz and visited with their managing director, Mary Jo, and observed their classes.

When we got back to Austin we planned to have a “What do you Think” and “give us red flags” meeting with 30 friends and peers so we could get some feedback about this endeavor and their thoughts about the need for this type of theater and training in Austin. It was an overwhelmingly positive meeting and we felt confirmed to move forward and ask God to close and opens doors as necessary. And thus we began…

We had a second meeting in October and formed a steering committee and board. I called artistic directors all over the country. I picked their brains. I filled up a yellow pad on each call. In November, I began interviewing and giving offer letters to teachers. I was amazed at the quality of each teacher and how passionate they each were to teach in a Christian environment and how excited they were to pour back into their community with all of their skill and training.

We also decided in November to have a Great Gatsby Gala in January. It was a quick turn around, but we were blown away by its success.

CYT Austin, Great Gatsby Gala.

CYT Austin, Great Gatsby Gala.

Our goal was to gain exposure, raise at least half of our CYT affiliate licensing fees, our first show licensing fees, and to have a fabulous time. The entire evening was set in the Roaring Twenties, and all guests attended in Gatsby-inspired attire.

CYT Austin's Gatsby Gala

A fabulous table set for CYT Austin’s Gatsby Gala

Twenty-one of my former students, ages 13-20 performed a 40 minute show, comprised of Broadway numbers from about 7 different musicals, in the “theater in the round” style.

Theatre students perform a Broadway medley at CYT Austin's Gatsby Gala.

Theatre students perform a Broadway medley at CYT Austin’s Gatsby Gala.

Theatre students perform at CYT Austin's Gatsby Gala.

Theatre students perform at CYT Austin’s Gatsby Gala.

A student spoke on how theater had impacted him and who he was becoming and a newly hired dance instructor taught the Charleston. It was a fabulous evening. Our only regret was that it didn’t last long enough!

CYT Austin's Gatsby Gala

CYT Austin’s Gatsby Gala

Rebecca and I attended the National Leadership Conference in Lafayette two weeks later and then drove (CYT, Inc. CFO & Co-Founder) Sheryl Russell back with us to Austin for our family meeting that following Monday. I felt extremely awkward having her drive back with us, but she was extremely gracious and it was so fun to get to know her! Registration opened the following week and now we are waiting on God for those break-even numbers to come in so we can get started!

My ultimate decision to move forward with CYT, was truly believing that God was calling me to take my experience in a Christian School setting, combine it with a proven successful organization (CYT), and pour that into my community and city to minister to the families in our area; and to mentor and lead other teachers and directors in that same way.

There have been many days of concern and thoughts of the “what ifs” but God has continued to show up at the last minute. I am training my teachers next Friday for our spring 2015 session of classes, despite our numbers currently being low for our March 6th session (there is still time to register here). There is certainly some trepidation, but in my lifelong journey with God I know he is faithful and although he is rarely early, he is never late.

I am so excited for our students to have the opportunity to be under the tutelage of such an amazing group of overly qualified and skilled artists who are so very passionate to teach them new skills and show them the love of God through the arts.

Congratulations on the wonderful work you’ve done so far, Julie! We’re sure CYT Austin will be a roaring success and there is no one better to lead them then you!

Be sure to “like” CYT Austin’s Facebook page to stay up to date on all the awesome things going on there.

Looking for a Job?

Have you ever dreamed of working for CYT? Or perhaps you don’t know much about CYT, but you’re looking for an environment where talent is celebrated, family is valued, and work is done with excellence, integrity and FUN! Look no further. Here are some opportunities around the country that might be just what you’re looking for.


CYT Inc. seeks part time Administrative Assistant. Responsible for assisting in the day-to-day operations of CYT Inc., including, but not limited to, invoicing, fulfilling orders, travel plans, and event assistance. Located in El Cajon, CA. Click HERE for more details on the job and how to apply.


CYT Denver currently seeking class instructors in all disciplines of Theatrical Arts. For more information click HERE.


Spring Intern – CYT NYC seeks a “jack-of-all-trades” full-time intern who is willing to dive in and be a vibrant team member supporting CYT’s spring session and production of Willy Wonka, which will perform in an Off-Broadway theater in June.  Get a hands on look at how an urban-based, start up CYT affiliate is run and gain valuable experience for the future. Commitment length is negotiable:  mid-April to mid-May through end of June. There will be a modest stipend offered, but no housing available (sorry!). If interested and available, please send a resume and cover letter to

Theater Artists (ongoing) - CYT NYC seeks experienced, enthusiastic and committed Theater Arts teachers for future sessions in all disciplines and specialities including technical theater.  CYT NYC runs classes in both NYC and NJ with a Brooklyn-based area opening later this year.  Feel free to recommend qualified friends or family! If interested and living in NYC Metro Area, please send picture, resume and cover letter to


Still haven’t seen a job listed near you? CYT has 25 affiliate locations around the country and each city is always looking for new team members throughout the year. Go to and fins the city nearest you. Click on their “contact” page and shoot them an email! It couldn’t hurt! And if you aren’t already convinced, check out our previous blog post titled “8 Reasons to Work for CYT”.

8 Reasons to Work for CYT – by Sarah Preston, CYT Santa Cruz


About the Author: Sarah Preston started with CYT Santa Cruz in the spring of 2012. Since then, she has Stage Managed multiple productions, coached Improv, taught class and CYT@School, coordinated summer camps, assisted in fundraising, and serves as HYPE Advisor.

After 10 years of working with kids, I can honestly say I have never been more challenged and inspired than during my time with CYT Santa Cruz. It has changed the way I think about kids, artistry, families, and ministry.

Here are my 8 Reasons to Work for CYT

1. CYT makes you laugh

Once at auditions, an 18 year old (improv kid of course) sang “If You’re Happy and You Know It” as his audition song. His final verse?

If you’re happy and you know it give a wink
If you’re happy and you know it give a wink
If you’re happy and want a creepy way to show it
If you’re happy and you know it give a wink

I always cherish moments like this because the kids remind me not to take things so seriously. So often I can get wrapped up in the craziness of shows, classes, CYT@School, HYPE etc that I forget about the real reason I work for CYT: to serve God by serving kids. When a kid tells a funny joke or makes a funny face, it awakens the Child-loving Holy Spirit inside my heart.

2. The kids give you perspective.

As HYPE Advisor, I try to encourage critical thinking during our meetings. Continue reading