A Bumpy Ride of Faith! My CYT Story 2015 Finalist: Callista Gleich, CYT Fredericksburg

Is a roller coaster ride a good thing or a bad thing? 

My name is Callista Gleich, from CYT Fredericksburg, and this is My CYT Story.


Callie, from CYT Fred!

I started CYT in 2008, but boy, has it been a roller coaster ride. I remember my first audition like it was yesterday. I was waiting for my name to be called. I heard my name and began to cry. The judges and the crowd were rooting for me, but I wouldn’t budge. They told me I could go last, but I sat there with tears streaming down my face. They called my name again. I didn’t know what to do. I sat there shaking, looking at the judges. A judge came over and walked me to the table where the judges sat. They all encouraged and cheered me on. They had me sing “Happy Birthday” with them. Once I finished, the whole audience stood up cheering for me. I was filled with joy! It was such an amazing feeling getting through the song and having people cheer for me!

I have auditioned for six shows, but only have done four. The first cut was the hardest because my siblings got a part. Although, we know God does have a path for everyone, I honestly didn’t know what mine was. It was so difficult to see them go to rehearsal for 10 weeks, then see them on the stage performing. The best thing I learned about CYT during this process is no matter what your situation is, they’ll always include you in some way. I got to assist the Stage Manager by calling cues. It was pretty neat, but honestly, I just wanted to be on stage.

After my first cut, I was cast in three shows. I started to get over my stage fright, enjoyed the spotlight on stage, and was able to focus on God through shows. CYT really is ‘awkwardly closer than family’ and does help grow character. But it doesn’t only grow character; it allows you to dig deeper and find other interests you didn’t know existed.

Three shows later, I was cut again. I was devastated. I wasn’t going to perform. But you know what? The show was amazing. Why? Because I WAS a part of it! Just in a different aspect. The director asked if I was willing to be the production assistant! I was so ecstatic about it, I said yes! I went to every rehearsal, learned how to block, and watched the show come to life! I absolutely loved it! It was so different being on the other side. Maybe sometime soon, I’ll be stage managing!

As you can see it’s been a roller coaster ride for me. But the roller coaster I’m riding, is the best you could ever ride! CYT is a huge blessing. It’s the best family you can ever ask for. You grow friendships that last a life time, develop a better relationship with Christ, and above all, see not only yourself, but other people grow in many ways. I’ve learned a lot from this Christ centered organization and I’m blessed to be part of the CYT family.

*This story was selected as a National finalist in the 2015 My CYT Story competition.


Make ‘em Laugh! My CYT Story 2015 Finalist: Breckin Murphy, CYT San Antonio

Ever wanted to make people laugh, but you just couldn’t find the right joke? Or the right audience?

I’m Breckin Murphy, from CYT San Antonio, and I’m about to tell you My CYT Story. 

Breckin M.

Funny guy, Breckin M.

    My CYT story has given me a sense of humor in my life, and it has gotten me closer to God. I love CYT so much. I have been diagnosed with Asperger’s. Asperger’s is a type of Autism that makes you think and react differently. For instance, in the past, I got nervous when I was on a stage. I had trouble making friends and making jokes. I wanted to make people laugh so much.

     I was 12 when I first joined CYT. I was kind of nervous, because I didn’t know if the kids would be mean, or if all of the other kids would be too little for me to find friends. I was wrong. There were kids older than me, younger than me, and some about my age. The kids were nice to me as soon as I walked in, and they had good senses of humor. We all prayed together and helped each other. I found a place for me.

     First, I took a monologues class there, and I was kind of nervous and worried with that as well, but it turned out being great! I started my first play as a pirate named Mean Murphy in Peter Pan, Jr. When I first stepped on that stage, it felt like I was part of second family! It felt amazing, and I wanted to do more with CYT. I met lots of friends. Before long, I went to school one day feeling so confident with myself! I stepped in my school with memories of people in CYT that were funny and nice to me. I went through the halls of my school so happy.

     Soon, another show came; Seussical the Musical! I played a Shakespearean Who in the play, and I met up with the kids once again. This time, I took an improv class. That’s where my sense of humor came in. I tried to be funny. I got out of my shell, and I became an actor! Some of my jokes would not be funny, and some kind of make me blue, but I tried hard to make people laugh until their stomachs ached. Everyone was kind to me and we all were working on being funny. I felt so different!

     The last show I did was Aladdin. I played a guard. I got to sing solo lines and even improv some of my lines! I took an improv class again and met new people and learned even more. I look forward to coming to CYT every chance there is. I learn and laugh and get closer to God when I am at CYT.

     I love my CYT family so much. My sense of humor came from here and my confidence came from here. I want it to keep coming!

My CYT Story 2015 Finalist: Katie Gilchrist, CYT Nashville

Ever get knocked down, again, and start to doubt that you’ll ever be able to pull yourself up?

My name is Katie Gilchrist, from CYT Nashville, and this is My CYT Story.

CYT Nashville's Katie Gilchrist.

CYT Nashville’s Katie Gilchrist.

When I first came to CYT I had just gotten rejected from a show for the first time. While normally that wouldn’t be a very traumatic experience for a kid, it was for me. I suffer from extremely low self- esteem and anxiety. It hit me incredibly hard and I had an unbelievably rough week or two. While my mom scouted for other theater opportunities to help me gain my confidence back just a little, I wallowed in my own self- pity and self-loathing. Then a friend of hers told her about CYT.

When I came into auditions I felt fierce, like “I’ll scratch your eyes out for this part don’t cross me” sorta thing. Then there was such a feel of family with people I had never met, and I dropped it almost immediately. It was surreal, especially hearing people cheer for one another during auditions instead of just competing. Even though we had always gone to church, I hadn’t been very spiritual before and so the feeling that washed over me was completely foreign, I now know that was the love of God.

I got my first part with CYT as The Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz. I entered that first rehearsal knowing absolutely nobody and left with an entire cast of new friends all of which shared my emerging personal faith. In that first show I grew under the love of God so much and each time we met I felt myself become more and more of who I used to be. It helped me realize that my disorder cannot and will not describe me. It also made me come to terms with the fact that I do actually have a disorder. While I have to work to control those feelings, I know God will love me just the same.

My mom always says, “God will never give you a task you can’t handle”. I truly believe that God sent me to CYT as a kind of a Guardian Angel to help me with my task of overcoming anxiety. Now I’ve just now finished my 3rd show and am preparing to audition for my 4th and I am at the best I’ve been in years. I’d just like to take a moment to thank everyone who has helped me get to where I am now. You have done more than you can imagine and I quite possibly owe you my life.

*This story was selected as a National finalist in the 2015 My CYT Story competition.

He>I: Dr. Heather LaForge’s CYT Story

In the past 10 years since my CYT story began, I have performed many different roles: CYT Teacher, CYT Director, CYT Artistic Director, CYT Inc’s Director of Operations, & soon, CYT mom. Regardless of my title, I always endeavor to trust in the Lord and let His word guide my action.

My name is Heather LaForge, and this is My CYT Story .

In 2005, I was a graduate student studying Theatre Arts at University of California, San Diego. I happened upon a flier in the department lobby that said “Seeking artists to teach an after-school theater program.” One email and one interview later, I found myself standing in front of 75 middle schoolers saying “I’m Heather LaForge, and I’ll be one of your CYT@school teachers this session!” Until I began teaching for CYT@school, I had never heard of Christian Youth Theater. The closest CYT to my hometown was 2.5 hours away.

Dr. LaForge warming up with the Addams Family cast just before places. Fall 2014. CYT San Diego, NCI.

Dr. LaForge warming up with the Addams Family cast just before places. Fall 2014. CYT San Diego, NCI.

Fast forward to five years later. I had earned my Ph.D., become a mother, and was now living in Santa Cruz while my husband worked on his postdoctoral research. One day, I received a call telling me that a group of families were looking to start a theatre program with an organization called CYT, and would I be interested in perhaps applying to be the Artistic Director. I responded with an enthusiastic, “Yes!”, saying “I actually worked for CYT in San Diego years ago!” A slight pause, then I continued, “But my second daughter was just born yesterday. Could we meet in a few weeks?”

Celebrating Middle School Graduation with CYT Santa Cruz students.

Celebrating middle school graduation with CYT Santa Cruz students in 2012.

For the next two years, I served as Artistic Director for CYT Santa Cruz. I loved being part of the start up, watching the program grow from 26 students in our first show, to around 60 in my last show with them. I saw “my CYT babies” grow into talented actors and amazing leaders. The CYT community cared for my family as well. CYT students and parents stepped in to babysit my girls when I needed it, and surrounded us with love when a little splinter landed my daughter in the hospital for 3 days over show weekend.

LaForge Family at the CYT Santa Cruz Going Away party, just before moving down to San Diego in 2012.

LaForge Family at the CYT Santa Cruz Going Away party, just before moving down to San Diego in 2012.

When my family relocated to San Diego, in 2012, I was hoping I’d be able to get involved in CYT again… perhaps as a teacher…or a director… God dreamed a bigger dream and a few months later, I was announced as CYT Inc.’s new Director of Operations! This is the position I currently serve in. I aim to support CYT affiliates across the country, providing guidance, wisdom, and connecting leaders so that together we would feel like a true national organization. It has been a joy to work towards this goal.

With National Leaders in Lafayette in Jan 2015.

With CYT National Leaders in Lafayette in Jan 2015.

Now, I am about to embark on another new role: that of CYT mom! My eldest daughter is eligible to audition in the spring for her first CYT show. She is nervous, as am I. She’s watched so many auditions and knows what to expect, but I’ve never sat and watched my kid stand up bravely in front of so many and sing her heart out. As nervous as I am to step into this role, I know that God’s in charge. My daughter will get her bravery from Him, just as I continue to do. She is at the beginning of her CYT story, and my prayer is that God works on her heart through this organization just as he has done for so many others.

When some folks hear my story, they say “what a weird string of coincidences.” What I see, though, is God’s hand working through my life. Every part of my journey has led me to where I am today. God’s been faithful in using my experiences to benefit the larger CYT community. I feel lucky that God has collided my passion with His work and I hope that by yielding to His plan, I will help allow God’s CYT story to continue to unfold.

My CYT Story 2015 Finalist: Nina Noelle Russell, CYT Sacramento

Do you ever wonder if the spotlight you find yourself in can highlight something bigger and brighter?

My name is Nina Noelle Russell, from CYT Sacramento, and this is MY CYT Story.


Nina as “Atina” in CYT Sacramento’s 2015 spring production of The Little Mermaid

Before finding CYT, I was searching for a part of myself that I wasn’t even aware that I was venturing to discover. After my first class, I realized that I couldn’t live to the fullest of my potential without being here. I had never found such a family-like environment in which I was comforted and supported. I realized that even if I were to attempt to remove this part of me, I couldn’t imagine leaving it behind. Before I started CYT, I believed that theater just meant having the spotlight on you; that being the center of attention was the only way to thrive in a theatrical atmosphere. After becoming a part of this family, I realized it’s so much more than that.

It’s impossible to realize by simply sitting in the audience, exactly what goes into a performance: the countless hours memorizing lines, training your voice to hit the high note perfectly, and practicing over and over again until everything is absolutely flawless. Being an observer in the crowd, you can’t really comprehend how the cast associate with each other when they aren’t displaying the persona of another character. When you’re directly involved, you are exposed to every element of the family-like setting that is CYT. It’s a beautiful thing in itself, being able to go to the individuals who play so many different personalities and characters on stage, and being able to know them for who they truly are. It’s astonishing to know that despite the immense task of transforming from one character to the next, my own personality can continue to be molded into that of which it was meant to be.

Every time I step out onto that stage, I have the opportunity to use my God given talents and passion to portray a soul, a portion of another’s story. I am not displaying myself, but making an effort to exalt him through everything I do. CYT has taught me that it doesn’t matter what part you play, because at the end of the day, we’re all performing for the same purpose, to glorify God. Throughout everything, we are all rooted in Him and growing along the way. There is no other group of affectionate, tender hearts that have made me feel so accepted for who I am, all while making me confident in the young lady that I am in Christ. The atmosphere at CYT embraced me the moment I walked through the door. The optimistic and lively expressions portrayed on the faces of those who belong to part of the CYT society, illustrate their passion to pursue both their love of the theatre and their relationships with the Lord. The reason we all are drawn so closely together is that strive to be the best we can be. We are all woven tightly together and have created bonds not only with one another but with our Savior as well. We are CYT, a family rooted in Christ dependent on not only Him, but on each other.

*This story was selected as a National finalist in the 2015 My CYT Story competition.

My CYT Story 2015 Finalist: KJ Hutcheson, CYT Tri-Valley

Ever have your friends move away and wonder what you’ll do to feel close to them now that you’re miles apart? 

My name is KJ Hutcheson, from CYT Tri-Valley, and this is My CYT Story.


KJ from CYT Tri-Valley

Our friends, Paisley and Presley DuPuis moved to Coeur D Alene, Idaho. When they moved there they got involved with the community by attending this thing called “CYT”. As we caught up with each other through email, social media, etc. We were able to understand what CYT really was. When it finally came to the Tri-Valley I couldn’t wait to start.

When I sat down on the first day of summer camp with the other kids I was nervous and excited. It seemed like they had the same expectation that I did, that this was a normal theatre camp where we put on a good show and learn about theatre. It didn’t take me long to realize it was more than putting on a good show. Eventually we did, it was so much more than that. It was about using our talents God has given us to glorify Him.

The fall classes showed me many things about theatre. It taught me that acting can be fun and creative. When I first started the acting class I thought that it was just trying to be like someone else, but then I realized that you can be creative and add your own way of doing things while acting. Throughout the fall I enjoyed learning about theatre and that you can be yourself. CYT has given me the opportunity to fellowship with other Christians, and that has been a huge blessing in my life.

CYT has made a big impact in my life. I have been taught many things about theatre, but more important it has taught me lessons about life. I have also realized how important it is to have fellowship with others. All of us kids at CYT have been amazed at what we can do here at CYT to glorify God. Even though the CYT Tri-Valley is just getting started, I cant wait to see how it will impact the community in the future.

*This story was selected as a National finalist in the 2015 My CYT Story competition. We will be featuring all of the area winners’ stories on this blog in the next few weeks. Come on back & get inspired!


CYT North Idaho

Wanna help generate more CYT stories like this one? CYT North Idaho is seeking an Artistic Director. Please see Job Description and Employment Application on the CYT-North Idaho website.  

My CYT Story 2015 National Winner: Alexandra Gandy, CYT Indy

When you started high school, did you lose your way a little…or a lot? Did you forget who you were and start to doubt your worth? Did you forget about God and all the things that kept you close to Him? Me, too.

My name is Alexandra Gandy, from CYT Indy, and this is My CYT Story.

CYT Indy's Alex G.

CYT Indy’s Alex G.

     When entering high school, students are faced with many changes, both academically and socially. For some, this is a smooth transition, but for others, this is grueling. When I entered high school, I seemed to be making nothing but mistakes. I chose an unwholesome friend group, I slacked off on my academics and I stopped going to church. Nothing about me was Christ-like. Not my language, my choice of dress, or the people with whom I associated. I had fallen out of my faith. Somewhere in me, I knew something was wrong. I began to find dissatisfaction with myself. I couldn’t quite determine what it was that made me so ashamed to be me. I blamed it on things like how I looked, when in reality, I was ashamed of the way I was acting. I fell into a depression as I found more and more fault with myself. This all reached a tipping point when, within a year, I lost a close family friend, my great grandma, and had not been cast in my school’s musical, which I had been looking forward to. I was inconsolable. My grades declined along with my hope.

Then my mom suggested I sign up for a CYT class. I wasn’t interested. I didn’t even like church, why would I ever join a Christian organization? She kept pushing until, finally, I agreed. I cannot even begin to describe the impact that CYT has had on my life. It all started when I was cast in Narnia. There, I was welcomed with open arms, despite all of the flaws I thought made me so undesirable. Seeing the devotion to God that my fellow cast mates had, inspired me. I began to see the good things about myself, and where I was going wrong in my walk with Christ.

I decided to leave my friend group at school and seek better company. I began to focus on my academics. I changed my language and how I dressed and began attending church regularly. My relationship with God only continued to grow with each class and show. Today, my faith is the strongest it has ever been. I am not only confident in myself, but also in the Lord. As I enter the next stage of my life, I know that I will once again be challenged by change. However, this time will be different. The lessons I have learned at CYT and the relationships I have made have changed me forever. I know now, that no matter how hopeless I might feel, that I can always contact people like Risa Krauter, Peggy Davis, Tony Johnson, Ashley and Spencer Elliot, Aria Cheney, Tyler Hutchinson, Becca Wenning, Amity Aschliman and Melissa Dameron as well as countless other students and adults that I have met for guidance, support, and encouragement. With them and God on my side, I know I can go anywhere my faith can take me, and thanks to CYT, I know my faith can take me far.

 *This story was selected as the National winner in the 2015 My CYT Story competition. We will be featuring all of the area winners’ stories on this blog in the next few weeks. Come on back & get inspired!