Honoring the life of the remarkable Dottie Hamann

With heavy hearts we say goodbye to a dear member of the CYT family. Dorothy (“Dottie”) Hamann passed away on Saturday, March 29th and will be remembered as – among many other things – an integral part of CYT history.

Dottie Hamann

Bob & Dottie Hamann (married for 61 years!) were personal friends of Paul & Sheryl Russell for over 37 years, and a huge support to CYT since its inception. In addition to owning the property where CYT San Diego has its offices, the Hamann’s funded the initial seed money so CCT could produce the first Traditions of Christmas in 1992. Dottie has been a pillar of the San Diego community, a faithful prayer warrior, loving wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and dear friend.

Bob & Dottie on vacation in the Cayman Islands.

Bob & Dottie celebrating her birthday on vacation in the Cayman Islands

Paul & Sheryl accompanied the Hamanns on the Cayman Islands trip. They found a tea house and surprised her by taking her there for lunch.

Paul & Sheryl (front) accompanied them on the Cayman Islands trip. They found a tea house and surprised her by taking her there for lunch.

We are told that on the day of her passing, she was serenaded by a Phoenix string quartet midday and her son Gregg played the harp for her in the afternoon. In the early evening, 18 family members prayed over her that God would either return her to a reasonable quality of life or take her quickly. Her granddaughter Elita was holding her hand when she took her last breath.

You are invited to celebrate her life at a memorial service on April 19th at Covenant Presbyterian Church (2930 Howard St, San Diego) at 5:00pm. In the meantime, her family set up a lovely tribute where you can view photos, write memories, and read more details about the memorial.

On behalf of everyone who had the honor of being touched by her life, we want her family to know they are in our prayers. She will be missed immensely but we look forward to the reunion around God’s heavenly throne.

John 14:1-2
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.”

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The 2014 CYT Expo // details

CYT Inc’s Creative Director, Renee Kauffman, has some exciting plans for you in July:

It’s that time again! We’ve changed our clocks, the sun is shining a little bit longer each day, and warmer weather is on the horizon. Before we know it, July will be here and we’ll be watching fireworks, singing “God Bless America”, and hopping on a plane to Houston! That’s right, I said Houston. That’s where the 2014 CYT Expo is taking place, and registration is officially open.

EXPO 2014

There’s plenty in store for this year’s event, but I can hardly give away every detail just yet. One thing is certain: you don’t want to miss it. If you are a CYT Affiliate Leader (Artistic Director, Managing Director, staff member, Area Coordinator, Board Member, Production Team member, or someone who is ready to take on a larger leadership role) or a CYT student between the ages of 12-19 (students do not need to be in HYPE or Improvathon to attend), then the 2014 CYT Expo is for you!

You can get every detail you’d ever want to know and also register here. See you in Houston!

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CYT Atlanta alum to guest star on NBC’s Parks & Recreation

Kelly Washington is a CYT Atlanta alumni who caught the acting bug and eventually moved to Los Angeles to pursue her dream…and she’s made good on that dream. Proof: Kelly guest stars on tomorrow night’s episode of Parks & Recreation (Thursday, April 3 at 8:30pm on NBC). Kelly was nice enough to let me pick her brain about her CYT days and her exciting experiences on the set of one of the most popular TV shows around…

Parks and Recreation

Kelly (center, with Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman) plays a high school student leading the Prom committee facing budget limits, and works with the Parks department to overcome the challenges.

So you were a part of CYT Atlanta since its inception…any favorite roles/shows?

CYT Atlanta’s first show was mine as well. It was Tom Sawyer (Russell House) and I played Becky Thatcher. It opened my eyes to the world of acting, and I never looked back. That role also gave me my first kiss, hah! Since it was my first CYT show, it was also my favorite. I had such a blast and made some lifelong friends.

How did performing in musical theater prepare you for the world of professional acting?

Musical theater will always be a part of my life. It’s where I started performing. I even went to Pace University in NYC as a Musical Theater major, until the acting work in film took over and I decided to move to LA. Something I’ve learned in LA is the idea of people performing “big” and “over the top” can be totally foreign to many actors. So when it comes to sitcom, some of the crazy out-of-the-box opportunities that I have enjoyed are more unique than I realized. I will always geek out over great songs from musicals and sing them loudly in my car.

Okay, we’re dying for some behind-the-scenes info of working on Parks & Rec.

Parks and Recreation is truly the GREATEST show ever to be a part of. It was a blessing, and they welcomed me into their family with open arms. Getting to improv, or “fun run” as they call it, with Amy Poehler, Adam Scott, and Nick Offerman was incredible. Hard not to laugh though. They are comedy GENIUSES! It’s a lot of work and non-stop filming, but who wants to sit in an empty trailer when everyone on set always has a smile on their face, even if it’s been a 12-hour day?

Is acting your main focus at the moment?

Acting is what I live and breathe. I just graduated from Upright Citizens Brigade, the improv training center started by some of the improvisational greats, including Amy Poehler! I still take multiple acting classes every week. I think it’s important to never stop learning. And of course auditions take over your life, which I love. I have a few things in the works, that I can hopefully share soon!

I heard you also have a guest spot on tonight’s episode of The Middle (Wednesday, April 2 at 8:00 on ABC). This is a big week for you! What was it like working on that show?

Working on The Middle was great! They shoot on film, which is insanely rare now and that could be the only chance I ever get to be on actual film. I loved that everyone ate lunch together, cast and crew alike. The actors were all super professional and prepared, and not a single diva attitude in sight.

Parks and Recreation If you don’t get a chance to see the Parks & Rec episode live, fear not. You can go to nbc.com after it airs and watch it online! Yesssss.

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Embrace the arts: an inspiring letter

Huffington Post recently published an article featuring a letter that author Kurt Vonnegut sent in 2006 to students at Xavier High School in New York. In it, Vonnegut discusses the importance of embracing the arts – in any form – and encourages the students to “make your soul grow”. It’s incredibly inspiring, to say the least. Read & enjoy.

Kurt Vonnegut Once Sent This Amazing Letter To A High School

In 2006, a group of high school students asked celebrated author Kurt Vonnegut to visit their school. He sent them the absolute perfect response.

The students at Xavier High School in New York wrote to their favorite authors as part of an assignment. Vonnegut was the only one to respond, and while he said he would not be able to make a visit, his inspiring letter made up for it with with wit and charm.


Here’s what the letter says:

Dear Xavier High School, and Ms. Lockwood, and Messrs Perin, McFeely, Batten, Maurer and Congiusta:

I thank you for your friendly letters. You sure know how to cheer up a really old geezer (84) in his sunset years. I don’t make public appearances any more because I now resemble nothing so much as an iguana.

What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.

Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance at home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you’re Count Dracula.

Here’s an assignment for tonight, and I hope Ms. Lockwood will flunk you if you don’t do it: Write a six line poem, about anything, but rhymed. No fair tennis without a net. Make it as good as you possibly can. But don’t tell anybody what you’re doing. Don’t show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood. OK?

Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash recepticals [sic]. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what’s inside you, and you have made your soul grow.

God bless you all!

Kurt Vonnegut

2006 newsletter to the high school’s alumni says the letter is authentic.

You can view the entire article here.

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10 fun facts about Broadway

Who doesn’t love some interesting tidbits? Below are 10 fun facts about Broadway that you may or may not have known…

Broadway Fun Facts(Photo credit)


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Building character that’s off the chart

[The following was contributed by Keith Washington,  CYT Inc. Board Member]

As a parent, MBA, and entrepreneur, I wanted to make sure my kids had the opportunity to maximize on their after school time. My three kids were interested in sports, games, and music so they explored baseball, soccer, tennis, swim team, and piano over the years. They were active in all, but not really passionate about any of these activities. Then my daughter, the eldest of the three, discovered musical theater. It became her passion and my family team sport. Through our church, we were introduced to some people who were starting a new youth theater in Atlanta called CYT. We attended an open house and my daughter wanted to be part of it.

No one in our family had any background or experience in the arts. We wanted to support my daughter, but were not sure we had any talent or skills to be much help at CYT. Many of the charter families seemed to have prior experience and a few had even been part of CYT San Diego with a very professional approach in bringing the new theater program to Atlanta. There were so many talented kids and committed parents, we found the environment both irresistible and intimidating.

We were way out of our comfort zone, but we could see God’s grace through the leaders that He provided in CYT Atlanta. The tagline “Building character, one stage at a time” became a lifestyle for our family. My wife found a new passion for working backstage with the kids and became a regular doing hair and makeup and costumes. I wanted to make sure we were doing the wise thing, so I charted the options of past, present, and future ways that our kids could spend their after school hours. The quadrant chart below is the result of my research over many years of guess and check on this topic.

After School Time Competitive Landscape

Now that we were convinced of this awesome program, it was time to act. We were so proud of what God was doing through CYT, we could not wait to invite all of our friends and family to witness the miracle of a CYT show. We shared countless hours of quality time with fellow CYT families during planning, preparation, and production. And our family learned what building character one stage at a time looks like in practice through amazing leaders that shared their time, talents, and financial resources.

We are all so blessed to worship an amazing God through CYT. I encourage each of you to analyze for yourself what an amazing opportunity we have to share the CYT experience and to continue to provide opportunities for kids and families to share in fun and faith that’s off the chart.

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9 Actors You Didn’t Know Started in Theater

Just in case you needed an excuse to fall in love with theater and sign up for CYT, here are some famous actors who got their start on the stage.

[Disclaimer: While all of these celebrities have gone on to have impressive film careers, we are especially fond of #7]

1. Robert Pattinson

Robert Pattinson

Yup, Edward of Twilight fame started off performing in amateur theatre. Notable roles included unnamed Cuban Dancer in Guys and Dolls and Lord Evelyn Oakleigh in Anything Goes.

2. Lea Michele

Lea Michele

Long before she was our favorite character on Glee, Lea Michele was the understudy for the role of Young Cosette in the Broadway musical Les Miserables at age 9 in 1995. 

3. Andrew Garfield

Andrew Garfield

The Amazing Spiderman movie franchise star played Billy in Kes at the Manchester Royal Exchange and Romeo in a 2005 stage production of Romeo and Juliet.

4. Kristen Bell

Kristen Bell

Kristen’s debut into acting was as the (hugely integral) dual role of a banana and a tree in a suburban Detroit production of Raggedy Ann and Andy. She also appeared in the short- lived Broadway musical The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

5. Sarah Jessica Parker

Sarah Jessica Parker

She was the lead in the Broadway revival of Annie in 1979!

6. Hugh Jackman

Hugh Jackman

Wolverine. Van Helsing. Curly? Yes. Hugh Jackman become semi-famous for his role as Curly in the production of Oklahoma! at the Royal National Theatre in 1998. Before that, he played Gaston in Beauty and the Beast at a local theater in Melbourne, Australia.

7. Michelle Williams

Michelle Williams

This three-time Oscar nominated actress spent much of her childhood on the CYT San Diego stage in shows like Sound of Music, Annie, and Tom Sawyer. No matter how hard we try, we could not be more proud of her and all that she has accomplished since then.

8. Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman

Before being Queen Amidala in the revamped Star Wars movies or winning an Oscar for Black Swan, she grew up going to theater camps and was an understudy for the lead role (along with Britney Spears) in the Off-Broadway musical Ruthless.

9. Gwyneth Paltrow

Gwyneth Paltrow

In 1990, she took to the stage at the acclaimed Williamstown Theater Festival in Massachusetts. She started garnering fame in movies in 1995 and went on to win an Oscar for Shakespeare in Love in 1998.

(Photo credits: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)

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