EXPO 2015 Guest Artists: James Eckhouse & Keliher Walsh

CYT-35th-EXPO-LOGOIt’s getting hot in here and it’s not just because of the weather in SoCal! The EXPO 2015 itinerary is boiling over with awesome events for its participants. One particularly hot ticket that you won’t want to miss is the Master Class being taught by Broadway and Hollywood actor, James Eckhouse (best known to TV audiences playing Jim Walsh on the hit FOX series, Beverly Hills 90210), and Playwright/Director, Keliher Walsh (recent recipient of the prestigious Jerome Fellowship for playwriting).

Keliher Walsh

Keliher Walsh

I recently chatted with the thoroughly enjoyable Mr. Eckhouse about acting, teaching, and youth theatre. Enjoy some snippets of our convo below:

James, you have a great career as an actor, why did you choose to start teaching your craft rather than just practicing it?

As people often say about teaching, I always learn more than my students. It solidifies my own point of view. It is eminently gratifying. It’s always an enlightening experience to teach. I’m teaching in LA right now & it is really fun.  I get to combine my eclectic training. I started as a teen at Second City in Chicago, then after a short stint at MIT, I went to Julliard, which was very formal. I wanted to keep studying in LA, and I got turned on to Meisner technique. It put all the other stuff together.

When teaching, I get to use everything that I know. I get to solidify how I feel about approaching the work. The first thing I tell my student, “I’ve been doing this 40 years and I always am learning.” The best thing you can do for a student is let them know that there is no dogma. As soon as they hear a teacher say, “This is the definitive way that you do something,” run in the other direction! Just recently, I was working with about 20 actors at the top of their game, and was reminded again that everybody works differently. We all have our own way. The best actors incorporate it all. The most important thing you can do is to develop, cultivate, your mine your own point of view. Because that’s all you’ve got.

James Eckhouse

James Eckhouse

You are coming to CYT EXPO this year & not only addressing the actors themselves in a 2-hour master class, you are also speaking to teachers, specifically, about how to best teach their actors.  This is such an important opportunity for our leadership & we are so grateful that you are doing this! Tell me about your desire to help the teachers be more effective?

That was kind of an added idea! I think what I can bring to them is encouragement for them to realize that there are many, many ways to get into the head of the character. In particular, some of my favorites are: Games, Meisner, physical warm-up, imagination, having students use their own stories and encouraging that point of view. I’m planning on doing a Q&A. I’d like to have more of a discussion than a workshop.

I am the curriculum developer for CYT, Inc. A question I often get from our affiliates is “What should we teach our newer actors to help them establish a good theatre foundation?”  You’ve just shared with us your thoughts on “how” the teachers teach, now I’d like to hear your thoughts on “what” teachers should teach in order to help build that solid foundation.

I think one thing, it helped me enormously, is theatre games. Viola Spolin’s book is extremely helpful. Games that lead into basic acting techniques. Don’t be afraid to come up with your own games, either. I love to do stuff with text, maybe work with a poem. One of the best classes I had at Julliard was in poetry. The language is so complex. I have a real passion for Shakespeare & text. (At EXPO) I might do some monologue work. I always encourage people to tell their own story. When they do that, they DO use language fully. No one told them to “make it big.” They just do it! In their own story, the students will use language for purpose that is rich, colored, & varied. It’s great for writers as well.

So, you think writing is an important skill for actors to have?

Absolutely. You have to give them tools to help them with communicating ideas, activating their imaginations, and developing a discerning mind. Writing is essential. Today, you have to do everything. You can no longer just say, “Well, I only do this” and then wait by your phone for your agent to call. It’s not like that anymore. You have to be able to wear as many hats as possible. Because of the industry today, you can turn on your phone and create a web series. Then, in a minute, you are producing, acting, and writing in a series that you created.   You have to do it all.

CYT stands for Christian Youth Theater. Let talk specifically about youth theatre. How do you change your teaching or directing methods when working with youth rather than adult talent? Or do you?

The younger people are less fearful. They will enter into that childlike space more readily. Because, let’s be honest, that’s a lot of what acting is: playing dress-up and cowboys & Indians. Older actors will put limits on themselves; the youth are closer to their instincts. I encourage them to continue being in touch with their instincts. Acting can seem like a lazy craft. It takes an enormous amount of work. But, the work that an actor does is sort of mysterious. There is a misconception that you just learn the lines and go onstage. That couldn’t be further from the truth. There is an enormous amount of work that goes into it between the time the actor gets the text and then performs it.

Absolutely! I’m so excited for you to meet our fearless CYT kids. You will love them.

I’m looking forward to it!

So are we! Thanks for the time, James!

Hear more tips, insights, & encouragement from both James & Keliher at EXPO!

CYT Alumnus Owen Spruill: An American in Paris

Thank you to Vittoria Allen of CYT San Diego for contributing the following story & interview.

As CYT approaches it’s 35th Anniversary, I have spent countless hours going through old photos and videos, collecting pieces of our history that have woven together a beautiful story of friendship and family through the arts. It is so fun to see all these great #tbt photos, but also encouraging and inspiring to see so many CYT Alumni that have gone on to do incredible things in the world of theater arts.

One of my personal friends, Owen Spruill, has been basically living the dream in Paris. (Ok, I’m a little bias, but I can’t be the only one who would drop everything to live abroad!) If you have been following the Tony Nominations for 2015, you may have noticed a new show, An American in Paris, making headlines with 12 nominations! Owen has been working on An American in Paris IN PARIS! I thought this would be a great opportunity to take the CYT nation on a dive into his world and celebrate how one of our own is making waves in the theater industry.

Owen, what is your current job title and what are your responsibilities?
I work at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, France. My job title is English Press and Communications.

The Théâtre du Châtelet  (in Paris), where An American in Paris originated.

The Théâtre du Châtelet (in Paris), where An American in Paris originated.

The work I do here is to focus on building a stronger brand for the theatre in the English media outlets – The New York Times, The Guardian, Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, etc. I pitch stories about specific musicals we do here, artists we are working with or the theatre in general to the journalists and we work on finding a story that sees fit. I then set up interviews, and deliver photography or media that can be used for the news piece.

Other work I do is developing social media content for the theatre and the musicals we do here. I also reach out to potential corporate partners to find a good way they can be incorporated in the work we do at the theatre; for example partnerships with Uber, Google or Twitter.

How did you get this job? / What inspired you to move to Paris?
This was actually a funny story. I had read about the Châtelet in the past. I have always loved Paris. I studied abroad here in 2009 and wanted to live and work here longer. I was ready for a change from NYC and reached out to them, via Facebook! I was lucky enough to get a response. They saw on my resume that I had worked with the American press representatives in the past and since they were going to premiere An American in Paris [on Broadway] (this past fall), a few phone calls later, and voilà, I’ve been working here since last spring!

Owen 2

Promo for An American in Paris.

What was your job while living in New York?

I studied Producing and Management at Marymount Manhattan, along with Communications and French as my minor. I want to produce and work in the development for the arts. Towards the end of college, I worked with Broadway producers and in press offices. I chose to work in a press office because they had the opportunity to work with many different clients. Those clients are the ones that produce Broadway. Since graduating, I have worked many jobs. I researched and developed social media for specific Broadway shows, I negotiated contracts for touring venues to sell merchandise, I worked at Disney Theatricals in their press office and, most recently, was an assistant to a Broadway producer.

What is the biggest different from working in the theater industry in NY vs. Paris?

A journalist I know wrote a great article that talks about the Parisian and NYC theatre. It is a very in-depth analysis on the theatre industry in both cities.

Regarding musicals in France, it is difficult to say. There are tons of shows that come through Paris – Cats, Beauty and the Beast, Flashdance… But these shows are experienced differently than the way we experience a Broadway musical. They are cute and fun, but there isn’t a strong impact on the audiences here.

Working at a historical music house at the Théâtre du Châtelet, where they present everything that surrounds music – dance, opera, concerts, musical theatre, etc., the American musicals are respected a bit more. Instead of having a 15 to 19-piece orchestra, there is a 25 to 30-piece orchestra, for example. The idea came in 2006 when our Executive Director came and introduced classic American musicals to be treated as operas – Big and lavish, like they originally were during the Golden Age of Musicals. Possibly the way Gershwin would want them to sound! Since then, they have presented multiple Sondheim, Gershwin, Bernstein, Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals, and many more! These aren’t new names to the French, except Sondheim, but they weren’t familiar with their musical theatre works. Presenting these amazing shows in a grandiose way has really helped the French appreciate the history and passion that we have for musicals in America.

What has been your favorite part about working abroad?

I think one my favorite things to do during the workweek is get out of my office every day for about an hour to an hour and a half and just relax. It’s the culture here to close up shop and get out of the office for an hour or so every day. I like to get a sandwich and go sit and read in a park or by the Seine. I have time to go to a museum or go to my neighborhood to have lunch with a friend. It is nice and keeps you calm, but energized to finish the rest of the day at work!

Besides that, I love being in the city with so many great things: so many museums, concerts, parks, restaurants…I absolutely love the food. I go to the farmers market every Saturday and pick up fresh fruit and vegetables, local meats and cheeses. drink amazing wine and of course, THE BREAD! It’s too good to pass up. It’s too hard to not pass up a warm croissant or pain au chocolat every morning on the way to work.

What would you say is the greatest thing you have learned since working / living abroad?

When I lived in NYC, after graduating college, I thought I had to focus focus focus on “making it,” getting “that” job or that position to truly feel that I have accomplished all the hard work I put in. Don’t get me wrong, I am still focused on doing what I am passionate about, but over time, when all you have is work and career on your mind, you forget about what else goes on in life. The French do it right, though some/many Americans might not think so. I work normal work hours, 10AM-7PM, I have my weekends off and I go out of town for the holiday weekends. What I appreciate most, and what I have finally come to realize, is that you must take time for yourself. I have changed the way I utilize my day. I work hard during my workweek, but I also take time for myself and take advantage of the experiences I am having.

At work, I have grown to appreciate the artists who were a part of the creation of what American Musicals are today. When you sit back and listen an 18-minute symphonic poem by Gershwin, you find true appreciation for what the artists of our country have done; what they have created for the basis of musical theatre. During my personal time it’s that mixture of being in a country that appreciates the arts, culture, food, good conversation and much more.

Explain what it was like bringing An American to Paris to Broadway!

I have had the coolest year of not only moving to Paris, but also continuing to work on a Broadway show, IN Paris! An American in Paris made its world premiere at the Théâtre du Châtelet this past November. It was the first time a show was premiered outside of the States or in England before going to Broadway. I am not sure if it was the opportunity to work with old colleagues on a show in Paris, the sense of family everyone created or the show itself. It was probably all of it. I feel so completely blessed to be able to work on it. An American in Paris is a new musical that has been adapted from the movie starring Gene Kelly. It also features the music of George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin, and is directed by one of the kings of the ballet world, Christopher Wheeldon. He is a genius! The show has all the formality of a classic American musical, but what makes it so special and contemporary, to me, is the way Christopher Wheeldon incorporates his beautiful choreography into this show. You leave the show in love with choreography that truly tells the story along with the Gershwin classics leading the way. Along with that, you have the incredible the sets, costumes, lights, an amazing ensemble with two leading actors/dancers (also from the dancing world) that really inspires you. It made me realize why I love working in this industry so much.

Owen on the stage of the Palace Theatre in NY where An American In Paris is playing.

Owen on the stage of the Palace Theatre in NY where An American In Paris is playing.

When the show opened on Broadway in April, I had such an “aha” moment. American in Paris is playing at the Palace Theatre, the same theatre I saw my first show on Broadway, Aida. It was a very special night. Now, the show is nominated for 12 Tony Awards. Only one other Broadway show is competing with that many nominations this year. Fingers crossed.

Who is your favorite person you’ve been able to “rub elbows” with? Name drop!

Ha. I got coffee for Susan Sarandon once!

But working in the theatre in NYC and it being such a small industry, you make friends from all over the place. I think my favorite person to “rub elbows” with was probably in 2010 when Eddie Redmayne won the Tony Award for Red. I picked him up after his acceptance speech with a colleague and we drove over to the pressroom (it was in a completely different building from Radio City Music Hall). He was in complete shock that he just won his award and didn’t know what to do. So, of course, we blasted rap in the car ride over.

I guess a more simple one would be Daniel Radcliff accidently stepping on my foot, while walking down the red carpet at The Tony Awards, and then pulling me aside 15 minutes later to apologize. We hugged it out.

How has CYT played a role in your current career?

CYT is probably the sole reason I have pursued a career in the arts. I have always had a hard time finding the “right place” for me, hence the need to go to Paris! It was CYT that helped change that. CYT was the reason I continued to do theatre when I moved to Virginia, which led me to NYC. I know that my roots are in CYT and without it, I couldn’t name one other career I could be doing right now.

Ok, maybe I would be a chef. I love food and I love to cook. I still may go to culinary school one day. Why not!?

What’s your favorite CYT memory?

I think my favorite CYT memory was my final year in CYT. I moved to Virginia in 2004 with my family where I finished my last two years of high school. In my last year of CYT, I traveled San Diego to do the shows I wanted to be a part of; The Little Mermaid in NCI, Pocahontas in SC and Aladdin in SDC – My home area. That was also the year I won the screwball award for every show! It was the year I made my some of my best friends. Jason Russell led a boy’s bible study. There was so many of us hanging out almost every day, goofing off, figuring out how to grow up during a time with so many changes. Trust me, it was very hard to have to let it all go and move to the opposite side of the country. But I have this group of friends I know will be a part of my life no matter where we go or what we do. I think, like any person in CYT, our favorite memories are the ones we have had with our family and friends.

What piece of advice would you give to someone aspiring to work in the same field?

If you are either aspiring to be on stage or in the background of it all, then do it. Don’t think that because Broadway puts a standard of work out there, it doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities for you. Even go beyond the Great White Way. Personally, I know that Broadway will ALWAYS be there. There will always be something for me to do there. As I have recently decided to make a change and dive into another culture to see the way they appreciate the arts. It has been one of the best and coolest decisions I have made in my career, and life! It’s the most fascinating thing to see how dance, opera, symphonies, museums and so much more all contribute to our society in such powerful ways. Learn your field (front and back) and then go get it. It’s there for you.

You can catch a preview of An American in Paris here.

We are so proud of you Owen!

New Events for CYT Leaders at EXPO 2015!

Thanks to Heather LaForge, CYT Inc.’s Director of Operations, for this post.
CYT-35th-EXPO-LOGO

There’s been a lot of attention regarding the incredible experiences our students are going to have at EXPO this year. In addition to the amazing opportunities for all students, our Improv teams, and HYPE groups are planning some awesome things for their respective groups, too!

Yeah, that’s cool, but what about our awesome leadership? Certainly, there is more in store for the leaders at EXPO than just chaperoning duties, right?

Oh, you know it!

FEAR NOT wonderful leaders, the kids aren’t the only ones in line for fun.

NLC 2014

CYT Leadership at NLC. That was real, but it’s gonna be even more real at EXPO 2015. Can you believe this is our job?!

We have wonderful things planned for our leaders at EXPO this year, including some NEW OPPORTUNITIES like…

WE’VE ADDED A WHOLE NEW DAY!

In years past, the Leadership session began on the 2nd day of EXPO. This year, we are starting when the kids do, and we have a WHOLE DAY of exciting new activities planned just for leadership on Monday June 22nd!

So what are we doing on Monday June 22nd?

1. Worship in the morning with our kids!

Every morning (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday) at 8am in the Ballroom, leaders and students will gather together in the ballroom to worship together (led by worship leader, Sam Perry)! Don’t miss out on this time: in addition to worship, we will be doing announcements, encouragement, and fun!

2. Hang with Hollywood/Broadway Actor James Eckhouse, while Enhancing your Teaching Technique

After morning worship, head on over to Marbella room, from 10am-12pm, to learn new techniques from a professional actor and teacher as to how to help your kids move to the next level in their acting abilities! James Eckhouse has agreed to offer this class free to all EXPO Registered leadership! Non-registered leaders can take this class for just $50. (Non-registered teachers/directors should contact Heather LaForge at heather@cyt.org to RSVP today.) Don’t miss out on this incredible opportunity!

 3. Meet, Greet, & Exhibit the Magic of other CYT Affiliates

When you’re done schmoozing it up with James Eckhouse & recharged with a little lunch, cruise on over to Portofino room from 1pm-3pm for The Affiliate Exhibition. This event is designed to give you all the opportunity to share your ideas and learn from one another! Bring something you are proud of to show off to the affiliates! Examples include a costume, prop, show book, program, Standing O pamphlet, or more! Contact Heather LaForge TODAY to share what you are bringing so she can ensure you have the space to showcase your stuff. Don’t have something to share? No problem! Come hang out with other leadership and make new friends before opening night of EXPO!

4. Indulge in a Luxurious Software Q&A with Travis Russell

Have a snack or an afternoon tea with your new bestie from another affiliate, then boogie on back to Marbella room from 4-6pm for a Q&A with T.Russ–aka the software maverick of CYT. Stop by and learn more about the upcoming software that Travis has been working diligently on, in an effort to design a truly remarkable & useful system for CYT. I’ve seen a sneak preview and I promise you won’t be disappointed!

5. Get Inspired at the Opening Night Session

Can it get better than an afternoon of software designed just for your CYT needs? It can. And it will Monday night from 7-9pm in the Ballroom. Come hear Paul Russell speak and celebrate 35 years of CYT with us!

CYT Founders, Paul & Sheryl Russell enjoying the southern hospitality at the 2015 CYT NLC.

Who has two thumbs, a wife named Sheryl, and co-founded CYT 35 years ago? This guy! That’s Paul Russell. On the left. Sheryl is on the right. They’ll be at EXPO.

And that’s just Monday! We’ve got two more rocking days of EXPO and even more amazing things planned for our leaders: NLC, workshops, breakouts, and more! So as you plan your trip, be sure to look through our guidebook , which has the schedule, speakers, and answers all your burning questions about EXPO 2015.

Grab your sunglasses (seriously, it’s bright there), your flip flops (Rainbows, if you want to fit it in San Diego), and be ready for a week of training, equipping, and serving together as we celebrate 35 years of CYT!

An Improvathon says what?

Facebook-Groups-header-ImprovathonThe deadline for Improvathon 2015 team sign-ups is Friday, May 8. That’s TOMORROW people! And, I’ve got it on pretty good authority that if you don’t sign up tomorrow, the sun will not come out and you will be stuck in a day that’s gray and lonely. You should probably head on over to the Improvathon website right now. It’s ok…we will wait…

OK! Now, that you’re all amped up about Improvathon & are counting the days until CYT EXPO, let’s play a little blog-improv* with Improvathon 2015 Director, Bobby Marchessault, and one of the Improvathon 2015 judges, Chris Gott.

*NOTE: It is a stone cold fact that questions kill improv. Thus, no questions were asked during the course of this interview. Also, it’s long because we forgot to set the timer. No apologies, just commit! Off you go…

CYT: Neither of you are first timers at CYT Improvathon.

BM: Nope. I’ve had the privilege of experienced both sides of the table. Having been a coach a while back, and now having the opportunity to direct it 2 years in a row.

CG: Last year was my first year actually attending Improvathon, though I did see some of the finals in Santa Cruz a couple years ago. Our primary goal has been to make Improvathon a more enjoyable experience for everyone that attends, while also promoting our CYT values. Personally, I’m excited about pairing up teams and giving them the space to play together, learn from each other and build relationships across the country. While competition drives us to do better, building community can help us to make each other better.

CYT: Yes, and the 2015 EXPO theme is a spin on The Wizard of Oz. That has inspired some really rad team names.

BM: Word. Not sure if I’m supposed to have favorites already, but based solely on names, Kansas is awesome. (And those are words I never thought I’d say…no offense Kansas.) Fitting I guess. But now I have high expectations for their puns, if I’m able to listen at all while slaying Guitar Hero in my head to the sounds of Kansas.

CG: Yes, the Kansas team name “Kansas: Carry on My Wayward Puns” is epic. Any team name you can sing earns bonus points. Every year teams show off their s-pun-tacular skills. This year, my favorite is the “L. Frank Bombs” from Sacramento, but my wife is partial to Kansas City’s “The Flying Pun-keys.”

CYT: Yes, and I’m sort of obsessed with “The Rainbroz!”. They have a z and an exclamation point in their name. (New choice!) Registration for Improvathon can be done at a website.

BM: Yup. I believe the deadline is tomorrow (It is!). So get a team together quick! And make sure if you’re coming you really pay attention to the playbook rules. If you have any questions, use the email on the website!!

CG: I’ve heard from a few people who didn’t know that they can go to improv.cyt.org to get loads of information on all things Improvathon 2015. Beyond the basic date information is the rules for this year’s Improvathon (which are fine tuned from last year’s rule set), there is also detailed rules for each of the games in the Playbook. I think the best/worst thing about the Playbook are all of the videos. I DEFINITELY haven’t gotten lost in the Who’s Line/Improv-a-ganza YouTube universe. Nope. Not me.

BobbyM_Improv

Improvathon 2015 Director/Judge, Bobby M. He slays at Guitar Hero.

CYT: (Don’t deny in improv, Chris.) You both do other things for CYT, yet, you choose to also lend your genius to Improvathon. 

BM: Uh oh. No one told me I was expected to bring some genius with me. This could be a problem. Hopefully our other judges can bring on the genius.  In the past I have had the privilege of directing some CYT shows, vocal directing, and even a stint as managing director for a season. Nowadays I teach a class on occasion and recently had my first experience as a parent volunteer, but for the most part I need all the genius I can muster for Improvathon.

CG: Officially, I’m the Communications Assistant for CYT Inc., which is a delightfully squishy job that includes tech support for all of our affiliates, hosting a weekly Q&A Office Hours meeting Tuesdays at 10AM Pacific/1PM Eastern time, being the first point of contact for people interested in starting new affiliates, and generally writing a lot of emails. Helping with Improvathon lets my creative side get a little bit of exercise, too :)

CYT: Yes, and neither of you are from CYT San Diego, yet, that is where EXPO is being held this year. It is quite sunny there and also the birthplace of CYT.

BM: Well, if we’re being technical (Of course we are.), I kinda am from CYT San Diego. But my last gig with them was in 1993. All of a sudden I feel old. I digress, whenever someone asks where I’m from, I say San Diego and since no one knows where that is, I let them know it’s sunny and the birthplace of CYT. It makes me an instant rock star when I drop Paul Russell’s name.

CG: My original affiliate is CYT Santa Cruz, where it is often sunny and beautiful as well. However, several years ago I moved to Northwest Ohio. There is almost nothing that Ohio has in common with San Diego. There is no ocean, no mountains, no ocean breeze, no CYT and no ocean. It will be great to get away from the humidity and experience the awesomesockness (that’s a real word – trust me, I’m a Communications professional) that will be on display at EXPO and Improvathon.

CYT: Yes, awesomesockness is a real thing. I accept that. (New choice!) You’ve got some veteran Improvathon teams and some newbies this year. Sometimes nervousness and confidence both show up at Improvathon. 

BM: If only they all realized that everyone else is both nervous and confident at the same time. Chances are whether you’re a veteran team or a newbie, you feel the nervousness no matter how confident you are. It’s kinda the nature of Improv, right? (No questions! It is the nature of improv)  Who knows what could happen to trip you up. When it comes to the experienced teams, I love watching how supportive everyone is of each other. I know when I brought a team for the first time ever, the more seasoned coaches were super supportive and encouraging. This year we are taking the opportunity to pair up experienced teams with a newer team so they can learn from each other and root each other on. I’m looking forward to seeing how that works to hopefully build some relationships and gives everyone another affiliate in their corner.

CG: One of the great things about Improvathon, I think, is the variety of experience that the teams bring. We are doing some things to try to break down the walls between teams as we move forward, but teams should bring their best – regardless of where that is in the development cycle. Beginning teams should know that the judges are there to help them develop their skills, not to tell them what they are “doing wrong.” Experienced teams should remember that good improv is fun (even when you aren’t doing comedy), and that they can ALWAYS develop their skills. All of the teams can benefit from each other’s experience and perspective. I’m hoping that teams work together and help each other develop, either by watching (and cheering for) each other’s showcases and performances, or in the breakout workshops.

Improvathon 2015 Judge & CYT, Inc. Communications Guy, Chris G. He believes strongly in the existence of awesomesockness.

Improvathon 2015 Judge & CYT, Inc. Communications Guy, Chris G. He believes strongly in the existence of awesomesockness.

CYT: Yes, and in many cases Improv games are weird & make no sense except as Improv games. 

CG: That’s true. I’m pretty sure that I’ve seen some guys walking the street doing some version of our improv games, but they just needed their medication. Remember, one person doing improv games while mumbling to themselves and arguing with their fictional teammates isn’t funny, but a group of people doing them on stage (or in the city) is hysterical.

BM: Whatchu talkin bout Willis? (No questions!) I thought everyone played improv games everywhere. Hmm. Maybe that explains the looks I get at social events when I pull a piece of paper out of my pocket and read a random line as part of our conversation.

CYT: Yes, that is why. (New choice!) Some say Jesus is/was great at improvising. Example: “Dang, I had that cup of blood here a second ago…no worries, Decipes (rhymes with wipes). Bam! I’ve turned this wine into my blood.” Example #2: “Only 2 fish & 5 loaves ya say? And…feast!”

CG: Jesus was an excellent storyteller and improviser. He was fully present in every moment and knew how to guide those around Him to become better. Nothing threw Him off His game. Crazy demon child? No problem, I’ll use those sheep. Short guy in a tree? Sounds like a great guy to have dinner with. Decipes freaked out, hiding in some upstairs room? Drop in their midst and casually ask for a bite.

BM: Hmmmm.  While your premise regarding his improv skills may be correct, we have some deep theological implications if we consider whether Jesus turned the wine to actual blood or if it was metaphor and how that effects our current doctrines of transubstantiation, consubstantiation, sacramental union, or ordinance. I’m sorry, am I missing the point? (No questions! But, yes, you just killed the scene when you denied another player’s information. You’ve lost 10 points, but carry on my wayward son…see what I did there?) In an effort to remain ecumenical, let’s return to your hypothesis that Jesus was great at improvising. Now we should look instead at the nature of Jesus. Was he omniscient or did he lay aside that part of his Godhood in the fullness of his humanity? Because one must ask, if he always knew what was going to happen next, could it really be considered improv or was it more like a scripted musical? Hmmm…a musical about Jesus. That’s an idea. I’ll bet Andrew Lloyd Webber could make that work. Am I off topic?

CYT: Jeeeeee-sus Christ! Suuuuuu-perstar! Do you think you’re what they say you are? …(pause mid-dance-break)…(exchange blank stares)…(pull themselves together)… Eh-hem, yeah, I think this got away from us a little bit… But there are no mistakes in Improv, only opportunities! Here we go! Wrap it up! Finish strong!

CG: Improvathon is going to be outstanding this year. It is shaping up to be our largest one ever, with over 20 teams from 12 affiliates in a whole range of skill levels. Bobby and I are working to continue to build a positive atmosphere for everyone, whether they are expecting to compete for the championship or to help develop their team’s skills.

BM: I like the final commandment of the ten commandments of improv: “When thy faith is low, thy spirit weak, thy good fortune strained, and thy team losing, be comforted and smile, because it just doesn`t matter.” In the end, Improvathon is an annual opportunity to come together to laugh a lot, learn from each other, and celebrate all that is improv and comedy. As you prepare to come, take it seriously in making every effort to be the best you can be, and don’t take it so seriously that you forget that it’s all about laughing and having a great time together.  I can’t wait to see everyone in San Diego next month. Holy moly. Next month y’all!!

Annnnnd….scene! Nice finish! You both advance to the finals of blog-improv! Thanks, guys!

Wanna play some more? Join the conversation around this year’s Improvathon & check out their Facebook group

Support CYT Idaho on May 7: Idaho Gives!

CYT_Idaho_Gives_2015Thanks to Bliss Lanier from CYT North Idaho for the following story:

On May 7th, the entire state of Idaho will be participating in Idaho Gives, which is gearing up to be the biggest charitable giving day of the year!  We invite you to be a part of this historical day by making an online donation to Christian Youth Theater – North Idaho through the”Idaho Gives” website: www.idahogives.org. You can even schedule your donation ahead of time.

The Idaho Non-Profit Center has cultivated over $50,000 in matching gifts that will be given out each hour of the day May 7 to non-profits receiving donations.  The more donations we receive, the more likely we are to be the recipient of a matching gift.

As a non-profit organization, CYT is committed to providing a safe place for children to nurture their God-given talents and abilities while coming along side them to help them build strong, positive character qualities that will serve them throughout their lifetime. CYT-North Idaho builds future leaders for our community and is a place for kids to have FUN NOW!

Mark your calendar – Thursday, May 7th from 12:00am – 11:59pm – and swing over towww.idahogives.org and show your support for CYT.

Take 30 seconds and check out this clip about the Idaho Gives event
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=64PRdLhrS9g

We’re praying for many blessings for you, North Idaho!

Support CYT Fredericksburg in The 2015 Community Give

Please support CYT Fredericksburg and the 154 additional nonprofits that are participating in The Community Give 2015 on May 5 (hey, that’s tomorrow!). The Community Foundation of the Rappahannock Region’s second 24-hour multi-charity online giving marathon begins at 12 a.m. and ends at 11:59 p.m.

CYT Fredericksburg originally posted the following blurb on their Facebook page:

The Community Give is about working together for a single day, celebrating our spirit of generosity and making a significant and heartfelt impact on each of the lives touched by the hard-working nonprofit organizations that affect so many areas of our lives and community. The Community Give is a 24-hour day of giving on Tuesday May 5, 2015 from 12:00 a.m. until midnight. It is a day when everyone in our region is asked to make a donation and show support for the local nonprofit organizations that positively impact our lives every day. CYT Fredericksburg is proud to be a apart of this event.

Last year nearly 5,000 people gave nearly $450,000, Sponsors provided $100,000 in prizes, and EVERY nonprofit received a donation! The Community Give raised a stunning $544,851 for area nonprofits – the most raised in a single day!

The Community Give wants to make history…again! This year we have a new target – let’s reach 7,500 people and raise $750,000!

Give to CYT Fredericksburg at http://cytfred.us8.list-manage.com/track/click… on May 5th!

We’re praying for your success, CYT Fred! Check out their Facebook page for more inspiring videos. 

2014 CYT Improvathon Comes to a Surprising Finish…a Wedding!

The soon to be Mr. & Mrs. Norris

The soon to be Mr. & Mrs. Norris

Improvathon is all about the unexpected. Last year, CYTer, Hayley Sharpe from CYT Kansas City, got something really unexpected: her future spouse! Enjoy her darling letter to our CYT founders (Paul & Sheryl Russell), sharing her good news:

Hi there CYT Family!
My name is Hayley Sharpe, and this year I’m one of the coaches for CYT Kansas City’s Improv team.

I wanted to share my story with both of you. Last year at Improvathon, I was on the Kansas City team, House of Shards. It was my last year as a CYT student and I was just going to improvathon because I loved to perform and I loved CYT. At the final performance, Paul got up and said something along the lines of, “Careful, you might meet your husband or wife here!” I immediately thought, no way. There’s absolutely no way I’d meet mine here.

Hayley & Bailey competing head to head at Improvathon 2014.

Hayley & Bailey competing head to head at Improvathon 2014.

But then I met a boy from CYT Riverside named Bailey Norris. Over the past year he and I not only kept in contact, he eventually moved to Kansas City to be with me through my hip surgeries (I recently had a hip replacement due to a birth defect in my hips) and now we are engaged to be married!

Hayley_Bailey_Improv_Couple_2

#CYTLove

We will both be at Improvathon in San Diego (at EXPO 2015) this year as an engaged couple, and we’ll be married August 22!

I wanted to thank you for starting this wonderful organization that led me closer to God and to my best friend, and man of my dreams.

I hope to see you all in San Diego!
Thanks and God Bless,
Sincerely,
Soon to be Mrs. Norris

Once upon a time, two kids competed at CYT Improvathon...

Once upon a time, two kids competed at CYT Improvathon…

Congratulations Bailey & Hayley! May God continue to bless your union with peace, joy, & laughter! Now THAT’s why you should go to EXPO!