Get ready for hilarity at the Improvation


Real talk: the CYT Improvathon is legendary.

If you’re lucky enough to be going to the CYT Expo in July, you’re going to get to witness it (or be in it — lucky!)

Bobby Marchessault, CYT’s Improvathon Director, is the brain behind this epic entertainment. He filled me in on all things improv and what people can expect this year at the Expo.

Break it down for me Bobby. Explain the Improvathon.

Break it down…in some ways that’s like asking me to untangle a giant hairball. Let’s just say it’s two days of absolute hilarity and fun as teams from all over the county come together to celebrate and share their love for all things funny and improv. All of these actors get together regularly around the country and create stories and entertain, and for this brief event they get to learn from each other, get to know each other, and root each other on in what really is a very difficult art form.

What do attendees and participants have to look forward to at the Expo?

This year, attendees have the opportunity to see 18 teams present their own pre-scheduled improv show. Two shows will happen simultaneously, all day long, every half hour. That’s day one. Then, on Friday, we switch up the format with what we call TheaterSports. All day in the ballroom, teams will perform together in a farcical sort of head-to-head comedy sporting event. One of our judges will “ref” these shows and the audience will help us to award “points” to teams. It’s gonna be a blast and Expo attendees are gonna wanna see as much of it as they can.

The Finals are on Friday night of the Expo. How many teams, and how do you win?
In those first two days of performances, we have judges who will be watching and “scoring” games. The top three teams will put on an awe-inspiring, life-changing, earth-shattering display of improv genius for all the attendees of Expo 2014. Our judges will have the unenviable position of deciding which of those three teams did the best storytelling and entertained us all the most. There are some ideas in the works to include the audience on a percentage of that decision making, but you might just have to show up to see how that comes into play.

What other fun stuff will the Improv students be doing over the long weekend?
As if that isn’t more fun than one can safely handle in two days already? One of the beauties of the Expo this year is that Improv students will also be invited to jump into all the events that the other students are taking part in as well. And on Thursday, we’ll have a giant workshop where both improv students and HYPE students will get to hone some improv skills and play games with actors from other cities and teams. I’m anticipating a pretty amazing couple of days and can’t wait to get to Houston to meet all the actors and see them do their thing.

Thank you so much for all the insight, Bobby!

Dear reader – read up on anything more you’d ever want to know about the Improvathon HERE.


This is Bobby.

Bobby Marchessault grew up in Chula Vista, CA and had his first theater experience at CYT South Bay in the chorus of Oliver. He was hooked and performed in several more CYT productions before becoming a member of the Young Americans where he taught  singing, dancing, and improv in over 100 schools across the U.S., New Zealand, and Australia. Bobby especially loves teaching and investing in youth, using theater and the arts as a way to teach and learn about life. His favorite thing about improv? Not only do actors learn to think fast and respond to our surroundings, it helps us all forget about our inhibitions and hangups and not take ourselves or life so stinking seriously!

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CYT Expo: It’s all in the family

The CYT Expo is less than three weeks away! As we continue the countdown, CYT co-founder Sheryl Russell shares her thoughts on what the Expo means to her and why she’s so excited to see you in Houston.

Sheryl (center) with CYT leadership at the 2011 Expo.

Sheryl (center) with CYT leadership at the 2011 Expo.

The CYT “awkwardly closer than family” gathers once a year at EXPO to celebrate our accomplishments, to learn new best practices, to encourage each other, and to just have fun. We also have our national Improvathon competition, HYPE training, and this year we’ve added student activities.

Technology had helped us in so many ways… Email, texting, FB, Instagram, Dropbox, iPhone & on & on. But there’s nothing like a face-to-face conversation. EXPO allows us to look each other in the eyes & listen with our hearts.

I think one of the greatest benefits to attending EXPO is mentioned in Philippians 2:1-2 Living Translation:

Is there any such thing as Christians cheering each other up? Do you love me enough to want to help me? Does it mean anything to you that we are brothers in the Lord, sharing the same Spirit? Are your hearts tender and sympathetic at all? Then make me truly happy by loving each other and agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, working together with one heart and mind and purpose.

We definitely cheer each other up…it’s amazing to watch the Affiliates sharing ideas with each other and going the extra mile to make sure that not only is their program successful but all Affiliates are successful. It is about helping each other… learning from our wins and our failures. We share the same Spirit… we love God and we love people… we celebrate Christ’s gift of life to us. As a nation we have rallied with tender hearts to support those who have lost loved ones.

As a parent, one of my greatest joys is having my children and grandchildren together at in the same place at the same time. I believe EXPO brings the CYT family together in one place at one time. EXPO is a time to get our “emotional tanks” full as well as the opportunity to reenforce the “CYT Model”. We are a unique entity and it’s very reaffirming that we have our own “normal” when we are all together.

I had a CYT Mom share with me recently that she thought her daughter might be a little different and then she joined CYT. She saw kids who were exactly like her daughter and was over joyed and realize they had found their “like-minded” community.

Excited to see everyone and give and get the CYT hugs!!!

Get details about registration HERE.

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It’s official: CYT NYC Rocks!

You heard it straight from CYT co-founder Sheryl Russell’s mouth: CYT NYC Rocks.


She’s visiting NYC and took to Facebook with this to say:

CYT NYC Rocks!!! Just saw Seussical. If you’re in NY it’s a must see. I’m so proud of our CYT NYC families. Shout out to Corrie, Chelsea, Noelle & Johnna! Great job!

Don’t worry – there’s still time to see it. It’s playing through Sunday, June 29th and tickets can be purchased HERE.

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CYT Tri-Valley is off to a great start!

There’s a new CYT Affiliate in town! We are so excited to welcome CYT Tri-Valley to the family. Below are some thoughts from Tracy Whitney & Kristin Werder who are two members of the team behind our newest addition.  


Outstanding attendance was the hallmark of the CYT Tri-Valley Free Workshop on May 30! A great gathering of families from Livermore, Pleasanton, Dublin, Castro Valley, and San Ramon, California gave this new Affiliate the support and energy it needs to launch locally. With nearly 150 attendees, and over 80 children participating, CYT Tri-Valley experienced a successful and well-supported evening of song, dance, performance and hope. CYT co-founder Sheryl Russell’s presentation to the parents was informative and her words of wisdom encouraged the steering committee.

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Next up CYT Tri-Valley is taking a family field trip down to CYT Santa Cruz for a performance of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. CYT Tri-Valley families will get to know each other better and learn more about CYT by supporting Santa Cruz on opening weekend. Preparations are underway for Hats Off to Broadway mini-camp August 5-7. Registration is now open.


CYT Tri-Valley appreciates prayers as support is gathered and staff is identified. Anyone with California contacts in the San Francisco East Bay area is encouraged to connect those people with CYT Tri-Valley! Need: students, teachers, musicians, technicians, and especially some business savvy folks to balance the artistic volunteers.

Click: or Call: (925)421-1351

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Words of wisdom from the world of Musical Theatre

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What’s in store for HYPE students at the 2014 CYT Expo

Before continuing with our exciting updates about this year’s Expo, here are two quick things you need to know about this blog post:

1. It was written by Lydia Kinne, CYT Inc’s National HYPE Director (more about her below).

2. A reminder of what HYPE is: High School Youth Pursuing Excellence – a program through which teens of CYT can develop their leadership skills. 



This year’s CYT Expo is about unity on so many levels. We are coming together in Houston to remember that we are all part of one CYT, whether we are there for Improv, HYPE, student activities, or adult leadership workshops.

As such, this spirit of unity is also a main feature of the HYPE workshops. Yes, every HYPE across the country is unique and special in its own way. But at the very core, all HYPE groups should be unified by following the same model and reaching for the same goals.

The Expo workshops (from “Down the Rabbit Hole” to “The Looking Glass Girl” to “The Wonderland of HYPE” – and more!) are focused on that unity in a two-fold way. One, by training every group to be on the same page about HYPE and how it should be run; and two, by actually having all HYPE students in attendance work together toward a common goal.

If you’re not even sure what HYPE is and what it takes to start/run one, no fear! We will also have a special “Taste of HYPE” workshop (prepared by HYPE students themselves at the Expo) for all who might be interested in joining or starting a HYPE someday.

I’ll see you at the Expo in July – where we’ll laugh, maybe cry, hug it out, dance it out, make new friends, take tons of pictures, get barely any sleep, and fall in love even more with CYT.

P.S. Just in case you haven’t registered yet – you can do so HERE.

Lydia Kinne

This is Lydia!

A bit about Lydia Kinne: She has been involved with CYT Spokane for ten years on many levels, but for the past four, she has served as HYPE Adviser. She is pursuing a degree in elementary education and theater at Eastern Washington University, which she will finish this year (Lord willing). She is seriously passionate about student leadership, and loves helping to grow the impact of CYT and HYPE throughout the nation. She co-planned and led the National HYPE Conference for the past two years and can’t wait to continue to see what God has in store for this group of young leaders!

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CYT Expo 2014 – aka The Ultimate Student Experience

Okay, fine. We’ve been talking a lot about the upcoming CYT Expo lately. Perhaps we assume that you know what we’re talking about and perhaps that’s why we haven’t thought to properly break down why you should be as excited as we are. Until now.

EXPO 2014

This year’s Expo theme: The Looking Glass – Who Are You Reflecting?

The bottom line is that the Expo is one big celebration of our CYT family. It exists to bring unity to CYT Affiliates across the country through workshops, gathering, sharing, and more (read: singing, dancing & performing – we are CYT after all). This includes CYT students as well as Affiliate leadership.

As if that paragraph did not not get you excited enough, did you know this year’s Expo is officially unlike any that has ever been before?  Here’s why.

Historically, the CYT Expo has been host to one of CYT’s most hilarious, annual events - The Improvathon! Not too long ago, CYT high school students who belonged to their local HYPE groups were invited to come to Expo as well. But now, this year we are happy to include all CYT students ages 12-19 to come be a part of the complete Expo student experience.

The student schedule is specially designed so that specific activities (Improv, for example) will be just one of the many shenanigans planned for the weekend-long program (not to mention the schedule allows for everyone to be available to watch the Improvathon Finals on Friday night! All of the other students and leaders can be there to cheer them on!)

There will be amazing HYPE sessions and back-to-back activities for those who are “students only” (that just means they aren’t in Improv or HYPE). As an entire group, we will be holding a very special “Audition Workshop” where students will have the chance to audition and get feedback from Special Guest Artist Jon Lorenz, and CYT co-founder Paul Russell.

Another fun thing (new this year) is CYT After Dark, where all students will gather to rehearse a showcase to be performed at the end of the weekend. What better way to come together as ONE CYT than to Act, Sing, Dance, and Live as one big happy group!

These are just a few of the highlights from this year’s plan of events at the CYT Expo. It’s not too late to register, so what are you waiting for? These are going to be three days in July that you do not want to miss.

Oh, one more thing. We’ll be blogging more Expo-isms in the upcoming weeks and highlighting certain peeps who are overseeing various aspects of the weekend. The person responsible for the incredible student experience that we have described above is CYT Inc’s very own Creative Director Renee Kauffman.

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Hi Renee!

A little about her: She began her CYT journey by attending Summer Camp in 1995, where she met the world’s greatest friends and became a “lifer”. She has gone from CYT student to teacher, camp counselor, Choreographer, Director, and now full-time staff member. She has graced the stage with some fantastic roles but her all-time favorite role is being wife to Curtis Kauffman, the really cute Production Shop Manager at CYT San Diego, and mother to 8-month-old, Sailor Alice. 

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