Support CYT Chicago

Dear CYT Family, Alumni & Friends,

Over the past few days we have heard an outpouring of support for CYT to stay in Chicago. Due to the sudden withdrawal of the current CYT leadership in Chicago we are prepared to provide the resources that the families in Chicago need to continue the CYT program. We are asking for your prayers and support during this transition.

It is CYT’s hope for the program to continue in Chicago for many years to come. In order to make this happen we need your help. If you know of any families, teachers and leaders that are interested in being involved in this exciting next chapter for CYT Chicago, please have them support our new CYT Chicago Facebook page or contact

CYT was left with no contact information for any of the families in the ChicagoLand area. So unless ChicagoLand families seek CYT out, we have no way of contacting them. Please help us to rebuild the network.

Thank you so much for your prayers and support. We will keep you up to date with information as it becomes available.

CYT Team.

The Future of our CYT Family

Dear CYT Family,

As you might already know, CYT Chicago has decided to leave the CYT Family and branch out on their own. To say the least, we were surprised at this decision because we have been in negotiations for nearly a year. But we found out just like you might have – over the internet. This news comes with great sadness because CYT Chicago has participated so much in the vision, passion and leadership of CYT and its history. They have so much to offer and they have blessed all of us by their commitment to excellence, their passion for camps, their desire to grow their program and their love for the Lord. We will miss them greatly!

But I’m excited to say that we want to continue to serve you in anyway we can to make your program successful. We are thrilled that our mission hasn’t changed in our 32 year history and we know that God will continue to bless this amazing ministry which is:

Dedicated to developing character in children and adults through training in the arts and by producing wholesome family entertainment, all of which reflect Judeo-Christian values.

We are excited to see many of you at the CYT EXPO next month. It’s going to be exciting to bring 23 CYT programs from across the country together and share ideas, give new vision, get inspired from some of the amazing stories that God is doing around the world with CYT.

We will also have the new updates on the fee structure and all the benefits of being a part of the CYT family. It’s an exciting time to be apart of the CYT family!

Some of the new benefits we will be sharing at the conference are:

    • A new and improved ticketing program that is included in your fees.
    • A new College scholarship program for your CYT Alumni students. There is CYT after CYT.
    • Expanding CYT to new areas. We welcome: CYT Nashville, CYT Sacramento, CYT NYC, and CYT LA.

  • CYT Summer Camps Abroad. How does CYT in China sound! All expenses paid!
  • New CYT Summer Camp shows and curriculum plus other new resources in the ever expanding Nexus library.
  • Our new CYT Theme song – You’ll love it!
  • And the pride of being a part of the largest children’s theater network in the world.

If you have any questions please give me, Josh, or Sharon a call. We love this organization. We love what you are doing in your city and we love to spend time with you and rejoice together of God’s amazing journey of reaching the next generation through the arts!

God Bless,

Paul Russell
CYT Founder

Joshua Tucker
CYT Affiliate Services Manager
877-411-4CYT ext. 103

Sharon Kleinschmidt
CYT Affiliate Services Board Chair

The Future of CYT Chicago

Effective immediately, the existing CYT Chicago organization has withdrawn as a licensee and partner of CYT.

Over the years, Justin Parks and his leadership team have been generous with their time and talents and we have appreciated their passon for Christ, children, and theater. They will always be a part of our history, as CYT continues to grow and impact even more children and families!

Stay tuned for more exciting announcements about CYT in Chicago! If you have questions, please contact Joshua Tucker by email at

Team CYT

From Participant to Leader

This past Sunday, I shared with our 40 members of HYPE some of my regrets [during my senior year in high school] and tried to challenge them to be a better leader than I was.

To not only view CYT from a participant perspective (what can I get, what’s the minimum required) but as a student leader (what can I give, how to lead by Christ’s example.)

In my opinion, something powerful happens when a CYT teenage participant starts to focus on becoming a giver, not just a taker. When they start to transition into leading through integrity instead of from a place of insecurity or selfishness, you can see the difference. Here are a few examples I shared at our HYPE meeting that might help the rest of our young adults:

1) Sometimes a CYT participant will allow their own disappointment to lead to blaming others. Usually the way this plays out is during casting or when student leadership positions are assigned at CYT. When a leader faces disappointment it causes them to improve, to step up and get better. A true leader would not blame others but would ask the question “how do I improve my skill set and have a better result?” They are accountable.

2) A participant at CYT will often have a tight knit circle of friends that they rely on at rehearsals. They cheer loudly for them at auditions and spend their breaks together. There is nothing wrong with that, we want kids to make close friends. However, a leader will always strive to expand their inner circle of friends to be more inclusive of other students. They reach out to the new kid, take a break from the tight knit circle and spend time with others outside the circle. They will even try to organize events that are for all teens in the cast and crew vs. having lots of exclusive gatherings/sleepovers. A leader also knows the names of the backstage crew and is friendly to them not just the cast. They are inclusive.

3) It is not uncommon for CYT cast members to show up a few minutes late, unprepared, and often not having spent time reviewing materials on their own time. However, a leader would not only show up with all the old material rehearsed and on time, they come with creative ideas they have prepared to show the directors. They prepare and create ideas for scenes they are in, characterization, accents, ad-libs, creative ideas/suggestions to solve problems, and they try things out for the directors to approve. They are prepared and professional.

4) A typical teenager might on occasion spill their guts and opinions on facebook without any filtering. But a leader will always have someone else wiser than they check their writings before they let the whole world hear their opinions. They might vent out a letter in anger but then they wisely decide not to send that emotion-packed letter to the intended recipient. A student leader has a strong filter. They are wise and discerning.

5) Less mature CYT participants sometimes are unwilling to make true sacrifices but at the same time want to be considered leadership material. They don’t realize yet that there are no shortcuts to being considered leadership material. I haven’t yet met a solid leader than hasn’t had to make a ton of tough choices and personal sacrifices to get where they are. They are willing to serve and make sacrifices, time and time again. Sadly, we are raising a generation of some entitled students, not all but certainly some. I come across students looking for the easy way, the quick pay raise, the quick promotion all the time. “I’ll work at camp only if it’s minutes from my house?” or “I’m 16 years old now, so I’m entitled to aide this class” or “I’ve worked here three weeks, I deserve a pay raise.”

A leader when called to do something will do it even though it might cost them. They work hard and long for their raises, they drive far distances to serve CYT and pay their dues. Leaders are sacrificial and humble.

6) As a director, I often see directors struggling to get students to listen to direction. This is a newer development from my perspective. Part of this issue is that kids just love being together and are excited at CYT. I also think our culture has created this sense in our youth that everything they have to say matters. That’s just not true. Most of what I say as an adult doesn’t even matter compared to what I gain from merely listening. A leader knows that there is more value in listening than speaking. When directors/teachers talk, they listen. It doesn’t matter if it’s the most respected director in CYT or the least. There is something they can learn. A leader is teachable.

7) A leader comes into CYT and leaves the program better than when they found it. They actually give back more than CYT has given to them. There are dozens of student leaders that left CYT better than when they found it. They were exceptional mentors to many younger students, they served as a volunteer at camps each summer, they led HYPE, they earned the Rose, Crew or Watchdog Award and often multiple times. They expressed gratitude to CYT despite the fact that we were more blessed to have them. A leader gives back more than they take.

These are all of the areas I struggled in as a student and, of course, still struggle with as an adult. I made it clear to our HYPE members that these are not just student lessons but lessons for all of us. It will indeed take us all a lifetime to become leaders with full integrity. Our model is Christ and that path toward His perfect example is a long journey of trial and error and forgiveness. I hope you can glean insight from my observations.

Contributed by Justin Parks, Executive Director & Co-founder of CYT Chicago

Alum Update: Moody Bible Institute Student Rachel Rogers

CYT Chicago caught up with CYT Alum Rachel Rogers in their April newsletter, The Point.

Rachel is a CYT Alum who is a senior missions major at Moody Bible Institute. She performed with Kane, McHenry and NW Cook and recently toured with MBI’s production of Godspell.

Here is the Q&A with Rachel, that appeared in The Point:

Tell us about your Moody experience.
I’ve learned so much about God, faith, life and ministry. And I’ve met the most incredible people here-friends that I will have for life.

Tell us about your opportunities with Ad Vivum.
Ad Vivum is the drama team at Moody. We go to different churches and youth groups and perform, and then have a chance to share with them via small groups or a talk back session. Not only have I met some of my best friends in this group and have been able to minister to them and alongside them, but I have also met some awesome students at churches and had some really great opportunities to share with them.

Tell us about Godspell. Why did you decide to do it with Ad Vivum? What are your hopes for it?
We were looking to do a full length production this year (as opposed to just doing skits and improv at churches) and Godspell came up. Godspell is unique in that it can be tailored to fit an audience. This was perfect to take to youth groups. The parables are engaging and fun, yet the overall message of the gospel is clearly portrayed. Also, we realized that churches could advertise for Godspell and would get an audience. Since Godspell is a well-known show (not just among Christians) it would open the door for unbelievers to come to our shows.

How was it putting up a show with all student leadership?
Godspell was led by the exec team of Ad Vivum. When we auditioned new members this year, we also took on someone who was gifted in choreography. She and I worked together on choreographing the show while Jordan directed. Everyone else put a lot of hard work into doing various things that made this show a success. It was not always easy though! We had a lot of discussions and disagreements, but ultimately was a great learning experience.

Has your perspective on theater/drama changed since being at Moody?
My perspective on drama and theater has changed a lot since being at Moody. I’ve had some incredible opportunities to be involved with local theater companies here in Chicago, and have learned a lot. I took an acting class last year, which completely changed my thoughts of acting, vulnerability, and ministry. If I could sum up what I learned, I would say that true acting requires complete vulnerability; it requires you to live honestly in your emotions. This has been a major realization for me, and has changed how I seek to live my life.

How do you think CYT prepared you for your current path?
CYT gave me a love for theater. Also, CYT gave me a lot of confidence. I think being able to perform in front of an audience, audition in front of friends, family, and people you don’t know, and work hard in a role really gave me a lot of confidence. Not to mention all of the friendships I gained in CYT. CYT really showed me a lot of what true friendship looked like.

What is God teaching you at the moment?
That he is incredibly faithful. I can truly say that God answers prayer and proves himself faithful to me, over and over again.

Anything else you’d like to share with the CYT readers?
Really enjoy the time you have in CYT. Ask a lot of questions, and don’t be afraid to take risks, onstage and off. CYT is a really safe place to make bold choices onstage, and to be intentional with those around you.