Our Emerald CYT Story: EXPO 2015 Recap

Have you ever been someplace that feels both totally new and totally familiar at the same time? That’s what it was like at CYT EXPO 2015.There is NO PLACE like home!





Storm Troopers

3rd Place (tie): Storm Troopers, CYT SD.

3rd Place (tie): Flying Punkeys, CYT Kansas City

3rd Place (tie): Flying Punkeys, CYT Kansas City

2nd Place: Emerald Citizens Brigade

2nd Place: Emerald Citizens Brigade, CYT SD

And our Improvathon 2015 winners: Carry On my Wayward Pun, from CYT Kansas City!


Improvathon 2015 Winners: Carry on My Wayward Pun, CYT Kansas City


EXPO Social Poster


Our super hot Social Media Liaisons. Tweet tweet. 

social liaisons

Seriously. Let’s get social…SOCIAL!


Expo_2015_photobooth Expo_2015_photobooth2 Expo_2015_photobooth3 Expo_2015_photobooth4 Expo_2015_photobooth5 Expo_2015_photobooth6 Expo_2015_photobooth7



Check out more photobooth pics on the CYT Facebook page.


Makin' 'friends in the sun...with a rubber shark, as you do when in SD.

Makin’ ‘friends in the sun…with a rubber shark, as you do when in SD.





Bonfire & fireworks.


Dr. LaForge & CYTyler. It's real.

Dr. LaForge & CYTyler. It’s real.

Morning worship.

Morning worship.


Our 2015 Decathletes include:

Chrissy Nefe, CYT Denver; Annmarie Songer, CYT Denver; Max Songer, CYT Denver; Alex Warren, CYT Denver; Coleton Emr, CYT Houston; Ryan Ramsower, CYT Houston; Katie Broussard, CYT Lafayette; Bret Chalpin, CYT Lafayette; William Sciambra, CYT Lafayette; Dean Yarborough, CYT Lafayette; Logan Watkins, CYT Lafayette; Kallie Kilchrist, CYT Lafayette; Brady Kidder, CYT Lafayette; Anna Katherine Epperson, CYT Santa Cruz


My CYT Story Winners 2015 with Paul & Sheryl Russell

My CYT Story Winners 2015 with Paul & Sheryl Russell

The 2015 My CYT Story winners include:

Callista Gleich, CYT Fredericksburg, Alexandra Gandy, CYT Indy (National winner), Katie Gilchrist, CYT Nashville, Nina Noelle Russell, CYT Sacramento, Breckin Murphy, CYT San Antonio, KJ Hutcheson, CYT Tri-Valley

We will be featuring these Oz-some stories on future blog posts.


FoodTrucks FoodTrucks2


1_WelcomeBeachParty 6_HYPE Brainstorming 7_HYPE Fredericksburg 9_HYPE Expo 2015


All business & inspiration with this crew of leadership.

NLC_EXPO_2015_group pic


#awkwardleadership #jazzhands



J.Russ. After Dark Dance Partay. There was choreo. Oh, was there ever choreo…

10min talent show

10-minute Talent Show




The Russells et al. 2015

The Russells et al. 2015


You guys. It's EXPO.

You guys. It’s EXPO. Dr. Heather LaForge hearts CYT.

Creative Director Renee Kauffman has a thought. Wanna hear it? Hear it comes. Awesome.

Creative Director Renee Kauffman has a thought. Wanna hear it? Hear it comes. Awesome.

ok but first...

I love you guys, but, first, coffee…

Renee, Taylor, & Janie.

Renee, Taylor, & Janie.

Owen & Lydia

Hype Queen Lydia & Owen.

mama redd

CYT San Diego mamas & papas hosting like champs.


There is no place like home. There is no place like home. There is no place like home.

Stay awkward San Diego. See you again next year!


Did you attend EXPO 2015? Tell us what you think by taking our survey.

Do you wanna go to EXPO next year? Of course you do!

Here are the deets so far:

EXPO 2016: Believe in You! 

When: June 26-29, 2016
Where: San Diego Hilton Resort and Spa
Book Your Rooms TODAY



What a CYT Director wants you to know about Auditions

The below post was written by Heather LaForge, CYT Inc’s multitasking Director of Operations and CYT San Diego show director. Enjoy!

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As each new CYT session approaches, students across the country scramble, frantically trying to choose that perfect audition song. Your mind brims with questions. Does it fit my vocal range? Does it align with the show? Can I demonstrate my acting abilities through it? Nerves run high and dreams get stressful as students await…dun-dun-dun…audition day.

Students, did you know that your directors are feeling many of the same emotions as you? Audition day is just as nerve-wracking to us! For months we are thinking, pondering, wondering how we will do this show. Scripts are read over and over again. Cuts are made. Question marks riddle the score. And all this is done in anticipation of just who will be cast in these roles.

You see, there’s so much work to be done in preparation for a show. But until we know who is cast, we can’t really visualize what the show will be. Then auditions arrive and we are greeted by you all. You all who are filled with nerves and excitement. You all who are praying desperately that God would calm you enough so you don’t get weird nervous shaky voice. You all who remind us so much of ourselves when we were your age but of whom we think they are so much braver, better, stronger than I ever was.

The secret, friends, is that while you are desperately trying to appear calm, so are we. The big smile we give you is real. Because we have had those dreams where literally no one shows up to auditions and we are left to cast our own gerbil as the role of Annie. So when you are there in front of us, with your brave voice, and strong character, and (hooray!) you can pirouette too, we are thrilled. Because with your talent and eagerness, and our guidance, this show will go on.

I’m looking forward to my auditions next week. Praying for all of you as you prep your songs across this country; and I’m praying for all you directors too.

CYT founders celebrate 40 years of marriage!

Paul & Sheryl Russell looking fancy at a recent CYT Portland gala

Paul & Sheryl Russell looking fancy at a recent CYT Portland gala

CYT founders Paul and Sheryl Russell celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary on Sunday! That is a huge milestone that should be celebrated!

We thought we would rally everyone together to give them the best anniversary gift ever: a donation to CYT Inc. What better way to honor Paul and Sheryl than by helping to support the organization they built from the ground up?

A gift of support to CYT will act as a thank you for them pouring their effort and love into the organization that has changed all of our lives.

To make a gift, simply go to donate.cyt.org. When you make your gift you can also leave a message of congratulations for them in the “comments” box!

Let’s celebrate with Paul and Sheryl – 40 years is amazing!

Yet again, theatre teaches us about God

[The following was contributed by Heather Laforge, Director of Operations for CYT Inc.]

directors chair

CYT Students, can I let you in on a secret? Lean in, because this may rock your world. Are you ready?

Your directors want you to be awesome.

Let me back up. If you are an actor, you have likely been told, asked, begged to “Do it again! Bigger!” As an actor, I imagine that’s frustrating. You are trying. But you have your lines, your blocking, the song, your choreography, and oh-my-gosh there are other people watching you right now! Yet, here before you stands a director, who is jumping around like a moron, arms flailing, trying to get you to look like a fool.

I get it.

But friends, I’m going to be honest. Your directors want you to be bigger because doing so will make you be awesome. And that is the goal.

Practically speaking, in theatre you have to be big with your movements, emotions, and expressions because you have to reach a large number of people. Live theatre is not the same as television. We cannot zoom in to allow the audience to catch a nuanced lift of the eyebrow. We need you to go for it. Don’t hold back out of fear of embarrassment. Break through the wall of hesitation and take the leap. Nine times out of ten, when you let go of worry, that’s when you will nail your performance.

But wait.

This is a lesson we can all take to heart in our day-to-day lives. There is a director above us constantly asking us to try again. He begs us to be bigger, to be willing to risk even in the face of fear. Again and again, I find myself hesitant to step out of my comfort zone for God, and yet he repeatedly whispers, “Just go for it.”

I think – scratch that – I know God wants me to be awesome. Let’s be awesome together, shall we?

(Photo credit)

Q&A with CYT co-founder Sheryl Russell

Either you’ve met her, heard of her, or stumbled upon this post because you googled “amazing woman.” Here’s the deal about Sheryl Russell: she is among the most Godly, encouraging, patient, and organized women ever. She is half of the CYT co-founding duo (Hi Paul!), and I recently stole a few moments amidst her busy schedule to pick her brain about what, why, and how she does what she does for CYT.

Paul & Sheryl Russell looking fancy at a recent CYT Portland gala

Paul & Sheryl Russell looking fancy at a recent CYT Portland gala

Let’s flashback to 1981. What was the thought process in originally starting CYT?

Paul was a teacher and needed a summer job. His friends were painting houses or selling air conditioners and that didn’t excite him. He had just finished a successful run of a musical at the school where he was teaching, came home one day in March and asked, “What if we put on a play this summer?” We opened The Sound of Music that August.

CYT has come a long way. Did you always intend for it to grow into a national organization, and what has it been like to witness?

No, we didn’t have a business plan to expand into every major city in the U.S. After 15 years, families moved to other cities and called to ask how they could have CYT in their local community. It’s pretty amazing to visit other CYT’s across the country and pause and ask yourself if you’re in San Diego or Kansas City…the model is working. It also fills my tank to see our CYT Alumni’s children now involve in CYT. We are truly the grandparents now.

Sheryl (center) at the 2011 CYT Leadership Council Meeting.

Sheryl (center) at the 2011 CYT Leadership Council Meeting

You’ve worn many hats for CYT. What do you currently do, and what does a typical day look like?

My current title is co-founder and my time is spent with CYT Inc., the national company that manages the CYT affiliates across the country. I don’t think there’s ever been a typical day working for CYT…everyday has it’s opportunities and challenges. I currently do the accounting for CYT Inc. and I’m beginning to revise all of our business manuals as well as create new support materials for our affiliates. I’m also working on a development plan to increase our contributed income. And I do some traveling to visit new start-up areas and to keep in touch with current affiliates.

Judeo-Christian values are at the core of CYT. What programs are in place / how do you and Paul ensure that it mindfully remains centered around Christianity?

We’ve always believed we are Christians involved in a children’s theater arts program, not a Christian theater arts program. As we continue to love God and love people with our actions, we believe our Judeo-Christian values will continue to flourish.

You have 4 children and 5 grandchildren (with a 6th on the way!) Most of your brood is involved in CYT in one way or another and it’s a lovely example of how family-oriented CYT is. What do you attribute to the involvement of family in the operation of CYT affiliates around the country?

CYT has created an atmosphere that involves the whole family. We not only involve the child but we ask parents to serve on a production committee. We’ve had grandmothers on the sewing committee, dads on the make-up committee, and moms helping to build sets. We’ve all been given different talents and no matter what age, CYT has a place for each individual to use their God-given gifts.

The entire Russell clan on Easter Sunday (2014)

The entire Russell family on Easter Sunday (2014)

If forced, would you rather sing, dance, or perform a monologue?


Do you have a favorite show? As in, when you hear an affiliate is doing it, you get a tinge of excitement & want to hop on a plane to go see it?

Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat…and I did hop on a plane one time when CYT Spokane did it!

Can we play a little Word Association? What is the very first thing that comes to mind when I say the following…

Opening night – The gift of hard work
Paul – Energizes others with his passion for the arts through his love for the Lord
HYPE – leadership
Auditions – Hardest weekend for moms
Broadway – Someday a CYT show will premiere
Showcases – Fun
The future of CYT – This verse was shared with us in 1981 and it remains true today. We ask God daily to direct our steps in fulfilling His plan for our lives:

“But these things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, do not despair, for these things will surely come to pass. Just be patient! They will not be overdue a single day!” Habakkuk 2:3

Sheryl, you’re the dream. Thanks so much for taking the time!

My CYT Story Competition

My CYT Story Competition

Has your life been impacted by CYT? We’d love for you to tell us how! You’re officially invited to participate in a nationwide CYT Essay Competition to win a free registration to the 2014 National CYT EXPO in Houston, TX from July 10-12th. And not only that, budding writers can be free to spread their wings. It’s a win-win.


  • In 500 words or less, tell us what CYT has done in your life
  • Submit your story to your local affiliate’s Artistic Director by May 1, 2014
  • Stories will be read anonymously by your affiliate’s Board of Directors and a local winner will be selected by June 1, 2014

For the of sake clarification/ultimate excitement: there will be one winner per participating affiliate (ask your local Artistic Director if you’re participating), and each individual champ will receive a free registration.

  • Each winner will be submitted to CYT Inc, from which a grand winner will be selected
  • On Opening Night of CYT’s EXPO, all winners will be recognized and a grand winner will be announced
  • The grand winner gets bragging rights and their story read aloud #nopressure

Happy writing!

(Photo credit)

Introducing…CYT San Diego’s New Artistic Director!

Paul Russell has some breaking “CYT” news that he would like to share with the CYT Community! Here is his heartfelt letter:

Hello CYT Extended Family,

I am so excited to let you know that I have stepped into a new role here at CYT. From here on out, I’ll be serving as President of CYT Inc.

You are probably wondering what the heck this means. Not only will I be more involved with CYT on a National scale, but I will be focused on training, development, creating new resources, and improving CYT to make it the best it can possibly be!

Taking on this new position means that I had the honor of passing along the CYT San Diego Artistic Director baton to Janie Russell Cox. Janie has always shined brilliantly- her love for the kids is eternal, and she will continue to strengthen the core of the program.

Please continue to pray for CYT San Diego and CYT as a whole, as we continue to spread our mission around the WORLD.

Thank you,

Paul Russell