My first real involvement with Christian Youth Theater was in 2013, when I took an acting/voice class centered on Rodgers and Hammerstein’s, Cinderella. I came into this class with massive apprehensions. I had seen these “thespians” at different CYT events I had attended, such as improv shows and their “Hoedown Throwdown.” At all these events, I felt quite out of place and now going into this class every nerve and brain cell in my introverted self screamed, “RUN AWAY! RUN AWAY NOW! RUN AWAY FAST!” But, here I was, taking a class with people I perceived as being radically different than myself. Now, I have nothing against the teacher who taught that class, or against any of the students who were in it with me, but I’m going to be honest here; at that time and stage in my life, it drove me to tears. I was NOT ready to learn the songs, NOT ready to dance, and DEFINITELY NOT ready to be cast as one of the princes for the showcase! I buckled down and got through it, however, but afterwards I had no intention of EVER going back, EVER (But was that God’s plan?).
Cut to me sitting at a CYT improv comedy show with my family at some point in 2013. I came by choice; however, I was determined to have NO FUN, WHATSOEVER. At this point, I held the steadfast, unwavering opinion that I would not be involved with CYT forevermore. I sat through the first half of the show, trying my hardest to keep a straight, serious face. It worked, until the opening of the second half, when my good friend Reece H. cracked a hilarious joke. I tried to keep a poker face, I really did, but then the dam burst, and I laughed, continuing to do so throughout the rest of the show. I didn’t sense it, but something was changing.
The months passed; CYT was out of sight, out of mind. Then, in the spring of 2014, my mom told me they were offering an improv class that session. Reluctantly, I signed up. I showed up, on the first day of class, ready with my sullen face to deter any kind of contact from this jolly band of extroverts. Any guesses as to who had also signed up for improv? Yes, Reece. I was through the roof! Here was someone I knew. That day, I also met my fantastic friend and improv teacher, Sarah Preston, but at the time I was determined to avoid anyone I didn’t know, so she was grouped right in with them.
People started to break through the walls I had put up, though. Two who really stood out at this point were Stephen and Joseph P. Joe had been paired as my HYPE buddy; someone to welcome me into this crazy place. He was on the quiet side, which, from my narrow perspective, was quite odd. Up until this point I was picturing everyone at CYT essentially as rays of constant exuberance (today I know this is not the case and that everyone has their quiet days, as well as crazy ones). Stephen was also enrolled in improv, and I thank him for consistently including me in conversation. He always greeted me with a smile, and was insistent on the fact that I should audition for a production. When that improv class ended, I was unsure of my feelings for CYT. Yes, I had hoped to convince myself that any kind of theater was not for me, but I had just experienced a huge positive force through meeting new people in improv. I tried to be resolute in my dislike, but God was still working on my heart, and placing lots of people in my path, adults and students alike, who were encouraging me to do more with CYT.
Summer came and passed, and then the fall session opened up. What should be offered but improv! Soon enough, my name was on the roster for a second time. This time around, I was still really trying to hold onto my bad feelings for everything CYT-related, but then I found that Jacob K. was in my class. Jacob and I had known each other outside of CYT, and got along quite well. Being in improv class with him was another thing that had a significant impact on my heart. At the end of that session, an audition for the 2014-15 improv team was held. And that was when God gave the final push. I auditioned, made the team, and ended up with a group of people who are now some of my best friends. I started taking more classes (Shakespeare, Newsies Dance, Acting for the Camera) and broadening my involvement (working backstage, performing in a fundraiser, promoting events), and coming out of each experience I was blessed with dozens of amazing new friendships, and continued to grow in knowledge of the theater arts.
I now realize that every CYT experience I’ve had has been a truly beneficial part of my education and life. CYT has helped me grow in every aspect of my life, physically, mentally, and spiritually. I have made so many wonderful friendships that I am sure will continue, and I would like to give a big thank-you to anyone who has ever talked to me for any length of time at any CYT event; you are all so fantastic and awesome and you are all a part of the change that has been worked in my mind and heart. All this has finally lead to this moment, where (and I would have never dreamed this could happen (or would happen) I find myself performing in the role of Chef Louis in CYT Santa Cruz’s, The Little Mermaid. I am so thankful to continue to be a part of Christian Youth Theater, and hope that it continues to bless and change everyone who comes in contact with it, even those of us who take a while to warm up to it.
*Last names removed to protect identities of minors.
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*NOTE: DEADLINE for the 2016 My CYT Story Competition has passed. All submissions received after this point will be held for the 2017 My CYT Story Competition.
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