We Are CYT: Family Across the Nation

In late August, on the same weekend as auditions for their fall show, CYT Houston families evacuated their homes when Hurricane Harvey flooded their city. Their homes were damaged, possessions lost, and lives were changed. But during their time of need, families from CYT Baton Rouge, LafayetteFront Range, New York City, Waco, and Chicago all mailed letters, made donations, and sent gift cards to CYT Houston to help. 

Less than two months later, the families are back in their homes but things have still not completely returned to normal. However, the students are back at classes and rehearsals, and the CYT Houston families are working hard to put on one of their fall shows, Shrek the Musical Jr.But they’re not doing it alone. Shrek is coming together with a little help from their neighbor, CYT Lafayette!

This weekend, on October 8, CYT Lafayette closed their own production of Shrek the Musical Jr.! Instead of tearing down the set or putting it into storage, it’s getting put to good use and sent over to CYT Houston for their production! Check out what Gerald B., the CYT Lafayette Executive Director, has to share!

“First of all it was a real privilege to have Houston visit our show and are honored that we could give back to the CYT affiliate that was the inspiration to start CYT Lafayette 9 years ago!

Many people know how devastating the flood was in Louisiana last year and how hard it was on our families and the community. The support we received from the CYT affiliates was over whelming so it was an easy decision to jump in and help. Their dads have had little time to focus on CYT with so many people needing help with their homes. It’s the least we could do to help support them.

Two Houston Dads (Ari and Richard) drove to Lafayette with the truck and arrived in Lafayette around 2:30. They got to watch the show then started load out with our dads around 5:30. The sets were a little two large for the truck so they spent an hour or so making as much fit as possible. We wrapped up around 8pm and sent them on their way. The staff also agreed to help with expenses for their trip so we included a gift card for $450.

Praying they have a great show! Blessings from Lafayette!

We are CYT!”

CYT Fredericksburg Hits a Home Run!

Hey guys, check this out! CYT Fredericksburg’s Marketing and Publicity Director Allison Mayberry shared this awesome news with us and we couldn’t keep it to ourselves!

fred 2

“CYT Fredericksburg, along with our Season Sponsor, SimVentions, brought over 300 people to the Richmond Flying Squirrels baseball game 2 weeks ago and got to sing ‘God Bless America’ during the 7th inning. Not only was it a great night of fellowship, hot dogs, peanuts, fireworks and baseball, but CYT raised $1000.00 from selling the baseball tickets! WAY TO GO!” – Allison MayberryFredCongratulations, CYT Fred! Keep up the good work, we can’t wait to see what you do next!

My CYT Story 2015 Finalist: Nina Noelle Russell, CYT Sacramento

Do you ever wonder if the spotlight you find yourself in can highlight something bigger and brighter?

My name is Nina Noelle Russell, from CYT Sacramento, and this is MY CYT Story.


Nina as “Atina” in CYT Sacramento’s 2015 spring production of The Little Mermaid

Before finding CYT, I was searching for a part of myself that I wasn’t even aware that I was venturing to discover. After my first class, I realized that I couldn’t live to the fullest of my potential without being here. I had never found such a family-like environment in which I was comforted and supported. I realized that even if I were to attempt to remove this part of me, I couldn’t imagine leaving it behind. Before I started CYT, I believed that theater just meant having the spotlight on you; that being the center of attention was the only way to thrive in a theatrical atmosphere. After becoming a part of this family, I realized it’s so much more than that.

It’s impossible to realize by simply sitting in the audience, exactly what goes into a performance: the countless hours memorizing lines, training your voice to hit the high note perfectly, and practicing over and over again until everything is absolutely flawless. Being an observer in the crowd, you can’t really comprehend how the cast associate with each other when they aren’t displaying the persona of another character. When you’re directly involved, you are exposed to every element of the family-like setting that is CYT. It’s a beautiful thing in itself, being able to go to the individuals who play so many different personalities and characters on stage, and being able to know them for who they truly are. It’s astonishing to know that despite the immense task of transforming from one character to the next, my own personality can continue to be molded into that of which it was meant to be.

Every time I step out onto that stage, I have the opportunity to use my God given talents and passion to portray a soul, a portion of another’s story. I am not displaying myself, but making an effort to exalt him through everything I do. CYT has taught me that it doesn’t matter what part you play, because at the end of the day, we’re all performing for the same purpose, to glorify God. Throughout everything, we are all rooted in Him and growing along the way. There is no other group of affectionate, tender hearts that have made me feel so accepted for who I am, all while making me confident in the young lady that I am in Christ. The atmosphere at CYT embraced me the moment I walked through the door. The optimistic and lively expressions portrayed on the faces of those who belong to part of the CYT society, illustrate their passion to pursue both their love of the theatre and their relationships with the Lord. The reason we all are drawn so closely together is that strive to be the best we can be. We are all woven tightly together and have created bonds not only with one another but with our Savior as well. We are CYT, a family rooted in Christ dependent on not only Him, but on each other.

*This story was selected as a National finalist in the 2015 My CYT Story competition.

Why we do it…

CYT Founders, Paul & Sheryl Russell, recently received the following letter from a CYT parent, Amy Kennard, who watched her daughter, Kylie, perform in a CYT San Diego production of Godspell. It is reprinted here (along with personal pictures ) with her permission. Enjoy!


Godspell, 2015

Hello Russell Clan!
I didn’t get a chance to say hi to either of you (Paul and Janie) at the show earlier today but once again felt like I had to write!  I hope you enjoyed it.  I know it’s been quite the experience for Kylie…and for me!  In the midst of all the songs, scenes, and dance numbers I’ve ever watched my daughter perform in…none has compared to watching her face in the scene where Jesus died.  In three seconds my hugest prayer as a parent was answered…because I didn’t see her acting.  I saw her reacting as any of us would were we put in a situation to watch our Savior suffer.  She understood what He did for her!  Although I had not seen any of the rehearsals, she had come home from the night they blocked that scene telling me how sad she felt.  How cool to get to experience that place in your heart on stage…and what a confirmation for a mom to see her daughter “get it”!
Kylie in Godspell.

Kylie in Godspell.

So I write to say thank you…

thank you for creating a theater group that does shows like Godspell.
thank you for creating a theater group with other believers doing shows like Godspell that my daughter gets to fellowship with.
thanks for giving my girl the chance to be a part of telling the greatest story ever told…the chance to be on stage doing what she loves while being a light to the world!
Cast of Godspell

Cast of Godspell

I know it may not be a financial winner for CYT, but like I told Angela and Wendy…I so applaud you for choosing it!
Thankful once again!
You’re welcome, Amy. It is truly our pleasure. 


EXPO 2015 Registration is here!

EXPO 2015 Registration is here! Hop on over to our EXPO homepage and register today before you’re too late! While you are there make sure you check out our EXPO Guidebook for all your EXPO needs!

We have an incredible week lined up with amazing guest speakers, workshops, Improv competition, and more!

Students: Ever wondered how to figure out your acting “type”? Want to learn about how to become an equity actor? Well, come to EXPO and find out!

Leadership: Ready to learn about how to become an engaged board member? Want to get some incredible fundraising ideas? How about learning how to communicate casting to your families? Learn all these things and more at the 2015 EXPO!

While you are there don’t forget to register for our special event, held at the hotel just hours before EXPO begins! Spots are already filling up! Don’t miss out on the opportunity to learn from these incredible instructors.


James Eckhouse

James Eckhouse

Sign up today for this limited availability master class taught by long-term Actor/Educator, James Eckhouse and Playwright/Director/Actor, Keliher Walsh. During this 2 hour Master Acting Class for students ages 15-21, you’ll receive dedicated attention to help hone your craft with the guidance of professionals. This unique Acting Master Class will be held at the San Diego Resort and Spa Hotel immediately before the EXPO begins. Only 30 spots available!

WHO: Open to anyone ages 15 – 21 (do not need to be registered for EXPO)
WHEN: Sunday, June 21st 3pm – 5pm
WHERE: San Diego Resort & Spa
RESTRICTIONS: Only 30 spots available!

60s Gala at CYT Portland

Special thanks to Theresa Van Wetten, Managing Director of CYT Portland, for this story:


Our groovy CYT Founders, Paul & Sheryl Russell (on the right), attend the 60s gala at CYT Portland

Once again CYT Portland hit it out of the park with their 2nd Annual Winter Gala raising $40K! This year’s theme: “CYTV Presents a Tribute to 60’s Television” took guests back to some of their favorite childhood memories. Batman welcomed each patron as they walked through the giant television into the entrance of the venue where beatniks, go-go girls, and various stars from television past mingled with the crowd.

CYT_Portland_Groovy_At the entrance 2015

Holy Guacamole, Batman! It’s the founders of CYT!

As the evening unfolded, The Ed Sullivan Show brought to life superstars like “The Paulettes,” and  Nancy Sinatra, who sang, “These Boots are Made For Walkin'”. The Beatnik Dancers took center stage movin’ and groovin’  to “That Thing You Do” and ” You Can’t Stop the Beat”.

CYTV at CYT Portland's 2015 gala.

CYTV at CYT Portland’s 2015 gala.

As the channels changed, Vex Luther and the evil Turjerkastans threatened atomic bombs and total destruction, luckily, Get Smart‘s Agent 99 saved the entire audience from utter annihilation! In the end Paul and Sheryl Russell spoke eloquently on the foundations of CYT and how it benefits the kids in Portland.

CYT Portland's Winter Gala cast.

CYT Portland’s Winter Gala cast.

The evening wrapped up as Paul led the cast, crew, and audience in singing Bert Bacharach’s “What the World Needs Now.” By the evening’s end, everyone was on their feet dancing that famous 60’s dance craze, “The Twist” .

Twisting the night away at CYT Portland.

Twisting the night away at CYT Portland.

All in all, the evening was a complete success! Check out all the pics on CYT Portland’s Facebook Page and stay tuned for next year’s theme…”

Groovy! Thanks for keeping the peace, love, & CYT joy alive in Portland!

CYT Alumni Spotlight: Jenn Lindsay

With shows, rehearsals, classes, Improv trips, etc. it often seems we don’t go more than a few hours without seeing our CYT family. However, eventually, those familiar theatre faces graduate and move on to the rest of their lives. We always hope & pray that they take the lessons & spirit from their time at CYT with them into the world. Recently, we checked in with CYT San Diego (East County) Alum, Jenn Lindsay, to see what she’s been up to. Please enjoy her most recent bio:

CYT Alum, Jenn Lindsay (CYT Student: 1985-1990)

CYT Alum, Jenn Lindsay (CYT Student: 1985-1990)

Jenn Lindsay is an American anthropologist of religion, documentary filmmaker, journalist, and anti-folk singer/songwriter currently based in Rome, Italy. Her music blends elements of folk music, indie rock, and protest songs. She is the founder of No Evil Star Records, an independent social action record label, and through it she has released ten studio albums. She produced 6 documentary films and screened them at various international conferences and festivals. She has a bachelor’s degree in playwriting from Stanford University and attended the arts management graduate program at Yale School of Drama. She attended the acting program at the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts in 2000. She studied Interfaith Relations and Ecumenics at Union Theological Seminary of Columbia University in New York City, graduating with a Master of Divinity in 2011. She is presently a PhD candidate at Boston University in the Gradate Division of Religious Studies.

Regarding her time with CYT, Jenn says:

I’m sure that my participation in CYT planted many seeds that have continued to feed my professional momentum–the joy of art and theater, the drive to contribute to a community effort with my utmost efforts and cheer, and comfort in front of audiences of any size. CYT participation honed my energies and helped me learn about discipline and friendship.

Thanks for the update, Jenn! No doubt your star will continue to rise & brightly shine!

Heads up, CYT Alums! CYT will be introducing The National Alumni Association at our upcoming EXPO in San Diego as we celebrate 35 years of CYT history! Please, contact Sheryl Russell at srussell@cyt.org if you want to be a part of the national committee.