Buzz around CCT returning to Mount Helix with ‘Les Miserables’

The below article was recently published in Refreshed Magazine. Tickets are now on sale for ‘Les Miserables’ and can be purchased HERE.

The stage for ‘Les Miserables’ is being built for Mount Helix’s amphitheater.

The stage for ‘Les Miserables’ is being built for Mount Helix’s amphitheater.

Travis Russell was just a kid when his parents, founders of Christian Community Theater, hosted summer musicals under the stars atop Mount Helix’s amphitheater.

“It feels magical,” he said of the outdoor performances.

Long considered a crown jewel of East County, the amphitheater and cross, constructed by the Yawkey family in 1925, was deeded to the county as a public park four years later. At 1,370 feet, the park, which has hosted Easter sunrise services for decades, is known as much for its 360-degree views and its towering 35-foot cross.

“We acquired some footage, old black-and-white, of the cross being constructed,” he said. “It was amazing to see the community coming together and building a space they loved. It made me proud to be able to carry on the tradition of being part of a community.”

But the summer drama tradition was threatened in 2005 when several Mount Helix neighbors sued CCT over noise complaints. Although the theater ministry ultimately won the lawsuit, it spent $90,000 in legal fees.

“Then the same neighbors complained about parking and that increased our cost of buses to the point where it cost us more for buses than putting on the production,” said Travis’ father, Paul Russell who, with his wife Sheryl, launched CCT with a 1980 production of “The Sound of Music” at the amphitheater.

In 2011, after 26 years of presenting as many as three shows a summer, CCT ceased its Mount Helix shows, instead using the USS Midway and the Lincoln Performing Arts Center to present its popular San Diego Follies and the Traditions of Christmas.

On July 17, though, the tradition returns to Mount Helix when CCT presents the popular “Les Miserables.” The show runs through Aug. 2, with dark days on July 21, 22, 28 and 29. The Russells decided to resume the mountaintop show after officials with the Mount Helix Park Foundation invited them back.

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What is CYT? Travis Russell (and a video) explain.

You may have seen the new What is CYT? video circulating around the webiverse recently. It’s an awesome look into the CYT program as a whole and highlights kids from Affiliates around the country having a blast putting on various productions. It sort of makes me wish I was under 18 again.

And while many people had a hand in making the film, I sat down with the guy who ultimately put all the pieces together: Travis Russell, CYT Inc’s Director of Communications.

Travis, break it down for me – technically speaking, why are videos a good idea?

Videos have a much greater impact connecting with people. If you look at the analytics for different mailers, posts, and pages that contain video, its engagement is easily 3-5 times higher than content without video.

A few CYT Affiliates had been asking for quite some time for a short video that would act as a “teaser trailer” to explain what CYT is. With the Spring 2014 shows quickly approaching, the time seemed right so I sifted through hours of footage and selected the best clips.

The video is super rad and I know it took a lot of work from a lot of people. Let’s give credit where credit is due.

Most of the footage came from CYT Lafayette and their amazing videographer John Rabalais from Focus Productions. Some of the footage was from Corrie Cooper from CYT NYC, and CYT San Diego. I did most of the editing which was fairly easy due to the great “CYT Theme Song” written by CYT Inc’s own Renee Kauffman.

I know nothing about making a professional video. Take me through the process.

First, using Final Cut Pro 10, I laid down the music track and marked any key music changes that needed to be on beat. I laid in the clips we selected and then trimmed each transition. The hardest part for me, not being skilled with words, was coming up with concise, explanatory text. Being simple with your text is hard.

Yes, it is. Thank you for acknowledging. Continue.

I previewed the whole video a few times making little tweaks and changes. Once it’s done you have to export it, upload it, and share it with the world. I can only watch it a few times before I go crazy wishing I had more time to make it even better.

Spoken like a true creative.

The hope is to one day be able to curate quality footage from all CYTs so everyone is represented. I hope to make many more videos about CYT so we can really get the message out about why arts education and teamwork are so important.

Thanks for the insights, Travis!

You can watch the video on YouTube, and then head over to CYT Inc’s Facebook to share it with your network of peeps.

Want info about CYT? There’s an app for that.

I have good news and bad news.

Bad news: You’ll be spending even more time on your smart phone. (Wait. Is that bad?)

Good news: You’ll be playing with the MyCYT Mobile app.

Travis Russell (CYT’s Director of Communications and serious tech guru) assisted in its creation, while Joey Amadee was the mastermind (he’s the rockstar who created the software that CYT uses to automate class registrations and ticket sales). These smarty pants have now made it so that at the touch of your fingertip, you’ll find the latest information on all things CYT: classes, camps, shows, and programs.

CYT app

Technology is such a beautiful thing. Download and get info on the MyCYT Mobile app HERE. P.S. It’s free! God bless us everyone.

CYT Wishes You a Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

As we count our blessing for 2010 we want to thank you for your part in bringing CYT to your local communities. You’ve made a difference in the lives of thousands of families across America and now in Canada. We hope you enjoy this Christmas season with family and friends. Have a wonderful time celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, who gave us the gift of life and love!

Paul & Sheryl
Josh, Travis, Jessica

Paul & Sheryl with their grandkids

How To Become A Graphic Designer: Q & A With Travis Russell

Travis Russell is the Communications Director here at CYT National. He sat down (from fear of writing) and answered my questions on how to become a graphic designer.

Great job on the CYT Fashion designs. Can you tell me how your designs were inspired?

They were inspired by how I see kids wanting to wear what they are apart of. And CYT doesn’t have anything but show shirts. I wanted them to be like how bikers wear tattoos, how they wear their jackets…. You associate who you are by what you put on most of the time. Also, it was a good way to raise money for CYT.

In 15 words or less, how does someone become a graphic designer?
You need to learn how to SEE.

Where did you go to school?
I learned everything I know at Grossmont College when I was still in high school. I would take design classes. I also went to NYU for a year, the graduate program, for set and lighting design.

Do you recommend school?
No. This is my honest opinion and I know everyone is going to be mad at me. Colleges are not what they started out as – they used to be a fellowship of people who would come together. That’s how the idea started, and then people found out they could make a lot of money off of people going to school. It wasn’t one “talking head” talking to their students; it was people working on a project. So now we have “the system”. They were able to hold the power. However, since technology came out, you can get the knowledge elsewhere. But nowadays school is a place where kids go to find themselves (whatever that means). I recommend going and doing what you want to do. Anyone can be a graphic designer. There are free Photoshop programs out there. Do it. (Google free Photoshop Apps. Phoenix is pretty good…)

What jobs helped you grow as an artist and really gain experience?
Every job.

Any mishaps or downfalls?
I don’t have any downfalls. I’m perfect.

How do you find inspiration? Does it come to you or do you look for it?
When it comes it comes. Going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is always inspiring.

What if you don’t have $500 dollars to fly across the country?
Then it’s a miserable in between time. Basically. Anyway, I also find inspiration in music. Like when I paint I put on an album- the painting comes out like that album.

What steps must a CYT Kid do to become a Graphic Designer? Any advice?
Learn Photoshop and Illustrator and just make stuff all the time.

What stuff?
Whatever. Try to duplicate a poster you see. The Starsky & Hutch posters- I wanted CYT Posters to look like that. I thought it would be rad if Starksy was Robin Hood, and Hutch was Little John. Try making your own CYT posters. I don’t care what any artist says, nothing is original, nothing in history is. The earth is here and everything is derived from that. Don’t copy, but copy. Be original. If something looks good, figure out why. So, COPY. Originally copy.

Purchase CYT Fashion here.