Congratulations to Mickey Smith Jr. and Board member for CYT Lake Charles for winning this incredible award!
Charnette is currently starring as Angelica Schuyler in Hamilton, and they recently performed at the Boston Opera House. We couldn’t be more excited for her!
Congratulations! What is it like playing Angelica in HAMILTON?
It’s a dream come true to be in this show and have the opportunity and honor to play not one but all three Schuyler sisters. It is so incredible. I am the cover for all three sisters! So I play four roles in Hamilton.
What steps did you have to take to get the role? What did you do when you found out you got it!?
I auditioned about seven times over about eighteen months. When I found out I got the role and was going to be in Hamilton I was very emotional. I felt overwhelmed with gratitude and excitement. I called my mom, of course, and then I had a dance party in my apartment in New York with my dog, Fitzgerald.
When did you start performing? What was your first show?
I began performing when I was six. My first CYT show was Annie with San Diego Central in 1999. I played an orphan and it’s still one of my favorite shows!
I didn’t have lines, or a solo or even a name, but being in the show was everything I dreamed of! Thanks to a director and a choreographer who believed in me, I learned to tap. I also discovered how beautiful the theatre community was and how much I wanted to be a part of it forever. It changed my life! The orphanage is where it all began for me. Now I’m in Hamilton, at the end of the show we sing about the orphanage that Eliza Hamilton establishes in Alexander Hamilton’s memory. “The orphanage”. It seems so full circle and and I’m filled with emotion and love as I sing the final lines of the show. What incredible memories of my very first musical at CYT. Always and forever in my heart!
A favorite CYT memory?
My favorite CYT memory was doing the STRIKE show at the end of a show. I loved getting on stage and joking and laughing about all of the fun we had.
What was your favorite CYT class and why?
My favorite CYT class was Audition ABC’s. I learned so much from that class about how to be prepared for my auditions. I learned what a monologue was, how to be confident, how to pick the right song, and the importance of being yourself in an audition. They’re all skills and tools that I still use to this day!
CYT is so special to me. It was when I was in CYT shows that I first learned that I loved to be on stage. I also met some of my dearest friends at CYT. CYT teachers and directors helped me to believe in myself and encouraged me to give my all no matter what role I was playing. I learned in CYT that there are no small roles and everyone is important to telling the story.
What was the most nerve-racking audition you have done and how did you get through it?
I was extremely nervous for my final callback for Hamilton. I decided that I was not auditioning for them but instead I was going to do it for me. I took a deep breath and reminded myself that I was enough and I did not need to put pressure on myself to be perfect. It was out of my hands and I had a great audition because I eliminated the pressure to be perfect.
If you have ever felt frozen on stage or forgotten a line, how did you keep going?
I haven’t felt frozen on stage but I did forget a line once in college when I was doing a show called HAIR. It was really embarrassing. I just picked up where I could and tried to get through it. After the show, I reviewed my lines and made sure I had it down. It’s live theatre though, and we all make mistakes. The important thing is to be able to laugh at yourself and let it go. It’s just a show and it’s not the end of the world if you make mistake. I promise!
Who would you thank right now for helping you chase your dream and never give up?
I would thank my mom! My mom wasn’t a performer, but she has inspired me constantly to follow my heart, to chase my dream and to believe that I am enough. Her strength inspired me as I auditioned and sometimes heard “no”. Knowing that she was there for me and believed I would make it… I am so thankful for her.
Who inspires you?
I have always admired other actors of color who break racial stereotypes when it comes to casting like Audra McDonald, Cynthia Erivo and… me! Being in a show where the characters are historically white and being able to step into their shoes and celebrate my skin color means so much to me. I love that we are embracing diversity here. I look up to actors, directors and creative teams who celebrate and include diversity.
What has been the best advice you have gotten through the musical theater process? What advice would you give us?
The best advice I have received is to give it your all and be the best that you can be. At the end of the day you have to believe in yourself and trust that you are enough. You would be amazed what you can accomplish when you eliminate self-limiting beliefs and start to love and believe in yourself. Yes, it takes practice, and it is not always easy to chase your dreams, but when you love it, it’s worth it!
We absolutely cannot wait to hear from our 2018 EXPO morning speaker, Kevin Cloud, author of God and Hamilton! And guess what? His book releases TODAY for pre-orders! Not only that, but Kevin has a special bonus just for our CYT family. Check it out!!
Dear Christian Youth Theater Family,
Greetings! My name is Kevin Cloud, author of God and Hamilton: Spiritual Themes From the Life of Alexander Hamilton & the Broadway Musical He Inspired. I am so excited to be joining you in San Diego for the CYT Expo this June as the morning devotional speaker!
I can’t wait to get to know some of you and share some thoughts from my book, which identifies spiritual truths from the smash Broadway hit, Hamilton, that will transform our lives.
I wanted to let you know that my book, God and Hamilton, has just been made available for pre-order on amazon.com. I am offering some exciting bonus give-aways for anyone who pre-orders the book.
- 30-Day God and Hamilton Devotional Guide E-Book
- Exclusive Podcast Interview with Hamilton cast member Lauren Boyd
- Free download of God and Hamilton Companion Song “The Soul Ascending Into Bliss” (words by Alexander Hamilton, Music by John McKenna)
I hope some of you pick up the book. Get the book here. Can’t wait for the Expo!
– Kevin Cloud
ps. To claim the bonus materials, simply email your amazon receipt to email@example.com.
CYT is a family event, but sometimes it’s hard for the whole family to get involved. CYT Dad Ed R. from Sacramento shares some of the struggles of being a working parent who’s family is involved in CYT. Through the ups and downs, Ed knows it’s worth every second!
What is this thing? My wife is a CYT Mom, and I’m feeling… alone.
CYT is so much fun for the kids, they don’t even know all the valuable lessons they’re learning. They learn about fun and respect. The kids greet each other and are kind to each other, as well as to the adults – Where did that come from? Plus, they learn to memorize scripture and memorize lines. By supporting each other, they develop this wonderful confidence and comfort in their faith and in themselves.
Oh wait, it’s not just about the fun. Somehow CYT motivates these young people to try out and work hard on a variety of shows. We are on our 8th play. The kids amaze me! I’ve had the opportunity to follow a script as they rehearse; the accuracy is uncanny. The funny thing is that it doesn’t matter in CYT what part you have. The kids are just so excited to be there, it takes on a life of its own.
There is that small commitment of time CYT asks of one parent from each family. They help build amazing sets, make costumes, keep control in the greenroom, serve food, work in marketing, sell tickets, work in tech and party planning — and so many other things I don’t know about. I can’t even imagine the time that people like Wendy put in to run this whole thing. What an amazing crowd, and the Christian values CYT promotes appear to run through the full list of adult volunteers as well. I sometime stop in during tear-downs/set ups and I’m always greeted warmly and offered the opportunity to help. It’s nice that they include this lonely CYT Dad.
I’m a CYT Dad who often works odd hours, so my dear wife has taken on the challenge of helping at CYT. She starts prepping before casting, then goes to pre-meetings, then after casting day the real fun starts. Many occasions we’ve had piles of costumes throughout our home. I’ll admit to even doing a little sewing – just so I can spend time with my wife! The CYT excitement and energy pulses through our house and out the door a few days a week. My daughter is off to classes or practices, and my wife is doing something or other. Then tech week starts. I hug them in the morning before Super Saturday, because I don’t know when I’ll see them again! I’ve been told “If you need to travel, tech week is a good time because we won’t see you anyway.” These are lonely days for this CYT Dad.
Is it worth it? Of course it is. My daughter has more confidence. She’s often asked to act, perform or sing in front of her school or church. She has more friends than I can count. She loves God and isn’t afraid to say so or to pray in public when we eat out. My wife loves helping out, even if she does pull her hair out at times. This current show I’m going to try and help out more. I like promoting this honorable cause AND I like seeing my family. I won’t be the lonely CYT Dad anymore!
Want to share how CYT is impacting your life? Submit your story to the blog!
After 38 years, Christian Youth Theater (CYT) is pleased to announce that Janie Russell Cox is moving into the role of President of CYT Inc. headquartered in San Diego. Effective April 1st, Cox will be succeeding her father, Paul Russell, as President of CYT Inc. CYT has experienced steady growth and expansion over the last several years and is now serving over 20,000 students annually in 28 cities across America. What started in 1980 by Paul and Sheryl Russell as a small community theater has now grown into the largest children’s theater organization in the nation. In 2017 alone, CYT produced 111 shows attended by 250,000 patrons across America. Cox is eager to step into her new role where she can give her talents and time to support CYT globally.
In addition to the traditional after-school theater arts curriculum, CYT serves public and private schools in over 40 locations nationally through its CYT@school program. The organization is also ready to expand into churches who want to bring the arts into their Children’s education programs. Cox knows the market is primed and hungry for what CYT provides: “We do so much more than just put on shows; we witness kids gain confidence, develop leadership skills, and learn valuable character lessons. These students also get support and guidance from talented artists and teachers who know that theater will positively impact their lives.”
The huge benefits that the arts can bring to a community are now fully documented with over 25 years of empirical research. “It is critical to keep arts education thriving in our communities. Developing character traits that will last a lifetime for these children is so important,” added Cox. CYT has seen many of its alumni go on to make a positive difference in their communities by winning Teacher of the Year awards, receiving Tony and Academy Award nominations, creating humanitarian non-profits, and winning medical research awards from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
“CYT uses the arts to teach kids about strong work ethic, humility, kindness, trust, and ultimately loving God and loving others. CYT must expand in order to impact as many families as possible,” stated Cox. “For years, we’ve seen theater change the direction of kids’ lives and we have the data and evidence to prove it. We will impact the next generation through the use of theater arts.”
Paul Russell will continue to be the CEO of CYT Inc. and is eager to work with his daughter to expand CYT. “There are so many opportunities ahead and we are thrilled that Janie will be giving her full-time attention towards reaching more families through the performing arts,” said Russell. “The world is changed through a good story and we want the next generation to be the best storytellers of all.”
With this announcement, CYT San Diego is actively looking for a qualified Artistic Director for San Diego’s six areas, a role previously held by Cox.
Interested applicants should review the job posting at www.cytsandiego.org/cyt-job-opportunities/ and forward their resume and cover letter to CYT San Diego Managing Director, Laura Bertagnolli, at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I had just finished my first CYT show with my first CYT session. I had found my family. You can imagine how bad my post-show depression was. But next thing I know, I’m in a friend from CYT’s kitchen hearing about this incredible thing called Expo. And what do I want? I want to go. So I head to the church summer camp I had already signed up for, thinking, “Next year.” It was pretty obvious I was completely late to go on this very expensive trip.
That Thursday, I receive a sort of telegram from my mom during cabin discussion time and it reads “Not an emergency.” Of course, when my leader handed it to me, the only word she noticed was emergency and she freaked out a little. (That was kind of a funny moment.) But I have no other information besides the three words! So of course I’m completely confused. After lunch, I head to the post office and exchange some cash for quarters and find the payphone. I insert the coins and dial, eyes wandering as the phone rings, wondering what it could possibly be. Finally my mom picks up the phone. We said our hellos and I explained the funny telegram story then demanded the news. I was going to Expo. After my affiliate’s HYPE members and staff put in a lot of hard work and generosity, I was going! (Again, thank you!) And of course, cue the laughter from surprise.
The rest of the day I was smiling and excited. And then there I was, soaking up the CYT experience at Expo. Complaining about the humidity, playing the floor is lava, laughing and cheering like crazy during improv, staying up late singing to the Newsies, singing praises to our amazing God who is the reason we have CYT, annoying the engineers, you know, the Expo experience. And it obviously hasn’t ended there. I’ve joined HYPE and I’m so excited to be on the HYPE track this Expo. I can’t wait to see what else God has in store for me with CYT. Thank you all for this incredible community and amazing opportunities!
Want to submit your story to the 2018 My CYT Story Competition? Deadline is April 1.
DISCLAIMER: Though all complete stories submitted will be forwarded to their respective area’s leadership for judging as part of the 2018 My CYT Story Competition, not all stories will be published on this blog. Likewise, having your story published on the blog does not guarantee that your story has been selected as a Regional Winner.