Our friend, Kevin Cloud

In 2018, CYT EXPO had the amazing privilege of hosting Kevin Cloud as our morning speaker. Good news! He’s still at it and you can invite him to speak at an event near you. You can find more details from him below. We are thankful for your ministry Kevin and we hope you have an incredible speaking agenda in 2020!

My name is Kevin Cloud, I am a pastor and the author of God and Hamilton: Spiritual Themes From the Life of Alexander Hamilton & the Broadway Musical He Inspired. For the last two years I’ve been traveling the country speaking about my book, the power of story, and about the intersection of creativity and faith. I have a passion for communicating about creativity, and would love the opportunity to share with your community. 
I would love to connect and see if any of these topics might be a fit for your community for 2020. You can find more information about me here: www.kevincloud.me

And the Winner is…

Congratulations to Samuel Meyer from CYT North Idaho, for winning the 2019 National My CYT Story Competition! Check out his winning entry below.

I was born almost 1 month early, oxygen deprived, with my umbilical cord wrapped around my neck, weighing a mere 5 pounds. I suffered countless sensory issues my first few years of life. In my early elementary school days I received several years of pretty intense therapy, enabling me to finally ride a bike and walk up the stairs one step at a time! As an adolescent I continued to struggle through life, doing the best I could. I gave swimming a try. It was okay, but eventually I became disinterested in it. I even tried my hand at fencing! Both activities were an alright fit for me, but I still felt like I needed a place to belong. I had a couple of good friends at school, but I found myself mostly alone during recess wandering the playground, not fitting in with the kids playing organized games.

In 2016 I got my first taste of acting when I played the part of Joseph in a shortened version of “The Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat.” I had stumbled upon an undiscovered talent! I realized that I could act and sing! That same year I enrolled in my first CYT class, Core Drama. I was on to something! I continued taking numerous classes and realized my love for theater! I attended nearly every single production, but didn’t feel confident enough to audition for an actual show. Every once in a while I would take a look at the rehearsal schedule and decide that the rigor would be way too overwhelming for me.

While taking Improv in the fall of 2017, I had a number of fellow students and adults comment that I would make a great Mr. Tumnus in the upcoming production, Narnia. It was at that point I decided to take a look at the rehearsal schedule once again. I knew in my heart it was time to take the leap and play my brave card! I did it! I got the part of Tumnus! I will never forget the impact this show and role had on my life. This experience touched me to my very core. I knew my life would never be the same. I had officially caught the acting bug! My next CYT opportunity involved me playing Nicholas in Hercules. I will never forget the standing ovation I received in response to my audition for My Son Pinocchio Jr. As a result I was cast as the one and only Stromboli. In addition to these characters, I also got to be in a 1940’s Rogers & Hammerstein showcase, as well as a member of the CYT North Idaho Improv team! My involvement with CYT has allowed me to be a part of something absolutely amazing that gives kids opportunities that they might not otherwise have. I realized that it is where I belong. I belong to a very special group of people that is encouraging, loving, enthusiastic, and accepting. There really is nothing else like CYT. I will forever be thankful for all that it has to offer and the tremendous and overwhelming ways that it has touched my life. My plan is to continue on until I turn 19 and soak up every single ounce of everything that CYT has to offer!

Hey Ho EXPO – Dinner Time!

When you’ve been in workshops and running around in the hot sun all day you need some good food to fuel up! Well get excited – all of our EXPO dinners are being catered this year! From pizza to tacos, burgers to pasta, (don’t forget endless desserts!) get ready for some delicious all-you-can-eat meals!

Welcome Dinner Menu Wednesday, June 26**

Cupid’s Catering – Italian

Tickets to the Welcome Dinner were purchased ahead of time in addition to your Registration to EXPO. These tickets are no longer available.

  • Garden salad with grape tomatoes, olives, and cucumbers; Ranch and Italian Dressing on the side (GF available)
  • Roma Chicken Breast (GF available)
  • Italian Sausage with peppers and onions (GF available)
  • Penne pasta with marinara (GF available)
  • Red potatoes with rosemary (GF available)
  • Zucchini (GF available)
  • Rolls and butter

**Tickets to the Welcome Dinner are no longer available. These should have been purchased in addition to your Registration.

**This night is NOT all-you-can-eat. However, we will serve until the food runs out!

Dinner Menu Thursday, June 27

Urbn Catering – Pizza, Tacos, and Desserts! All you can eat!

All dinners provided by Urbn Catering cost $10/person and are all you can eat! Wrist bands are your ticket to the meal and will be available for purchase in the lobby once you arrive at EXPO. The $10 covers the cost of ALL of the food items listed below! Grab one of everything!

  • Variety of fresh-from-the-oven pizza slices
  • Salad
  • Grilled pollo asado Tacos
  • Carne asada Tacos
  • Nachos
  • Toppings bar
  • Cannolis and cookies
  • Mint infused water, aqua fresca, lemonade

Dinner Menu Friday, June 28

Urbn Catering – Pizza, Burgers, Hot Dogs and Desserts! All you can eat!

All dinners provided by Urbn Catering cost $10/person and are all you can eat! Wrist bands are your ticket to the meal and will be available for purchase in the lobby once you arrive at EXPO. The $10 covers the cost of ALL of the food items listed below! Grab one of everything!

  • Variety of fresh-from-the-oven pizza slices
  • Salad
  • Hot Dogs
  • Smash Burgers – all beef, never frozen!
  • Cheese burgers, carmelized onions, Urbn catering special sauce
  • Chips
  • Cannolis and cookies
  • Mint infused water, aqua fresca, lemonade

Dinner Menu Saturday, June 29

Urbn Catering – Pizza, Sliders and Desserts! All you can eat!

All dinners provided by Urbn Catering cost $10/person and are all you can eat! Wrist bands are your ticket to the meal and will be available for purchase in the lobby once you arrive at EXPO. The $10 covers the cost of ALL of the food items listed below! Grab one of everything!

  • Variety of fresh-from-the-oven pizza slices
  • Salad
  • All beef meatball sliders
  • BBQ pulled pork sliders
  • Vegetarian sliders
  • Chips
  • Cannolis and cookies
  • Mint infused water, aqua fresca, lemonade


HYPE (High School Youth Pursuing Excellence) is the youth leadership group at CYT designed to give high school students opportunities for service, mentorship, and leadership. At EXPO, HYPE students receive additional training, collaborate with other HYPE members from across the country, and grab on to the national vision which they implement in their home Branch. But what do the HYPE students actually do during their workshops at EXPO? Check out the schedule below and get HYPED for HYPE at EXPO!


5:00pm-6:00pm – Student Mixer, hosted by HYPE

Come hang out with Students from across the nation at this mixer hosted by HYPE!

9:45pm-11:00pm – Out of This World Dance Party!

The dress up theme is “Spaced Out”! Think anything related to outer space – Avengers, Star Wars, NASA shirts, metallic everything, space buns, moon boots, etc. Prizes will be awarded for best outfits!


1:30pm-2:00pm – Rocket Launch: HYPE goes to EXPO

Rocket Launch your HYPE team as we reconnect as a nation and gear up for an EXPO that is out of this world.

2:00pm-2:40pm – Get into Orbit

Don’t be a planet off in space by yourself! Understand your role in the solar system of HYPE and get the training you need to get into orbit.

2:45pm-4:30pm – Escape: A Black Hole Experiment

Jump into this Escape Room experience as we collaborate and problem solve in teams.


10:45am-11:45am – Breakouts!

  • Worshipping the God of the Galaxies: Leading Others in Song and Devotion
    • You have the heart to lead your CYT in worship, but what’s next? Join a CYT worship leader and grow in your planning, execution, and technique in leading God’s people in song and study.
  • Defying Gravity: Releasing the Hold of Cliques
    • Cliques happen. How can HYPE be a tool release the hold of cliques in our CYT’s?  Come be a part of the conversation.
  • Navigating the Space Debris of Conflict Resolution
    • Ever struggle with a hard conversation or difficult relationship? Learn how to approach conflict resolution through the lens of a leader.
  • Sun, Moon, or Stars: Becoming the Confident Leader that Helps Others Shine
    • Are you engaging your fellow HYPE members in a way that makes them shine? Evaluate your leadership style and grow in methods that will elevate everyone on your team.

1:30pm-2:00pm – Star Power: A Q&A with AJC

An out of this world, HYPE only, exclusive Q & A with Amanda Jane Cooper!

2:00pm-3:00pm – Cosmic Crisis

Tyler Hutchinson is here to share how God has brought him through personal tragedy and hardship and has provided him with a platform to demonstrate God’s love and plan. Be encouraged and join the conversation as Tyler discusses the role of Social Media in his journey.

3:00pm-4:15pm – A Stronger Force

Round out your EXPO journey in this session as we focus on the values and principles that will make your HYPE an unstoppable force at CYT this coming year.

Interview with Amanda Jane Cooper, our 2019 EXPO Keynote Speaker!

This year, Amanda Jane Cooper will grace the EXPO stage as our Keynote Speaker! Amanda grew up just outside Philadelphia in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. She holds a BFA in Acting/Musical Theatre from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. On July 31st, 2017 she made her Broadway debut starring as Glinda in WICKED. Almost a year and half later, starring as the show’s 15th Anniversary Glinda, she opened NBC’s A Very Wicked Halloween  with “One Short Day” and closed the special with “For Good” alongside Kristin Chenoweth. Taking her final bow at the Gershwin on December 9th, 2018 exactly three years after making her re-debut on tour, she is now one of WICKED’s longest running Glinda’s!

Recently we had the opportunity to interview Amanda to get to know her a little better before EXPO. Read on to learn all about this year’s speaker!

Why are you a performer?
I think there’s such great joy and power in storytelling. It brings me to life when I do it, and when I see how much it does the same for those watching (especially in a story like WICKED), it’s just…it’s a gift. I also love creating like that with a team of unique individuals, coming together to create something beautiful. 

What’s something on your bucket list?
I WANT TO BE IN A HALLMARK/NETLFLIX CHRISTMAS MOVIE. ALL CAPS. Haha, really it’s a dream of mine. I’d also love to see more of the world, create stories across all mediums, and serve in parts of NYC that I haven’t yet.

Photo by JustinPattersonPhotos

What’s something that makes you unique?
I have kooky curly blonde hair that has a mind of its own each day. And personality-wise, hmm, I have a tendency to get into conversations with strangers on the daily, whether it’s on the subway, sidewalk, in a cab – it’s exciting to watch how God works in those moments. I’m reminded that He is constantly pursuing our hearts no matter where we are.

How did you get involved in theater?
I was a really shy kid (like sooo shy!), but auditioned for the 5th grade musical at my public elementary school in Pennsylvania. I got the role of Steamboat Sal (thanks to music teacher Mrs. Messner!) and wore a fancy red dress with feathers in my hair while belting out a jazzy tune – from then on, I was hooked! I’d perform in every musical and play my school offered through middle and high school, and then ended up at Carnegie Mellon University with a BFA in Musical Theatre and Acting.

What is your dream role?
Praise God, I just finished playing one of them! Glinda in WICKED. I’d seen the original cast twice in NYC as a teenager and the seed of that dream was planted. I am deeply honored to have played her for close to 4 years of my life, first when I was 22 and then again 5 years later. To get to represent the show as the 15th Anniversary Glinda on Broadway was a dream come true that I didn’t even know I had! It came full circle when I got to perform with original Glinda Kristin Chenoweth and original Elphaba Idina Menzel on NBC for the anniversary special. Pinch me! As for the future, I hope to originate roles on stage and screen. I’d also love to play Little Red Ridinghood (Into the Woods) in a professional production, and Charlotte in The Princess and the Frog if that’s ever adapted for the stage.

If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?
Oo la la, Paris please! 

“Wicked” National Tour
Photos by Joan Marcus

What’s the craziest mishap you’ve experienced on stage?
One time as I was descending the Kiamo Ko steps, which are very steep stairs stage right, in my 20 pound bubble dress in one of the final scenes as Glinda, I completely went up on my lines. The only other character on stage at that point is Elphaba who at the time was played by the legendary Jessica Vosk. There was nothing she could do to help me. It’s supposed to be a super urgent entrance but I stood on the steps stuttering for what felt like forever trying to come up with something, ANYTHING to say. I finally blurted out, “they’re just shoes!” (phew) and the show went on. In reality it was probably a 7 second pause, but it sure felt never-ending. #livetheatre 

If you weren’t performing what would you do?
I really enjoy creating experiences of joy and hope for people, so perhaps something in event or wedding or nonprofit or gala coordinating. I love endeavoring to bring a little bit of heaven to earth in whatever I’m doing. I also love audition and acting/singing coaching – it brings me so much joy when I see students gaining confidence and skills! And finding their own unique expression in a piece.

What has been your most memorable audition?
My Jessie audition for Disney. I was filming a Hallmark movie up in Simi Valley, CA when I got the call for the appointment but since I was on set, I couldn’t make it. I called a friend who helped me whip together the fastest self-tape I’ve ever made. I had to film it ASAP so I printed the sides, made a bold ridiculous character choice for a Broadway diva named Susan Channing, threw on my sunglasses and decided to say theatre like “thea-truh”. It was such a fun whirlwind and I ended up getting the job. A good lesson in getting out of my own way and listening to my acting instincts, especially the playful ones!

Triple Threat | Photo by ALN Images

Do you have any pre-show traditions?
Yes! The first thing I do when I get to a theatre is my makeup. I sip on hot water (not tea) and then have physical and vocal warmups that take around 15/20 minutes. I usually listen to some kind of music, most times it’s worship to get my mind and soul aligned to what’s most important. Then I connect with as many people as I can (sometimes there are even pre-show dance parties in dressing rooms). The last thing I do before I enter onstage is pray for the audience and the cast and crew. I recite scripture to myself and thank God, then away we go!

What do you do when you get nervous?
Pray and breathe. Give it to God. 

We can’t wait for Amanda to speak at EXPO! Not only is she our speaker, but she will also be doing a Student Workshop. You won’t want to miss it!

Haven’t registered yet? Don’t worry, it’s not too late. You can still sign up at cyt.org/expo!

Meet the 2019 EXPO Track Directors!

Whether you’re on the Improv Track, the HYPE Track, or the Student Track for this year’s EXPO, you’re going to love our Track Directors! Read on to meet the incredible people behind your EXPO activities!

Meet the Improv Track Director, Riley Taylor.

Riley is an elementary teacher in Kansas City. He has been involved in CYT for two decades. His prior roles include Improvathon Director, CYT Kansas City Improv coach, and Unnamed Townsperson in Little House on the Prairie. Even if you’re not participating in the Improv Track, you’ll get to see him in action as the host for the 2019 Improvathon Finals on Friday, June 29th of EXPO! We’ll be streaming the event live on our social media. More details to come!

Meet the HYPE Track Director, Lydia Kinne

Lydia Kinne is a 5th grade teacher by day and National HYPE Director by night. She was involved with CYT Spokane for eleven years, starting as a student, and continuing on as a teacher, camp director, and HYPE advisor. She has been developing the national HYPE program for the last several years, and loves getting to know student leaders around the country – especially at the National Expo every year! Lydia is passionate about student leadership, and loves helping to grow the impact of CYT and HYPE throughout the nation.

Meet the Student Track Director, Hannah Taraschke

Hannah Taraschke is a Virginia based theatre director and performer, specializing in musical theatre and improvisational acting. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Theatre from Franciscan University, where she fell in love with directing and fell even more in love with the Lord’s presence in her life. Hannah was a student with CYT Fredericksburg for 7 years and after she aged out she began working for CYT as a stage manager, class teacher, camp counselor, improv coach, and director. She has a background in childhood education/development, working for many schools, churches, and children’s programs. During her time in school, Hannah directed and choreographed several musicals and wrote her Senior Thesis on the benefits of Drama Therapy for children. She is CYT’s biggest fan and has attended EXPO three times since 2015. Hannah has a huge heart for young people and is pursuing a career in drama therapy for children and adolescents. She plans to continue directing, teaching, and performing all while striving to share the love and joy of Christ in every aspect of her life and career.

Stay tuned for more blog posts highlighting activities for each track! You won’t want to miss the sneak-peak into the “out of this world” events happening this year at EXPO!

Haven’t registered yet? Don’t worry, there’s still time! Head to cyt.org/expo and sign up today!