Paul & Sheryl Russell, both teachers at Christian High, began a community theater in the family garage. It was the summer of 1980 and the show was The Sound of Music. The purpose was to provide a vehicle for talented amateur performers from San Diego's local churches. All performances were held atop beautiful Mt. Helix in La Mesa. The sets were made from cardboard and the lighting was mounted on sawhorses which created scary shadows on the faces of the actors. But the audience enjoyed it anyway wanting more so an annual tradition began.
One year later, in 1981, the parents of this newly found organization Christian Community Theater (CCT) asked Paul and Sheryl to start an after-school theater arts program for their children. Paul and Sheryl with two small children and one on the way birthed another child, Christian Youth Theater (CYT). It began with 24 students producing the show; You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown.
CYT continued to grow in San Diego County, as parents wanted CYT closer to their neighborhood. Programs opened in Escondido in1986 and South County in 1987. Other areas soon followed and now CYT is located in 9 areas around San Diego and Temecula Valley with an annual participation of 4,000 students who take classes, participate in shows and attend summer theater camps.
Families from San Diego moved to Chicago, Illinois and Spokane, Washington. Their desire to have CYT in their community motivated them to work towards having CYT in their cities and thus the birth of CYT-USA took place in the Fall of 1997.
CYT-USA has now grown to be the largest children’s theater organization in America with branches in 13 states and 31 programs.
Annually CYT-USA trains more than 10,000 young people ages 4-18.
After initially visiting several Christian Youth Theater affiliates across the country, Linda McGinness, CYT Wichita's Artistic Director, gathered a Steering Committee together in January 2009 to explore the possibility of bringing CYT to Wichita, Kansas. In hope of generating interest in a Christian Theater group, a postcard invitation was distributed to area churches to attend an informational meeting. With the support of a team from Kansas City CYT, and to our delight, the building filled with over 200 interested people. Thus, the Steering Committee incorporated Christian Youth Theater Wichita as a 501(c)(3) in April 2009. CYT Wichita opened the summer of 2009 with 2 Broadway Kids Summer Camps; a June camp served 100 campers and the July camp reached capacity a month prior to camp with 130 campers! We were on our way!
Our first production in the fall of 2009, Robin Hood: The Musical, was cast with 36 students out of the 72 students registered for classes. In the winter, 110 students registered for classes and we had a cast of 42 who performed You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown. In the Spring of 2010 we exploded with over 175 students enrolled in class, and after auditioning 95 students, cast 75.
As of fall 2015, hundreds of families have experienced 20 Broadway-style Music Theater productions, 22 class sessions and 18 summer camps. Each season brings new shows and opportunities for more children and families to experience the wonder of theater.
The Board, Staff, and supporters of CYT Wichita wish to express a sincere thank you to the many hours of volunteer support parents and patrons contributed. CYT Wichita is here to stay!