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Paul & Sheryl Russell, both teachers at Christian High, began a community theater in their family garage in the summer of 1980. The show was The Sound of Music. The purpose was to provide a vehicle for talented amateur performers from the local San Diego community. 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. The audience enjoyed it anyway though, 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 in 1986 and South County in 1987. Other areas soon followed and now CYT is located in 5 areas around San Diego county with an annual enrollment of 4,625 students who take classes, participate in shows and attend summer theater camps.
Over time, some CYT families moved from San Diego to other areas of the U.S.
Their desire to have CYT in their community motivated them to work towards developing the same program in their local cities, thus giving rise to our national group, CYT Inc. in the Fall of 1997.
CYT nationally has grown to be the largest children’s theater organization in the country with more than 38 locations in 22 different cities and enrolling 16,000 students annually.