Sunday, May 19, 2024

Christian Youth Theater raises curtain on new space

Eight years ago, Tyler Hutchinson recalls sitting with the rest of his team at Christian Youth Theater Dallas shortly after wrapping up the first of several performances of “Into the Woods” at the Lewisville Grand Theater. It should have been a time of excitement, and in many ways, it was. But they also couldn’t help but wonder where they would store all their props and stage equipment after the final curtain.

Sure, there were plenty of storage units to rent in the area. But there was also the matter of paying for it.

“We were stressing over $40,” Hutchinson said with a laugh.

Fast forward to today, and CYT Dallas is a far cry from that once-fledgling organization. Not only is $40 no longer a conversation piece after shows, but they’ve earned a reputation in Flower Mound and surrounding areas for their production quality, tight-knit community, and focus on Christ. CYT Dallas is home to a cast and technical crew of roughly 200 youth performers ages 5 to 18 — the majority are from right here in the area, though a handful travel from as far away as Waco — and routinely put on a lineup of Broadway-style musicals ranging from “Peter Pan” and “Legally Blonde” to “School of Rock,” “Mary Poppins,” and “The Music Man.”

They recently wrapped 11 performances of “Matilda the Musical,” which drew an estimated 3,000 patrons.

When not performing, CYT Dallas hosts three 10-week sessions (fall, winter, and spring) of after-school classes, summer camps, workshops, and auditions. And there will be more where that came from now that they are officially in their new space at the Family Life Center at First United Methodist Church of Lewisville on Main Street near Lewisville High School.

“It feels overwhelming in all the good ways,” Hutchinson said. He added that the move helps shift CYT’s programming from three days a week to six and gives them a secondary location for performances alongside the Lewisville Grand. “It’s remarkable to see how the work we’re doing is impacting lives. We can see the fruits of our labor, and it’s cool to look at everything and say, ‘Man, people are engaging; the community is getting involved, and we’re getting more donor support than ever before.’”

He added, “It’s exciting to see us making such large leaps and doing good work for the community and kids we serve.”

While the litany of performances they put on is out of this world, the purpose of Christian Youth Theater Dallas is to advocate for youth to discover their identity in Christ. Their values include character over competition, people over programs, service over spotlight, and excellence over ego. Hutchinson started CYT Dallas in 2016, and it is one of 22 branches of a national organization started in 1980 when Paul and Sheryl Russell founded CYT in San Diego, California. Over the past decade, Hutchinson has traveled the globe to perform, teach, and inspire students to use their talents to glorify God.

He is a consultant for CYT National and several other CYT branches nationwide and is always looking to expand its offerings.

During the summer, CYT Dallas offers a variety of programming for all ages that builds performance skills, self-confidence, and teamwork. One-week day camps are open to ages 5 through 12 and are designed to be a fun and energetic immersion into the world of musical theater. Camp days are jam-packed with team activities, worship and devotionals, and rotations through drama, dance, and music classes. Meanwhile, after-school classes include drama, voice, dance, behind-the-scenes training, and more. Each session culminates in a high-energy showcase before a crowd of family and friends.

CYT Dallas also puts on adult performances a few times a year. Another highlight is its Teen Retreat, an overnight camp for CYT students ages 13 to 18. Centered on praise, worship, prayer, and daily devotions, this week focuses on spiritual growth.

“We’ve come a long way, and the sky is the limit for what we can do moving forward,” Hutchinson said. “We champion and advocate for youth discovering their identity in Christ and use the arts as our platform. The arts should have a voice in our community. People need to support it, believe in it, and keep it going. But as much as we love producing good work, it’s more about character development and how we can meet young people where they are.

“We are very excited to be here. In any way the community wants to engage with us, we’ll take it.”

To learn more about CYT Dallas, visit www.cytdallas.org.

(Sponsored content)

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