"Every time I step out onto that stage, I have the opportunity to use my God given talents and passion to portray a soul, a portion of another’s story."

Nina Noelle Russell, CYT Student

Welcome to CYT!

Christian Youth Theater (CYT) is an after-school theater arts training program for students ages 4-18. Since its founding in 1980, CYT has grown to be the largest youth theater program in the nation, with Branches across the country training thousands of students a year.

Each Branch’s yearly calendar is made up of three ten-week sessions: Fall, Winter,and Spring. These sessions involve after-school classes in theater arts and the opportunity to audition and perform in a Broadway-style musical or work behind-the-scenes. Additionally, CYT offers a Summer session consisting of camps, workshops, and performance opportunities.

CYT stands in the forefront in its commitment to the highest ethical, moral, technical, and artistic standards of excellence. Instructors are professionals, qualified in teaching and/or performing, who understand our mission statement, values, objectives, and goals.

Mission Statement

Christian Youth Theater develops character and creativity in kids of all ages through quality theater arts training that brings families and communities together while reflecting the Creator.

  • Treat each individual with respect and significance
  • Develop character traits including discipline, self-confidence, and integrity
  • Bring families together through the use of individual talents and abilities
  • Share the love of Christ in word and deed

What Does CYT Offer?

CYT offers classes for students ages 4-18 throughout the school year. Classes include drama, voice, dance, and behind-the-scenes training in makeup, costumes, tech, and more. Classes are held for two hours once a week and run for ten consecutive weeks in Fall, Winter, and Spring sessions. Class sizes are small and offer supervision both inside and outside the classroom. Each session culminates in a high-energy showcase to demonstrate to family, friends, and fellow students the skills acquired.

Parents send their children to CYT classes to learn, and that’s exactly what they will do! At the end of a CYT session, your student will come away with a new or improved skill in the area of emphasis. During the last week of class, a high-energy Showcase is presented by each class to show other students, family, and friends all they’ve learned.

Enrollment in CYT classes provides students ages 8-18 the opportunity to audition for the current production. CYT Chapters produce one Broadway-style musical each session (Fall, Winter, and Spring). Students who want to be part of the show without performing can participate on the backstage crew, technical team, or as an usher.

CYT shows are always appropriate for the entire family and are an excellent way to introduce children to the arts at a young age!

During the summer, CYT Branches put on week-long musical theater day camps for students ages 5-18. Camps are designed to be a fun and energetic immersion into the world of musical theater. Camps are jam-packed with games, activities, and interactive workshops that build performance skills, self-confidence, and teamwork. Typical camps include team competitions; rotations through drama, dance, and music workshops; and a concluding showcase for family and friends. 

CYT Summer Camps are all about fun, friendships, and theatrics. Camps are great yearly tradition for your child!

There are many ways to be part of CYT beyond the stage! CYT programs consist of everything that is not a class, camp, or show. Some of the available programs include CYT@school, HYPE, Improvathon, and the yearly CYT EXPO.

Our Story
Paul and Sheryl Russell were both teachers at Christian High in San Diego when they began a community theater from their 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 aspiring performers in San Diego’s local churches.

The families involved in this newly-founded 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 of their own and another one on the way, founded Christian Youth Theater (CYT). CYT began with 24 students producing the show You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, and continued to grow throughout San Diego County.

In 1997 families from San Diego moved to Chicago, IL and Spokane, WA. Their desire to have CYT in their communities motivated them to start their own local branches under the CYT umbrella.
CYT has now grown to be the largest children’s theater organization of its kind with branches in 17 states. CYT trains more than 20,000 young people annually (as of March 2018).
The CYT Decathlon Award recognizes exceptional CYT students who have demonstrated their love for theater by pursuing a well-rounded education in the theater arts and who have exhibited a character that is consistent with CYT values.

The Decathlon Award will be awarded to students, aged 16-18, who have met the requirements listed in the CYT National Decathlon Award Document, within the past five seasons. For any questions, please email us at decathlon@cytsacramento.org.
HYPE is a yearlong program for high school youth involved in CYT to develop their leadership capacity. The goal of HYPE is to challenge and grow the advanced students of CYT to be leaders and to get involved by serving the community around them, both within CYT and the community beyond.

Registration fee for the year is $150 and will be divided up into three payments: fall, winter and spring.  Bi-weekly meetings, Tuesdays 6:30pm-8:30pm, VSPC. HYPE participation is by application only.  

Contact wendyhoover@cytsacramento for more information.

Current Staff Members:

Wendy Hoover

Artistic Director & Co-Founder
Wendy Hoover has worked professionally as a singer, actor, and violinist for more than 20 years. A proud member of the Screen Actors Guild and Actors’ Equity Association, Wendy’s love for the theater was sparked when she first took to the stage as one of the original students in the founding years of CYT San Diego. She co-founded CYT Sacramento in 2012 and has enjoyed directing, music directing, teaching classes and choreographing in CYT’s Roseville and Auburn Chapters. Beyond CYT, Wendy studied at the University of New Mexico, where she earned a degree in Music with an emphasis in voice. After gaining experience in dinner theater, cabaret, musical theater and opera, Wendy returned to Southern California and went on to play lead and supporting roles in theater, television, and film. Some highlights of Wendy's career include roles in the Hallmark Movie, Santa Jr., the world premiere of Current Nobody at the La Jolla Playhouse, Alice in Alice in Modernland at Sledgehammer Theater and Christine in The Phantom in Concert, at the Santa Fe Music Hall. She starred in the one woman show, Marilyn...Sleepless Nights, playing Marilyn Monroe, at the American Theater in Kansas City. She has also worked as a principal actor in a number of national, regional, and local commercials. As a violinist, Wendy played for I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change for productions at San Diego Repertory Theatre and Starlight, and also for several productions of A Christmas Carol at The Rep. Wendy moved to the Sacramento area in 2010 and is excited to bring her love of the stage and passion for developing character to a new generation of aspiring actors.

Leah Neuenschwander

Managing Director
Leah Neuenschwander has lived all over the Bay Area, but was born and raised in Sacramento. She earned her BS in Business Administration at UC Berkeley and later went on to receive her MA in Theological Studies. Her background includes banking, administration, ministry, and most recently before joining CYT she was teaching at the elementary level.  Leah has enjoyed numerous CYT performances over the years and appreciates the high quality of the program and the character and confidence it builds in students. She is grateful to bring her varied experiences on board to support the mission of CYT.

Jen Esparza

Director of Marketing and Development
Jennifer Esparza was born in Roseville, CA and still resides in her hometown with her husband and their two children. From a very small age, Jennifer could be found writing skits and performing shows for family that developed into a love for performing on stage throughout high school. In college Jennifer pursued her creativity by earning her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism at Sacramento State. Jennifer continued to build her experience in the creative industry as a newspaper editor and editorial assistant in book publishing. Jennifer has appeared in a handful of commercial advertisements and looks forward to what the Lord asks her to do next. Jennifer currently maintains a lifestyle blog, is an editor of a local magazine, and passionately working as the marketing director for CYT Sacramento. Thriving on a healthy balance between work and play, she can be found curled up with a book, enjoying time at the gym, planning the next family vacation or cheering on her kids at their many sporting events.

Anna Christiansen

Roseville Class Coordinator
Born in Southern California and transplanted to Texas for 20+ years, Anna Christiansen earned her Bachelor of Arts degree at St. Edward’s University in Austin. After several years of working in the field of child welfare and crisis counseling as a social worker, Anna made the choice to stay home to raise her two children, Daniel and Bianca. Anna, her husband Alex and two children, moved to the Sacramento area in 2009. Being fluent in Spanish, she returned to the work force and taught Spanish to elementary and middle school students in a private school setting. Anna is active in her church serving in children's ministry and as a translator for many years on the youth missions trips to Ensenada, Mexico. With the participation of her daughter in CYT, she fell in love with theater arts and with CYT in particular. She has been class coordinator in Roseville since 2015 and has felt very blessed to be able to serve the CYT community.

Rhianna Rowe

Roseville Show Coordinator
Rhianna Rowe loves the theater arts, especially the confidence and skills they provide. Her children joined CYT classes in 2015, and Rhianna joined the teaching staff shortly after. She has taught tap dance, Beginning Drama, Wiggles, and Our Gang at CYT. In 2019, Rhianna became the Camp Coordinator and Class Coordinator for CYT Sacramento’s Auburn chapter. Rhianna revisited her Camp Coordinator role in 2020 at the Roseville chapter and continued as the Class Coordinator in Auburn. In 2021, Rhianna became the Roseville Show Coordinator after serving as a volunteer on several parent teams in eight CYT productions in Auburn. Her family is so appreciative of the values, quality, and lasting friendships CYT provides. It is her delight to serve the surrounding communities as the Show Coordinator for CYT Sacramento’s Roseville chapter.

Lara Camacho

Auburn Show Coordinator
Originally from San Jose, Lara moved to the Auburn area in 2005 with her husband and children. Her youngest daughter joined the CYT family back in 2012 with Annie Jr. and became hooked! During that same time, Lara had the opportunity to witness the CYT families grow, bond and build community. She too, desired to play a part in what God was doing through CYT. Through different circumstances, their family had the privilege of raising a combination of 8 kids and teens at one time, which required excessive organization. When the opportunity arose for her to put those "directorial" skills to use and dive deeper into CYT, she jumped at the chance. With a gifting of encouragement, she enjoys loving on and praying for the youth and their families. Lara is overjoyed that CYT is now in Auburn and is humbled to be a part of it.

Micky Velebit

Box Office Coordinator
Micky Velebit has been a part of the CYT family since 2013, and is now blessed to become part of the staff coordinating group sales and field trips. As a former public educator, she holds a BS in Human Development with a minor in Education from UC Davis. For the last 13 years, she has been educating her own children at home, and reports that she loves being a part of the "a-ha" moments, and the experiences where her kids step out and grow. She is very involved in her local church where she teaches Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, and helps to lead MOPS. In her free time, you will find her running the trails and streets of Roseville, cheering on her 5 active children in their sports & theater endeavors, or curled up reading a good book. She is excited to become a part of the Box Office team where she can ensure that children experience healthy, family-friendly live theater.