CYT Chicago began as an affiliate of Christian Youth Theater (CYT). After years of involvement in CYT, Tom and Bonnie Bienert moved from San Diego to the Chicago area in 1995. The Bienert family proposed to found the first affiliate of CYT outside of California and asked Justin Parks to join their team as Artistic Director.
In 1997, the trio kicked off that initial program with a small touring show based in Crystal Lake called "Disney Spectacular," featuring a cast of 21 students. As a result, the program grew to 110 students in the first session of classes, and the first full scale production drew nearly 3,000 patrons.
In 1998, after viewing a production, several families from Lake County, including the Allen, Balasa, Anderson, Contreras and Plumberg families, invited Justin Parks to help them produce a small Christmas musical, "Arch the Angel." It was from that original group of 30 kids that a summer camp program was established, and in 1999, Lake County Christian Youth Theater kicked off its first session and a full-scale production.
A few years later, the Svoboda and Church families inquired about bringing a program closer to their homes in Northwest Cook County. Soon after, a camp program was implemented at Cutting Hall, and by the fall of 2001, Northwest Cook was opened under their leadership with a production of "Annie."
Starting in 2012, CYT Chicago did business under the name Spotlight Youth Theater. In 2017, CYT Chicago once again appeared on the CYT National Map, enjoying the connection, support, and relationship with CYT branches all over the country.
Year after year, families have stepped up and asked the same question: "How do I bring youth theater to my community?" - Families like the Gawliks and Scheeles in Kane County; the Duvalls and Libbys in DuPage; the Miller family in Rockford; the Molicas and O'Neills in Aurora; Sonia Noreiga in Oak Park; the Olsen family in Kenosha, WI; and the Walla Family in Milwaukee.