Welcome to Christian Youth Theater

Christian Youth Theater (CYT) is an after-school theater arts training program for students ages 5–18. Since its founding in 1981, CYT has grown to be the largest youth theater program in the nation, with Affiliates across the country training thousands of students each year.

Each local program conducts three sessions (Fall, Winter, and Spring) teaching drama, voice, dance, and specialty theatrical workshops at weekly two-hour classes over 9–10 weeks. Enrolled students have the opportunity to audition and perform (or work behind-the-scenes) in a Broadway-style musical performed for the community. CYT Chicago also offers summer camps for kids ages 5–18, where they will spend a week learning musical theater skills, culminating in a showcase performance for family and friends!

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.

Our Vision and Mission

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.

Our Values
  • 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 over the course of three sessions during the school year: Fall, Winter, and Spring. Weekly classes last for two hours and run for ten consecutive weeks. A variety of classes are offered in drama, voice, dance, and specialty classes that vary per session. Class sizes are small and offer supervision both inside and outside the classroom.

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.

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

CYT produces one Broadway-style musical each session. CYT Chicago produces over 30 professional quality musical theater productions each year in 10 different areas in Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin.  Each production stars an auditioned cast of up to 120 talented students who are currently enrolled in one of our performing arts classes. With several public and school day shows, a CYT production is the perfect outing for anyone looking for a great theater experience!

Week-long musical theater day camps are offered during the summer months for students ages 5-18. Typical camps include team competitions, drama, dance, music, and craft workshops, theme-related devotionals, and an impressive 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’s no better place for kids to learn about theater and have fun than in CYT’s positive and encouraging atmosphere - where every camper gets the opportunity to perform on stage!

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 HYPE, Improvathon, and the yearly CYT EXPO.

Once Upon a Time...

Christian Youth Theater Inc.
In 1980, Paul & Sheryl Russell had the dream of bringing wholesome family entertainment to their community. Along with a small band of theater-loving friends, they mounted a fully-staged production of The Sound of Music in San Diego, CA to a surprising audience of 5,000.

One year later, they started an after-school theater arts program specifically for youth ages 5–18. Their first show, You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown, had a cast of 24 students, and the rest is history.

Nationally, CYT has grown to be the largest children’s theater organization in the country with more than 38 locations in 25 different cities and enrolling 18,000 students annually.
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. 

Board of Directors


Administrative Team