What is Christian Youth Theater?


Christian Youth Theater (CYT) is an after-school theater arts training program for students ages 4-18. Since its founding in 1981, 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 comprised of three ten-week sessions: Fall, Winter, and Spring. These sessions involve after-school classes in theater arts with the opportunity to audition and perform in a Broadway-style MainStage show or work behind the scenes. Additionally, CYT offers a Summer session consisting of camps, workshops, and performance opportunities. 

CYT stands at 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.
Christian Youth Theater develops character and creativity through quality theater arts training that brings families and communities together while reflecting Jesus.

  • Character over competition: Our intentional focus is on knowing Jesus and becoming more like Him. We earnestly desire growth in love for God, in the knowledge of His love for us, and in a humble life that pours out love towards others.
  • People over programs: We exist for our communities: those we know and those we have yet to meet. The people. We were created for companionship, and at CYT we long to see strangers become neighbors and neighbors become community. This is our calling. We love God, and we love and value His people. We see and welcome people for who they uniquely are and not just what they can do for our organization.
  • Service over spotlight: We believe in serving others in sacrificial and tangible ways. CYT exists for opportunities to know and see needs, and to meet them as the body of Christ. We see leadership through the lens of servant leadership, as best demonstrated in the person and work of Jesus. We aim to work slowly and mindfully to see the needs that walk through our doors. We would take servanthood over spotlights any day.
  • Excellence over ego: We value giving God our first and our best. Excellence is our simplest expression of giving the gifts and talents God has blessed us with back to Him. We don’t seek perfection as a means of outward praise, but excellence as a form of worship from a heart of gratitude and diligence. Being excellent in all we say and do is a way we can be faithful to God’s calling on our lives and in our work.

Who are we?

Watch our Welcome to CYT music video!  

Find Your Character

The Find Your Character Project filters tools and resources through three lenses: the CYT Mission Statement, the CYT Values, and CYT’s Triple Threat (Character, Culture, Craft).

Current Staff Members:

Elise Palma - Artistic Director

Elise Palma is a passionate and dedicated artistic director, driven by her love for God and her desire to inspire and empower young individuals. With a diverse background in the performing arts, including a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree in Performance, Elise has garnered recognition as a nominated director, actor, and wig/makeup designer. Her creative journey has taken her to various locations across the United States, including New York City, Florida, Arizona, Colorado, Texas, and Wyoming. Combining her faith and her passion for youth, Elise finds fulfillment in her role as the artistic director of CYT Phoenix, where she guides and mentors young performers, fostering their artistic talents and instilling strong values. With unwavering commitment and a deep-rooted belief in the transformative power of the arts, Elise continues to make an effort to make the next generation feel seen, valued and heard!

Haley Conte - Managing Director

Haley has been a staff member and teaching artist for CYT Phoenix since 2016. She holds a BS in Entrepreneurial Studies with a Minor in Dance Education, and an MPA in Nonprofit Management from Grand Canyon University. Haley has been teaching dance for 15 years and has served as the choreographer for over 25 dance and musical theater productions. She has a passion for the arts, CYT's mission and the impact it has on the community, and is so excited to serve the organization on staff.

Elizabeth Cook - Technical Director

Elizabeth has a deep passion for Theatre Arts and is proud to be a part of CYT Phoenix. She has a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Theatre Education and taught in the public schools for many years before leaving the profession in 2010 to be a full-time mom. Elizabeth has worked professionally as a stage manager, prop master, set designer, and lighting designer. Since joining CYT, she has become a two time Zoni-nominated lighting designer and rediscovered her love of teaching students all aspects of theatre production. Elizabeth has two beautiful daughters and has been married to her husband for 13 years. She is a homeschool mom, and loves to quilt and tend to her rosebushes.

Hannah Segraves - Camp Coordinator

Hannah Segraves is so excited to be apart of the CYT summer camps! Hannah has been working with CYT Phoenix since 2022 as a stage manager and is very excited to take on this role for the summer. Hannah has a heart for youth theatre and a heart for the Lord and can't wait to combine the two this summer!

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).

CYT Phoenix

Mailing Address:
13832 N 32nd St
STE 162
Scottsdale, AZ 85032

Phone: 480-310-0366
Office Address:
13832 N 32nd St
Phoenix, AZ 85032

Office hours:
Email is the most efficient way to reach our staff.

Contact Us