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Lights grow dim on CYT North Idaho

by DEVIN WEEKS
Staff Writer | December 9, 2020 1:09 AM

Young actress Rory Spurway loves being a student at Christian Youth Theater North Idaho.

“Everyone there is always so nice. No one is ever mean to anyone," the Rathdrum 10-year-old said Tuesday. "It got me more used to getting up in front of more people."

She was just 6 when she performed in her first play as a Who in CYT's production of "Seussical," based on the colorful characters of Dr. Seuss.

"CYT helps a lot of kids come out and learn how to get up on stage, and just perform," Rory said. "One other thing I did like is we had these small groups and we had mentors, and I made friends with the older kids and they helped us out a lot."

CYT is a theater arts training program that provides classes through fall, winter and spring as well as Broadway-style musicals and day camps for youths to work on their acting chops while building on the "CYT Triple Threat:" character, culture and craft.

CYT North Idaho officials recently announced that it would be closing after 13 years, a tough decision brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We were just talking about the financial strain that of course COVID has had on nonprofits across the country and around the world, particularly live theater," CYT artistic director Jessica Belisle said. "The model we’ve been doing for 13 years worked, but it doesn’t work anymore. It doesn't work in these circumstances."

The five-member board and two staff members met for five hours last Thursday to come up with any solution to sustain the nonprofit, which had been hosting online sessions to keep its community engaged.

After discussing what's needed to keep it afloat — a facility to hold rehearsals and shows, teachers to conduct the classes and revenue from live performances to cover the costs of everything else — it was decided that the show cannot go on.

"We just talked in every which direction about every which idea, and we realized that without live performances, we are just not sustainable," Belisle said. "That was a very hard decision to come by."

Rory and her mom, Laura, received the news in an email sent to families.

“When I found out, I was really, really sad because I really, really like doing CYT," Rory said. "It was one of my favorite things."

Laura said her heart broke when she read the email.

"It's a community light," Laura said. "It's so needed around here."

She said that to say it helped Rory grow into the confident young girl she is now would be an understatement.

"CYT not only builds kids' skills in theater, but it feeds their soul," Laura said.

However, a glimmer of hope remains for the faith-oriented youth theater program.

Families and community members are starting the #SaveCYTNI campaign to generate funds to keep the curtains raised. Belisle said it would take about $75,000 to keep things running through June, "if it's a Christmas miracle."

She said to keep an eye on www.cytnorthidaho.org for updates and campaign efforts.

"On the other end of this, if there is some kind of Christmas miracle, where families really rally and we meet our goal, we want to partner with businesses and those in the community that believe in our mission," she said. "The fragility of what we’re experiencing right now makes us realize we shouldn’t try to self-sustain in the future."

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Courtesy photo

Rory Spurway, left, now 10, is seen here with little sister Kinsley in 2017 when she first started with CYT North Idaho. "To say it has helped her grow into the confident young girl she is would be an understatement," mom Laura Spurway said. "CYT not only builds kids skills in theater, but it feeds their soul." CYT announced Friday it will be closing because of COVID.

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SHAWN GUST/Press File

Presley DuPuis plays the role Dr. Seuss in the Christian Youth Theater North Idaho production of “Seussical” in this Press file photo. CYT announced Friday the pandemic has forced it to close, but a #SaveCYTNI campaign to raise necessary funds could possibly save the theater nonprofit from a dismal fate.