Youth theater sets out on a new journey

Split from its parent organization results in a name change

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter

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One of Clark County's largest theater groups has changed its name and split from its parent organization.

The Portland/Vancouver chapter of Christian Youth Theater is now the Journey Theater Arts Group. The group decided to leave CYT because of changes in the organization's contract, which comes up for renewal every three years, said Bethany Larson, chapter founder and summer camp manager.

"We were presented with a much different contract than we had in the past," Larson said. "Where we had freedom or there wasn't specific direction for things (in prior contracts), they now wanted to define them."

It was a friendly breakup, she was quick to add.

The problem was that the group had developed several of its own processes, and conforming to the new contract would have used up a lot of time and possibly cost money, Larson said.

"It would have undone a lot of work that we had put in," she said. "But we honor everything that CYT has meant to us."

CYT is a national after-school theater arts training program with chapters in more than a dozen states. It was founded in San Diego in 1981. Sheryl Russell, co-founder of CYT, sent Larson a letter to say she was sad to see the groups separate.

"We appreciate your goal of parting ways amicably, and it is our sincere hope that we attain this goal together," Russell wrote. "We wish you the best in your future productions."

With the new name, Journey Theater Arts Group hopes to remove some confusion about its shows. The group is focused on kids ages 8-18, but it also does all-ages productions. Removing "youth" from the name will help it promote both production types more effectively, Larson said.

"We chose the name Journey because we wanted to portray that theater arts can be a part of people's journey in life," she added.

The nonprofit group began in 2002 with 68 children in Vancouver. Since then, it's expanded to include 500 kids in four locations, two in Clark County, one in Portland and one in Beaverton, Ore.

Journey Theater Arts Group will perform "Bugsy Malone," a slapstick musical comedy, this weekend in Washougal. Showtimes are 7 p.m. Nov. 16, 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Nov. 17, and 2 p.m. Nov. 18 at the Washburn Performing Arts Center, 1201 39th St. Tickets are $12-$14 for adults, $9-$11 for youth and seniors.