Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version Share this

By Miriam Raftery

July 28, 2020 (El Cajon) – After multiple allegations of sexual abuse of students, racism and homophobia complaints, CYT San Diego has sent a text message to members of the Christian youth theater group’s families announcing an “intermission” of programming until further notice, staff layoffs and an end to CYT leadership positions by members of the Russell family.

Artistic Director Robyn Rebold-Smith issued the announcement “with a heavy heart.” She indicated that for the indefinite future, no programs will be offered while the group focuses on training and protocols to “help ensure that we have an environment that promotes safety for our CYT students.”

The messages states that this will be the final week of employment for the majority of staff including all chapter coordinators, costumes, production, and managing director positions.

“Moving forward, the Russell will no longer service in leadership roles for CYT San Diego,” the message continues. CYT was founded in 1981 by Paul and Sheryl Russell. Their daughter, Janie Russell Cox, has served as president since 2017 and is apparently also department from her leadership role, though she has stated that all allegations of abuse occurred before she became president.

It is unclear whether the Russells have resigned or were asked to step down, or whether any Russell family members may stay on in non-leadership roles. CYT has not responded to ECM’s requests for comments or an interview.

Rebold-Smith does offer hopes for the future, “The remaining staff and I wish to reopen in hopes of offering programming to our amazing students again one day,” she states in her text message, adding that she welcome conversations to hep build towards new solutions. 

She concludes, “When this intermission is over and the curtain rolls back, all will be different, all will be clear, and the time will be redeemed. Thank you for being part of the CYT San Diego family.”

The closure is not expected to impact operations outside of the San Diego region for CYT, a national youth theater organization. 

View ECM’s prior articles on the allegations against CYT:


Error message

Support community news in the public interest! As nonprofit news, we rely on donations from the public to fund our reporting -- not special interests. Please donate to sustain East County Magazine's local reporting and/or wildfire alerts at to help us keep people safe and informed across our region.