Biola University leadership announced today that Biola Youth Theatre (BYT) will close at the end of this month on June 30, 2020.

“It is with a heavy heart that I share with you today that Biola University’s Cabinet has made the very difficult decision to close Biola Youth Theatre effective June 30, 2020,” said Lee Wilhite, vice president of Enrollment, Marketing and Communications.

BYT, a youth theatre program that trains students between ages 6 and 18 in voice, dance and acting, has served thousands of children and families over the last 24 years since its start in 1996. For more than two decades, with more than 60 shows, BYT has made an indelible mark in the lives of young people and fostered a loving and supportive community of families and staff. BYT has worked tirelessly to carry out its mission “to impact lives through the arts and perform great theatre for and with God.”

“I can assure you that this decision was not made in haste, but rather with a great deal of prayer, discernment and careful analysis, particularly recognizing the impact this decision would have on our staff and participating students and families,” Wilhite said. “It was also a hard decision because we know this year didn’t end the way any of us had planned due to COVID-19.”

Over the last few years, BYT has faced challenges in reaching its annual fundraising goals, which resulted in the university needing to supplement the program with additional funding every year. To minimize additional operational expenses, the university has also decided to not renew the lease for the Rancho campus located on San Cristobal Drive in La Mirada, where BYT and other university offices were located. Office staff will be relocated to other campus locations. Compounding these financial realities are the significant financial challenges resulting from COVID-19. 

“Biola University has appreciated and valued its sponsorship of BYT over the years,” Wilhite said. “As the university looks to its future, we recognize the significant challenges before us to provide a more affordable and accessible Christian education to prospective students.” 

BYT began as a part of Lydia Knopf’s vision to reach homeschool families using the medium of the arts, and it was initially called the Biola Homeschool Music Club.

Under the current leadership of Michele Stevens, Artistic Director/Producer for BYT, Eva Radford, Office Manager for Biola Youth Theatre and Eileen O’Hern, Vocal Director/Coach for BYT and Mike Brimmage, Director of Ministry Outreach as well as the tireless work and faithful service of the BYT team of staff, contract workers and student workers, BYT has been able to reach many students and families. Though BYT will close at the end of June, Brimmage will continue on as Biola’s director of ministry outreach, overseeing Biola Youth Ministry Outreach/Church Relations.

“BYT leaves a legacy of mentoring, discipleship, training in godliness, and in great musical theatre to the glory of God,” Wilhite said. “We hope to celebrate the 24 years of BYT’s impact in the community when we are able to do so in person.”  

To provide BYT families and supporters an opportunity to process any questions they may have, there will be a virtual “BYT Town Hall Zoom Meeting” on Wednesday, June 17 at 7 p.m. BYT families can submit their questions online by Monday, June 15 at 5 p.m.

Biola University is a leading Christ-centered university in Southern California that offers a premier, nationally ranked education and has been named one of the nation's “up and coming” universities by U.S. News & World Report four times in five years. Founded in 1908, Biola is committed to the mission of biblically centered education, scholarship and service — equipping men and women in mind and character to impact the world for the Lord Jesus Christ. With more than 6,300 students at its Los Angeles-area campus and around the world, the university offers more than 150 academic programs through its nine schools, ranging from the B.A. to the Ph.D. For more information,