Theater group works through grief after lead actor dies in car crash

OLATHE, Kan. - The Christian Youth Theater Group of Kansas City completed the most difficult rehearsal of the season one day after their lead actor died in a crash.

The young actors performed through their grief on the stage at the Bell Cultural Events Center at MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe.

Houston St. John was expected to star on the stage Friday for the opening night of Tarzan.

"The hole that's in my heart it's in the hearts of all of our cast members. We've dedicated our 14 shows to the memory and honor of Houston St. John," Director Alan Manning  said.

Wednesday, St. John died when he lost control of his car on I-434 in Lenexa. The news broke the hearts of his fellow cast members

"He was so talented and so kind. It just took my breath away," Mackenna Milbourn said.

St. John had been involved in the Christian Youth Choir for years and had been practicing for the Tarzan production for the last three months.

"Houston had that incredible ability to be able to get in touch with a character and nothing held him back," Manning said.

Now, his lead role falls to his understudy Dylan Martin

"He was very talented and I feel a little stressed to go out there and try to perform in his honor," Martin said.

Family and friends now urge cast members to leave their hearts on the stage for Houston.

"He loved doing this so much. Please continue to do this for Houston because he loved it so much. That's what we're going to remind the kids of every time they go on," Manning said.

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