The ACT NOW program builds self-esteem in girls-only and co-ed groups of adolescent children through a program of improvisational moviemaking called the MOVIExperience and soon through children’s improvisational playwriting programs.
Over the course of the MOVIExperience program ACT NOW players co-create an improvised movie through engaging and fun activities. The “Coaches” guide participants through the exciting experience of improvising, creating and filming a movie in just 1 – 5 days (or as an extended school program, meeting on a weekly basis from five to eight weeks). Because all players have a stake in the outcome, the process encourages problem solving and teamwork. The end result–a movie–reveals hidden abilities and talents in everyone, allowing formerly passive viewers to become active makers of the powerful medium of film.
ACT NOW provides youth with the tools to create community as well as a professional quality movie. The participants do everything from conceptualizing their movie to producing it. We call this type of programming a “playshop” and use the moviemaking technique known as the “MOVIExperience” created by David Shepherd. Our work with youth has covered a wide array of topics, exploring health, wellness, relationships, behavior and more. Our focus within the process is to help participants find their creative voices and nurture their abilities to be teachers, leaders, team-members and visionaries.
ACT NOW’s mission is to help build character and self-esteem in children and adolescents – especially girls – through the unique MOVIExperience, and improvisational playwriting. We seek to provide our participants to be active contributors in their communities and their relationships by providing them with tools to make their voices heard. ACT NOW is a division of Cutchins Program for Children & Families, Inc., a 501 (c) 3.
The MOVIExperience was invented by David Shepherd, the forefather of professional improvisation and lifetime advocate of theater as a social resource. David’s innovative methods helped launch the careers of many beloved actors, including Ed Asner, Alan Alda, Alan Arkin, and Elaine May. David’s model became the precursor of Second City, The Improv Olympics, and Saturday Night Live. Then came David’s MOVIExperience: this improvisational process allows groups to create, cast, produce and film quality movies about issues that matter to them.
David’s partner, Nancy Fletcher, believed the MOVIExerience could be used to build confidence and character in adolescent girls and founded ACT NOW in 2000. Since then, more than a thousand adolescents and adults have participated in MOVIExperiences and research at Mt. Holyoke College has shown that participating in the MOVIExperience significantly increases self-esteem and leadership qualities in adolescent girls.
In 2013, ACT NOW merged with Cutchins Programs for Children & Families, a leading, nationally recognized agency that treats children and families experiencing challenges brought on by abuse, neglect, and trauma. By merging with Cutchins Programs, ACT NOW will broaden its reach geographically and increase the program’s ability to empower a broader number of children. Cutchins has the like-minded mission of nurturing children’s well-being and resilience while developing instruments through which children’s voices can be heard. ACT NOW playshops provide a means to develop a stronger presence in the community, and to integrate Cutchins children with the wider population.