Mother’s Day Improv With the Mother of ‘The Rugrats!’

didiApril 10, 2009 Feel like you’re interacting with your family via text message? Facing screens more than each other? Using drive time as quality time and packing parental fun into cellular size? Kids and parents, come see yourselves and each other in a whole new way!

One month from today on Mother’s Day, Actress Melanie Chartoff, screen voice for The Rugrats mom, Didi Pickles (and actress in a wide array of media, Desperate Housewives, Seinfeld, etc.) is flying up from L.A. to teach a limited capacity “laugh while you learn” Improvisational Workshop with Shaping Youth on Mother’s Day!

It’s a great chance to ‘act out’ in a positive way…Say things you’ve never said, and play around with what’s beneath the surface in this hands-on ‘play date.’

Hollywood pro Melanie Chartoff has been teaching these techniques for over thirty years, and Shaping Youth is thrilled to have her join us for this unique way to bond with tweens/teens/parents on Mother’s Day! Confidence, communication, better listening and adaptability are byproducts of the two hour ‘play date’ as kids AND parents discover new freedoms and gifts within themselves…

Or, moms, if you prefer ‘solo time’ for Mother’s Day, drop off the kids to have fun with us! Shaping Youth teens will film it for you so you don’t miss a thing…

rugrats-logoEither way, our small, intimate improv size is VERY limited to get the most out of the experience so hurry and RSVP to Amy fast (amy at shaping youth dot org) to reserve your spot on May 10th from 4-6pm in San Mateo! All ages are welcome, and ‘Mr. Moms’ for Mother’s Day are too!

Melanie will also bring the original Rugrats Movie script which she is offering on behalf of Shaping Youth via our Facebook Marketplace page (if it hasn’t sold there by then!) so kids can take a peek in show-n-tell style of how words turn into movies…(if YOU have something to ‘sell/buy’ it’s an easy way to support us!)

melanieOne of the things I love about Melanie’s sessions using ‘fine art for fun’ is that it fits perfectly with our Shaping Youth goals for media literacy and deconstructing the ‘behind the scenes’ aspects of media.

Kids get to understand the nuances of how creative arts come alive and help unblur the boundaries of the ‘reality’ being created on TV and the internet hype.

Shaping Youth often leverages the ‘celebrity/media’ appeal to kids firsthand in order to take apart the branding and advertising glamorama as teaching tools themselves, using film scripts and TV show shooting scripts for kids to learn to write conversational dialog.

melanie-stoolThis IMPROV THEATER session is a NEW method for us that I’d love to add into our ongoing S.Y. mix…

I can see how it could really fit into our ‘sweet spot’ since we’ve already used small book club size sessions for kids to ‘audition’ and “read for us” to practice inflection, punctuation, media literacy, and reveal how writers and artists create their work. (it doesn’t just ‘show up’ on those various media screens from mobile to movies!)

It’s always light, fun and focused on participatory, informal learning…so Melanie’s Improv sessions are a perfect fit! With that in mind, if you’re not based in the Bay Area, know that Melanie has taught kids of all ages across the country…

In fact, Melanie is in New York right now through April 23rd, so you can always check her slate to see if she’s ‘coming near you’ to host a session in your own town.

I feel it’s particularly important with the growing absence of arts programs at public schools in recent years, so I’m particularly thrilled to have her join us here for fun-n-games.

As Melanie herself has said, “There’s no pressure in the class to be funny, but things can end up being very comical. Kids learn to be unselfconscious and real and truly connect with other kids from the deepest center of themselves. In a supportive, ‘un-pressurized’ atmosphere, students create scenes that are satirical, poignant and just silly, too. And they graduate with greater sense of their abilities in team and solo work of all kinds.”

In Napa Valley’s Summer Arts Workshop for example, TEENS had this to say about Melanie’s improv sessions:

“I loved the way she instructed and she acted like one of us. Not a stuffy teacher who only stares at you.”

“I learned a lot with mirrors and invisible objects. This class was a blast!!!”

“I loved the practice skills. I’d like my teachers to try them at school. It taught me how to really think of good characters and how to FEEL them.”

“Wow!! That day I went home with a smile and it stayed or days.”

“I’ve gone to dance classes that were fun, but nothing as fun and exciting as this.”

“Somehow she teaches me fast, with no problem. Really knew what she was doing.”

And here’s what some ADULTS articulated:

“Melanie’s class is not just for actors and performers. Anyone wanting to be more alert and present, wanting to engage more fully in their life will benefit from Melanie’s games and exercises. I learned life isn’t about quietly waiting my turn on the “sidelines;” it’s about playing, participating, and having fun. And I’m more creative and effective in my career as a result. Melanie got me in touch with my inner extrovert. I can’t wait to take her intermediate class”

–Jeff Edelstein/Writer-Producer-Editor/BRAVO

melanie-rocks“Melanie’s class has given me a wonderful introduction to the characters who live within me. I have taken improv over the years and while I would play games, create situations and characters, it was often with the spoken or unspoken goal of just being funny. This almost always led to a competitive edge that made improv more a one dimensional game of sorts than the creation of a life or a world. The competition in Melanie’s class is found only within oneself…Everyone is so supportive of each others’ discovery and yes, it is often down right hilarious, but it comes from Melanie’s unique gift for creating a safe and honest space. Under Melanie’s direction I find I that I strive to go further than I think I can. I see that I am now doing this when I perform outside of the class, and it is paying off. I am grateful that I have access to more of myself and the mastery to use it.  Thanks Melanie.

—Pam Bel Anu, Actress (24, Law & Order, Numb3rs)

sy_avatar_ningSo join Melanie Chartoff and Shaping Youth for A Mother’s Day Play Date, and learn about the power of PLAY in our lives.

We all want it and need it…we just need to do it!

On a personal note: I’ll be participating too. As a bit of a professional ‘media dodger’ who prefers to remain behind the keyboard, I’ll admit I’m often nervous about stuff like this.

Melanie assures me it’s all the MORE reason to explore the ‘whys’ behind the public and private personas and a necessary part of my ‘media training’ to feel more at ease with what gets flung my way. She’s absolutely right. Now I can’t wait!

By the way, it’s NOT a benefit for Shaping Youth or anything, (though you can always lend a hand with THAT in our sidebar!) it’s just a fabulous opportunity to work with a media pro that knows her stuff and imparts it well!

Here’s the scoop on how to reserve your space:

When: Sunday, May 10, 2009 4–6 pm

Where: San Mateo(location TBA with your paid reservation)

Why: To find your voice, and PLAY with your family!

Cost: $35/person, $60 per parent/child combo

(Melanie also is offering a Saturday afternoon, May 9, 2009 session in Berkeley too)

Want more information on Melanie’s work?

Visit Melanie or

playSoon I’ll be interviewing Dr. Stuart Brown founder of the National Institute for Play about his new book called PLAY: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.

Somehow I feel another Shaping Youth partnership coming on!

Meanwhile, enjoy these prior posts about the power of play…and come join us on Mother’s Day with Melanie Chartoff!

Only 16 spots available!! Reserve now!

Related posts on Shaping Youth about play:

The Value of Unstructured Play

The Case for Make-Believe Part One

Defending Pretending: The Need for Prominent Play: Part 2

Generation Digital MIT Review &  Six Degress of Susan Linn

If Kids Could Be Dolphins: The Power of Creative Play

Seeding Green With Richard Louv

Media Savvy Kids and Nature Deficit Disorder

The Nature of Tweens: Wired Worlds & Outdoor Ed

Shaping Youth Through Nature, Media Unplugged

Can Somethin’ Be Done About All This Consumption?


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