Theatre

Barrel of Monkeys invites you to join student-authors, their classmates, family and educators for the annual CELEBRATION OF AUTHORS, featuring performances of student-written stories created at each of its partner schools and after-school program during the 2016-2017 season. Performed by more than 30 Barrel of Monkeys actors and musicians, and directed by Artistic Director Joseph Schupbach, this FREE event takes place Tuesday, June 13, 2017 at 6:30 pm (6:30 pm pre-show reception and activities, 7 pm curtain) at the University of Chicago’s Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St. in Chicago. For reservations, please visit barrelofmonkeys.org/coa or call (773) 506-7140. 
 
During 2016-17, Barrel of Monkeys worked with 17 school partners in 52 classrooms, plus an after-school program. The Chicago-based arts education theater ensemble, now celebrating its 20th season, conducts creative writing workshops with 3rd through 5th grade students in underserved Chicago Public Schools. The ensemble of actor-educators then turns their stories and words into professionally performed theater, presented both in-school and for the general public through its revues. Barrel of Monkeys annually performs more than 200 student-written stories for the students in their schools and 175 stories on the stage for the general public through its year-round variety show, THAT’S WEIRD, GRANDMA at The Neo-Futurist Theater, 5153 N. Ashland Ave. in Chicago.  For additional information on Barrel of Monkeys’ educational programs and public performances, please visit www.barrelofmonkeys.org
 
Chicago Public Schools served by Barrel of Monkeys during the 2016-17 season include: Willa Cather, Dewey School of Excellence, Herzl Elementary, Dvorak Elementary, Poe Classical, Columbia Explorers Academy, Peirce Elementary, Kinzie Elementary, Academy for Global Citizenship, Dixon Elementary, Morton School of Excellence, Sherman School of Excellence, Johnson Elementary and Chalmers Elementary, as well as Sheridan Elementary, Everett Elementary and Cherokee School in Lake Forest. Barrel of Monkeys is also an Arts Partner in Residence at the Loyola Park Field House through the Chicago Park District.
 
PERFORMANCE DETAILS:
 
Title: CELEBRATION OF AUTHORS 2017
Written by: Chicago Public School Students
Adapted for the stage by: Barrel of Monkeys Company Members
Director: Artistic Director Joseph Schupbach
Featuring: Barrel of Monkeys Company Members
Location: Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St., Chicago
Date/time: Tuesday, June 13, 2017
Time: 6:30 pm (6:30 pm pre-show reception and activities; 7 pm curtain)
Tickets: FREE. For reservations, please visit barrelofmonkeys.org/coa or call (773) 506-7140.
 
About the Director
Joseph Schupbach has directed shows for Barrel of Monkeys, North Park University, Murakami Sound Machine and InGen Productions – a company of which he is co-founder and former Artistic Director. Joseph has assistant directed for The Ruffians and The Neo-Futurists and has performed all over Chicago. In November 2014, he was appointed Barrel of Monkeys’ new Artistic Director, having served as the company’s Education Coordinator since 2011.
 
About Barrel of Monkeys
Since Barrel of Monkeys’ inception in 1997, its teaching artists have served more than 60 Chicago Public Schools. Over 15,000 elementary school students have participated in the Barrel of Monkeys programs, which aim to build students' writing skills, improve self-esteem, and instill confidence in their ideas and abilities. For additional information, visit barrelofmonkeys.org.
 
Celebration of Authors is sponsored in part by the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts. 
 
This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

For those of you who are not aware, there is a great youth program taking place where a group of educators have created an alternative education source for CPS students. Enter Barrel of Monkeys. Barrel of Monkeys (BOM) is a combined group of actors, teachers and musicians that have developed a new, and fun, way for students to enhance their creative writing skills while building their self-esteem and open doors for them to express themselves. Mainly working with third through fifth graders, BOM focuses on working with underserved schools on Chicago’s South and West sides and the result has been a huge success.

 

Taking stories from students, this talented ensemble translates, then performs these ideas (often word for word, which can be amazingly hilarious) on stage, currently at the Neo-Futurist Theater in Andersonville. In what always turns into series of absurdly funny sketches, BOM’s performers act out each story, promptly giving credit to the student author before they begin.

 

Barrel of Monkeys now continues into the summer with their That’s Weird, Grandma series, a run that changes its overall theme throughout the year, the latest being That’s Weird, Grandma: The Summer Strikes Back. Again, with all material written by Chicago Public School students, you can just imagine how it translates when acted out by a professional theatre ensemble. Needless to say, the laughs are plentiful from beginning to end.

 

In Summer Strikes Back directed by Artistic Director Joseph Schupbach BOM performs seventeen sketches in their hour-plus performance, some converted into songs while others acted out just as they were written. Stories range in creativity and are each amusing in their own way. Though some stories may be as simple as a conversation between a bunny and an EXIT sign or “Taylor the Rose” where a rose reads off a list on what not to do to her – like pick her because she will die, BOM is able to find the humor in each while at the same time brilliantly promoting the imagination and expression of its young student writers.  With titles such as “The Day A Monkey Slapped My Cousin”, “Jake’s Very Bad Day”, “Walking Meatball and Mozzarella Cheese” and “Lady Spy”, you can only imagine the fun that awaits.

 

While getting the chance to enjoy a very humorous evening of one hilarious sketch after another, one is also supporting a fantastic program – a program that has helped students to write over 5,500 stories within the school year. An amazing outfit, Barrel of Monkeys has been pivotal in reaching out to students, 77% of teachers reporting a positive change in enthusiasm for language arts among their lowest performing students over the course of their residency.

 

That's Weird, Grandma: The Summer Strikes Back is a fun show that, though is mostly a laugh factory, can also reveal moving moments and profound insights of the student writers. With talented cast and musical members (I’ll just name them all since they all made terrific contributions) Nancy Casas, Kassi Bleifuss, Nick Hart, Krista Mickelson, Elizabeth Levy, Laura McKenzie, Spencer Meeks, Deanna Myers, Gwen Tulin, Dixie Belinda Uffelman, Rawson Vint and Joseph Schupbach himself, we get a uniquely well-rounded show that moves quickly and grabs you in from the moment the audience is directed into the seating area by an air traffic controller. This is also a show that can be seen more than once as audience members vote on their favorite sketches afterwards via secret ballot and new sketches are introduced into the following performance as others are removed.

 

A show for all ages (bring the kids!), Barrel of Monkeys: The Summer Strikes Back is being performed each Monday at 8 pm at Neo-Futurist Theater through August 15th. Tickets are beyond reasonable at just $12 for adults and $6 for children under twelve.   

 

Published in Theatre Reviews

Check out the Barrel of Monkeys on a first date, see if your date has a sense of humor. Take your 4th grader and laugh over ice cream after the show. Drag the whole office to the Neo-Futurist Theater and forget about the overwhelming stress for an hour, then return to the stressful office. Hey, you could also buy a ticket for your Grandma.

 

After seeing the Barrel of Monkeys present THAT’S WEIRD, GRANDMA a second time, my attendance is guaranteed a third time. If you’re looking for hilarious, here it is. Since there’s snow on the ground, Barrel of Monkeys celebrates with THAT’S WEIRD, GRANDMA: The Holiday Special. Santa, Thanksgiving, and winter inspired subject matter make up the new lineup of stories this season. The Chicago Public School students write amazing stories, so amazing, they are brought to the stage and performed by Barrel of Monkeys Company Members! 

 

Barrel of Monkeys is a Chicago-based arts education theater ensemble, who give 3rd through 5th graders the confidence, and an outlet, to be creative. Creative writing workshops are conducted in underserved Chicago Public Schools, and then students’ stories are turned into professionally performed theater and shared beyond the school’s walls. 

 

THAT’S WEIRD, GRANDMA is for everyone. Everything about Barrel of Monkeys is amazing, their talent for teaching and acting, their mission and vision, their impact, and how they put a smile on everyone’s face.

 

Location: Neo-Futurist Theater, 5153 N. Ashland Ave. in Chicago

Running: November 16 - December 28, 2015

Curtain Times: Mondays at 8:00 p.m.

Tickets: $12 for adults; $6 for children under 12. Tickets are available at www.barrelofmonkeys.org

 

Published in Theatre Reviews

Title: Visit Barrel of Monkeys for their Summer Block Party!

 

Looking for something to do on a hot summer evening? Join the Monkeys for a night filled with bizarre humor! Barrel of Monkeys presents “That’s Weird, Grandma: Summer Block Party”, a production of stories written by Chicago Public School students. These young, creative geniuses  (3rd-5th graders) write creative scripts or stories for the actors and/or educators of Barrel of Monkeys, who adapt and perform these sketches both in school and for the general public - in this case, The Neo-Futurist Theater. Since 2001, Barrel of Monkeys, co-founded by Dr. Erica Halverson and Halena Kays, provides a rare opportunity for creative expression, increased literacy skills and confidence in student ideas and abilities. Imagine how thrilling it is to the student whose story is turned into professionally performed theater - by their teacher. No matter how odd a child’s story is, all ideas will be embraced.

 

As the series progresses throughout its run, it’s the audience who actually votes on which stories should stay and which should go, so no two shows are ever the same. Artistic director, Joseph Schupbach, pulls out a new collection of children’s stories every Monday. These sketches are so innocent, so out of the box, and yet so incredibly eccentric. It’s as if the audience is watching a production directly from the ideas and memories of the child’s imagination. Some of the story titles include: “Elsa and Anna and the Attacking Zombies”, “The Long Day”, “The Sad Pizza”, and “Doctor Stupid Head”. The sketches brought to the stage resemble the crazy prompts you were given in the third grade, such as, ‘Why should crocodiles be domestic animals?’ The sketches are as random as could be, but they’re very humorous.

 

The Neo-Futurist Theater is an intimate space, but the actors use every inch of the space in the most creative of ways. Props, such as a plastic horse head and plastic snakes, and costumes are used, including wigs, potato sacks, and shrimp claws. Totally random. The lighting is simple yet thoughtful. Intense music filled the theater giving us notice when something dramatic was about to happen. The director and cast members sang songs and spent 30 seconds before each sketch to explain the meaning behind it, if any.  Cast members put on their best silly faces and crazy voices, earning lots of laughter from the audience. Adult actors playing out scenes and spewing out dialogue as written nearly verbatim by school children - what could be funnier?

 

“Barrel of Monkeys: Summer Block Party” is perfect for adults and children. If you want to laugh hard, I definitely recommend going to see Barrel of Monkeys. You might not be able to wipe the smile off your face as you leave the theater.

 

Location: Neo-Futurist Theater, 5153 N. Ashland Ave. in Chicago

Running: June 8- August 10, 2015

Curtain Times: Mondays at 8:00 p.m.

Tickets: $12 for adults; $6 for children under 12. Tickets are available at www.barrelofmonkeys.org or by calling (312) 409-1954

Published in Theatre Reviews

What's more fun than a Barrel of Monkeys? Milton Bradley has asked this question for decades and now a Chicago-based arts education theater ensemble, aptly named “Barrel of Monkeys,” begs the same question of their audiences. After seeing their newest performance of “That’s Weird Grandma: Behind the [Monkey] Music,” I think you will be inclined to admit that there is indeed nothing more fun than a Barrel of Monkeys.

TWGMonkeyMusic-1

Barrel of Monkeys is first and foremost an arts-education group that conducts creative writing workshops for 3rd-5th grade students in underserved Chicago Public Schools. The group then becomes a theater ensemble, turning the children’s stories into performances performed at the school for the children and for general audiences at various venues around the city. The performances have a “Whose Line is it Anyway?” quality, only the shots are called by kids which is an amazing feat for this ensemble of actor-educators. If you aren’t impressed yet, Barrel of Monkeys’ performance of “That’s Weird Grandma” takes children’s stories and turns them into musical numbers, creating the first all musical performance by Barrel of Monkeys.

TWGMonkeyMusic-2

With such adorably written pieces as “Flower Argument,” an argumentative piece debating whether or not a flower should be picked from the point of view of the flower, to “Not So Much Pressure,” about Batman needing a break from saving the world, “Barrel of Monkeys” ensemble cast takes these pieces and turns them into musically hilarious gold. The audience, made up of adults, teenagers, and adults who act like children, was in stiches. The clean humor, awww worthy moments, incredible musical talent of the cast, and the honest and touching children’s’ stories was a perfect storm of perfection. What’s even more extraordinary is the show is never the same. Audience members vote on their favorite pieces from the hour-long show (roughly 12-14 pieces) and the most popular make the cut and are included in the next week, the rest of the showed being filled with new pieces.

TWGMonkeyMusic-4

This is a fantastic organization to support. Arts, music, and theater programs are typically the first to get cut in school budgets and the CPS system is no exception. The benefits of having a creative outlet for kids can be infinite. “That’s Weird Grandma: Behind the [Monkey] Music” runs through March 31st at the Neo-Futurist Theater (5100 block of N Ashland Ave.). I double-dog-dare you to not enjoy this Barrel of Monkeys.

Published in Theatre Reviews

If you’re looking for a way to add some life to your Monday nights, Barrel of Monkeys is currently providing a very entertaining option – and it’s for a worthwhile effort. Chicago’s Weird, Grandma is a wonderful production that takes the stories from third to fifth graders in the Chicago Public School system and transforms them into very funny plays acted out by their ensemble. The plays are performed verbatim of the received scripts, causing one hilarious – and warm – moment after another.  Barrel of Monkeys, an arts education theatre ensemble, has been working with under-served students in the CPS since 1997 and has since teamed up with many performing arts companies such as The Neo-Futurists, Baliwick Chicago, The Hypocrites and more. Directed by Artistic Director Molly Brennan, Chicago’s Weird Grandma is now playing each Monday night at the Neo-Futurist Theater (5153 N. Ashland) through December 2nd.

Chicago’s Weird Grandma’s highly comedic cast makes this already great idea work to perfection. The audience is treated to a series of skits throughout the one-hour performance, a different actor announcing the student writer’s name and school before each sketch. The sketches can be inspired by anything from each child’s imagination resulting in such sketches such as LEARN Campbell Academy student Camron F’s “Old Tommy and Brownie the Lost Cat”, Henry Suder School student Chris J’s “The Ant That Bully” and Dewey School of Excellence students Sarronda L, Jaleesa W and Anaya G’s “Bubble Gum Party”.

No two shows can be alike since audience members vote by ballot afterwards to both retain two sketches and remove two sketches, making this a production to take in more than once.

The terrific Barrel of Monkeys program teaches fundamental writing skills while helping in building self-esteem and confidence to low-income third to fifth graders who are predominantly African-American and Latino. The organization especially reaches out where most needed to serve children who battle the challenges academic skills, emotional difficulties and tough living environments. Such a notable cause coupled with a very funny theatre experience make Chicago’s Weird, Grandma a show entirely worth seeing. I should also add that this is a show that can be thoroughly enjoyed by both children and adults.

Tickets are more than reasonable at just $12 for adults and $6 for children. For more information visit  http://www.barrelofmonkeys.org/performances/chicagos-weird-grandma/.   

*Above photo - The cast of Barrel of Monkeys’ revue CHICAGO’S WEIRD, GRANDMA.  Photo by Beth Bullock.

Published in Theatre Reviews

 

 

10 Years! Fave Issue Covers

Register

Latest Articles

Guests Online

We have 232 guests and no members online

Buzz Chicago on Facebook Buzz Chicago on Twitter