Upcoming 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

The Neo-Futurists are proud to present a world premiere created and performed by Leah Urzendowski* and Anthony Courser The? Unicorn? Hour?, directed by Adrian Danzig, April 6  - May 13, at The Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland. Previews are Thursday, April 6 - Saturday, April 8 at 7:30 p.m. with opening night Monday, April 10 at 7:30 p.m. Performances run Thursdays – Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. Ticket prices for previews and Thursdays are pay what you can; for the regular run, tickets are $10-25. Tickets and information are available at neofuturists.org or 773.275.5255.

The? Unicorn? Hour? invites the audience to discover and grow in an atmosphere where joy can float freely. Inspired by childhood favorites like “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” and “Peewee’s Playhouse,” this show claims joy as the core fantastical world of adventure within us.  Joy is an active choice, requiring a shift of perception of the world around you.   

“We became really obsessed and excited with the politics of joy; joy being an activism; that feeling joy, being joy, creating joy is a way to fight against the world and your oppressor.  Joy is a part of the resistance,” said Leah Urzendowski. “The? Unicorn? Hour? refers to the unicorn that lives within all of us - the mythical magical organ in your soul that can be tapped into at any moment you choose. You can “unicorn” at anytime! Seeking joy is refusing woe and accepting the beauty of an unbridled lifting of the spirit.”

“We want to give people the gift of saying yes and delighting in absurd choices; help people tap back into a time before the word ‘no’ was forced on them. We want to be a looking glass of what a world could look like when we choose to eliminate self-doubt and say yes to a sincere playfulness,” added Anthony Courser.   

ABOUT LEAH URZENDOWSKI* creator/performer

Leah Urzendowski* is a founding member of The Ruffians, and an ensemble member with The Neo-Futurists since 2011. Some of Urzendowski’s Chicago credits include Jeff recommended Mr. Burns (Theatre Wit); Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind, Miss Neo Pageant, (both with The Neo- Futurists); Burning Bluebeard (The Ruffians); 500 Clown Trapped, 500 Clown Frankenstein, 500 Clown Macbeth (all with 500 Clown); Moby Dick, Dustbowl Gothic ( both with The Building Stage) and Hunchback (Redmoon). Choreography and movement direction credits include The Magic Play (Goodman), Lord of The Flies (Steppenwolf), Ivywild (Hypocrites), Miss Neo Pageant (The Neo-Futurists) and Burning Bluebeard (The Ruffians, The Neo-Futurists).  TV and film credits include “Chicago PD,” “Chicago Fire,” “ER” and “Operator.” Urzendowski is a teaching artist with The Ruffians, The Neo-Futurists and Team Awesome, specializing in physical theatre, ensemble and partnership building, clown, movement and movement consulting. She received her BFA from Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, and is represented by Stewart Talent.

ABOUT ANTHONY COURSER, creator/performer

Anthony Courser is a founding member of the Ruffians (2013), an artistic associate with The Neo-Futurists (2012) and a teaching artist with Barrel of Monkeys (2001).  Some of Courser’s favorite Chicago credits include Burning Bluebeard (The Ruffians, The Neo-Futurists); Jeff Recommended Ivywild (The Hypocrites); Daredevils Hamlet, Picked Up, The Fool Returns to His Chair, Daredevils (The Neo-Futurists), That’s Weird, Grandma (Barrel of Monkeys); set designer for Analog (The Neo-Futurists).  He was in the performance ensemble of New Belgium Brewing’s Tour de Fat and the Le Tigre Tent. He is a graduate of Dell Arte International School for Physical Theatre and a student of Panchinko Clowning with Sue Morrison at the Canadian Clown Institute.  Courser is a teacher of clown, Physical Theatre, and Ensemble and Partner Building.  He is also a carpenter, but he doesn’t have time to build you a table.

ABOUT ADRIAN DANZIG** director

Adrian Danzig was an early Neo-Futurist (1990) and a founding member of Redmoon Theater, Hubinspoke Theater and is the founding producing artistic director of 500 Clown. His direction/creation credits include Circle of Madness, Action, Not Dead Yet, 500 Clown Get Happy and the earliest versions of 500 Clown Macbeth. Danzig graduated from New York City’s High School of Performing Arts, received his BA from Oberlin College in Government and his MFA from the School of The Art Institute of Chicago in Performance. He has studied clown with Ctibor Turba, Philippe Gaulier, Ronlin Foreman, Dominique Jando, Els Comediants, David Shiner, Avner the Eccentric and was a clown with Big Apple Circus Clown Care for seven years. 

   

* denotes an active member of The Neo-Futurist Ensemble

 

ABOUT THE NEO-FUTURISTS

The Neo-Futurists are a collective of wildly productive writer-director-performers that create theater that is fusion of sport, poetry and living-newspaper. Having created more than 9,775 plays within 28 years of Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind and over 65 original, full-length productions within their immediate, non-illusory aesthetic. The Neo-Futurists have grown to become one of the most highly regarded experimental theater companies in the United States. From humble beginnings as the first late-night theater production in Chicago, they launched what became Chicago’s longest running show and today sustain multifaceted programs such as Neo-Access, The Kitchen (a micro-festival on art and performance), Prime Time, Neo-Lab and their ongoing late night show 50 weekends every year. For more information visit www.neofuturists.org

The Neo-Futurists are proud to present a world premiere created and performed by Leah Urzendowski* and Anthony Courser The? Unicorn? Hour?, directed by Adrian Danzig, April 6 - May 13, at The Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland. Previews are Thursday, April 6 - Saturday, April 8 at 7:30 p.m. with opening night Monday, April 10 at 7:30 p.m. Performances run Thursdays – Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. Ticket prices for previews and Thursdays are pay what you can; for the regular run, tickets are $10-25. Tickets and information are available at neofuturists.org or 773.275.5255.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Replacing the twenty-eight-year long-running hit show "Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind", which was known for delivering thirty original plays in sixty minutes with an ever-changing cast, is a new troupe of high energy players each with their own personal gifts and comedic skills. In the same tradition, Neo Futurium now presents The Infinite Wrench. 

Greg Allen, the original founder of the name and style of such theater decided to revoke the use of the name and concept a few years after he left the troupe in 2011. The last performance of “Too Much Light” came on December 31st, 2016. The show, as most know, was a longtime late-night fixture in Chicago. All I know is that two of my best buddies in college spent four years with me honing exactly these type of skills, improvising and then writing/performing - John C Reilly and Phil Ridarelli. While John went off to make films fairly quickly after school, Phil worked hard for years with the original Neo Futurist members to turn "Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind" into the thoughtful, yet funny and exciting theater experience it was. “Too Much Light” went on to become the longest running theatre- production in Chicago’s history and became an iconic piece of our pop culture. Though the new show could very well be just as unique and exciting (and I do look forward to seeing what it will develop into), I’ll certainly miss Phil and some of those older members. 

That said, the new troupe has an energy all their own. The topics of the plays were more political in nature, which I liked. For example, one consisted of an actor writing DECENCY at one end of a thirty-foot-long chalkboard then drawing a LONG line to the words CHILD RAPE, finally drawing a line below the word CHILD RAPE that points to the word BREITBART, comparing the publication to that dark side of the spectrum, which was quite funny. 

The Infinite Wrench creates a team atmosphere, each guest receiving a name tag with a color upon walking into the theatre. Teams are decided by the color designated and get to decide the next play by yelling out their color when the actors say “Next” at the end of their sketch. Five stations each of different colors (red, blue, green, pink, and yellow) hold five plays that are randomly selected by the actor after running towards the color the actors hear first. But the overall goal is to complete thirty plays in sixty minutes, a timer set just after the actors explain the rules to the audience. 

Each play varies in content and could come in the form of monologues, musical numbers and/or group sketches, some being silly-funny (First Man on the Moon) while some poignant and some perhaps a bit nonsensical. The audience is warned by the actors that all plays, inspired by something they have experienced, might not be as funny when acted out as they may have been while writing them. If such is the case, the play is scrapped and a new one reworked into the next show though new plays are worked in weekly regardless. Each play introduced into the show is written by one of the performing actors.  

The Infinite Wrench has big shoes to fill in replacing such a popular Chicago theatre pastime that has actually created its own cult-like following. After watching the show in its opening weekend and seeing the highly-animated actors go to work and the material that was so well presented, but especially noting the positive crowd reaction, I am quite sure the Neo-Futurist tradition will carry on, seamlessly. 

I LOVE the way the actors involve the audience throughout the entire show. I have been asked onstage to play the piano, I have shouted out the word PINK at inappropriate moments to huge laughs. The Neo-Futurists offer a very special and freewheeling, uniquely Chicagoan, way of viewing theater. 

There are often performer antics taking place in the lobby before and after the show, and are low-priced snacks at the end of the Hall of Presidents entryway enroute to the theatre itself. 

Should this new, and very talented, cast keep the heart in what they’re doing, as did The Neo-Futurists in the past, The Infinite Wrench will continue to run for another twenty-eight years. The creative production team and actors include Kurt Chiang, Trevor Dawkins, Nick Hart, Jeewon Kim, Kirsten Riiber, Malic White, Ida Cuttler, Tif Harrison, Dan Kerr-Hobert, Lily Mooney and Leah Urzendowski Courser.  

Where does the name come from?

As mentioned on the Neo-Futurists home page for the show - The title of our show The Infinite Wrench is partly inspired by text from Mina Loy’s “Feminist Manifesto” (1914). Loy was briefly associated with the original Italian Futurists, and wrote her manifesto in response to some of the group’s establishing principles.

If you are disabled or have a hard time walking, please note the theatre is not wheelchair accessible and that climbing a flight of stairs is necessary to enter the theatre. However, they do honor accessibility requests and offer to assist the best they can. To find out more about making an accessibility request, click here.  

The price is right and even paying to get in is part of the fun. Tickets are just $9 plus a role of the dice that add an extra $2-$12. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 11:30 p.m. and Sundays at 7:00 p.m. For more show information, click here

 

 

Published in Theatre in Review

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

If you come with a dollar you may just leave with two. However, if you are not careful, you could also lose the shirt off your back. In the Neo-Futurist’s latest endeavor “Trust Us/Screw You” we cautiously enter the world of the confidence man, as we meet the mark, the roper and the inside man. Created by Phil Ridarelli and Dan Kerr-Hobert, we follow the evolution of the age-old grifter from the 1920s to the deception that exists on massive scales today by banks, media and stock markets.  

Ridarelli and Kerr-Horbert also star in this production which is considered a two-man show, barring an occasional plant and a band whose members also contribute in a variety of roles. “Trust Us/Screw You” has a rich, vaudevillian flavor and is often reminiscent to The Three Stooges as the fast-talking Ridarelli and Kerr-Horbert size up one of their targets before hitting them with the swindle, ala Moe, Larry and Curly.

In "Trust Us/Screw You” the audience gets a close-up look at many of the scams confidence men were known to use in taking advantage of the average, unsuspecting Joe before fleecing their victim dry. An assortment of social experiments are used with audience members as the two “work” the crowd with seemingly simple card tricks, nutshell games and other scams using the art of misdirection – the key to all successful cons.

Seasoned acting pros Ridarelli and Kerr-Hobert are hypnotic and work incredibly well together in re-creating these old school hustlers (they always work in teams as we learn), paying special homage to one of Chicago’s most notorious confidence men, Joseph “Yellow Kid” Weil. The show is filled with one hilarious moment after another as the two victimize its clueless audience one susceptible mark at a time. As the show progresses, stories are shared regarding the scams they personally fell victim to from subway swindles to real estate deceit, likening the process and its players to a play whose cast of characters put on a show of smoke and mirrors for gain at a sucker’s expense. With that in mind, as funny as the sketches are portrayed, “Trust Us/Screw You” is also a learning experience, or perhaps a bonding experience for all those who have been victimized in the past – most likely each and every person in the theatre.    

Said Ridarelli and Kerr-Hobert on the creation of “Trust Us/Screw You”, “We knew that if we did a show about con men, we’d have to do our best to screw over the audience. That’s been our goal since day one, and hopefully, we can pull it off in a way that the audience won’t go home hating us.”

The show is quick-paced with a ton of laugh out loud moments and the atmosphere so warm and welcoming that one gladly volunteers to be dragged onto the stage to participate when called for rather than slink into their chair to avoid the possible embarrassment. It is also engaging and educational as we learn the mechanisms, techniques and lingo of the American Confidence Man.

“Trust Us/Screw You” is a highly entertaining experience that might leave you with an empty wallet (kidding) but will certainly send you home having had a thoroughly enriching time with more laughs than you can handle. “Trust Us/Screw You” is currently playing at The Neo-Futurium. For tickets and/or more information visit www.neofuturists.org or call 773-275-5255.         

                                                                   

Published in Theatre Reviews

 

 

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