It’s our first school show!

Posted by hpalmer on May 24, 2015

School Shows

Hey there, everyone! James and I (Hailey) are doing our first Barrel of Monkeys school show! We’ve been having a lot of fun in rehearsals, learning about how the Monkeys adapt stories from journals into an entire production in just a handful of rehearsals. In the Dixon show, James is playing everything from a plotting caterpillar to Dave Parker, a man who resorts to eating his own clothes. I get to play a daughter who swaps bodies with her dad (pictured below), the side an epic mountain, and a lot of other things that I can’t wait to show the students.

James and I sat down and had a real conversation about our experience as noobs in a Monkey show. Here are some things we learned about each other:

1. We were both new Monkey teachers at Dixon during our residency there this spring. We both found the experience really inspirational.

2. Both of us learned a lot from the Monkey agreements that we talk about with the students everyday, specifically every idea is a good idea and respect yourself and others. We talked about how applying those agreements in our own lives helps us live more positively and openly.

3. James mentioned how much he appreciated how there has been no ego involved in the rehearsal process. I totally agreed.

4. I mentioned how I found rehearsals to be uplifting. James agreed. We talked about the importance of play and honoring what the student authors write.

5. James’ favorite word is histrionics. Mine is ghoul. We liked learning this about each other too.

Rehearsals have flown by and we’re pumped to be in our first Monkey show on Tuesday morning!

Dixon rehearsal

North Lawndale, or “Teamwork makes the Dream Work!”

Posted by Bryan on May 15, 2015

School Shows

Hi, internet! This is your good friend Bryan letting you know all is well—nay, FANTASTIC—with the North Lawndale school show adapting process. And I’ll have you know that it’s especially thrilling for me to be in on this collection of stories, having been one of the teachers at one of the school involved. Yes, having just finished our in-the-classroom workshop residency at Chalmers School of Excellence, Monkey Courtney and I are lucky in that we get to jump right into the making of our students’ freshly-writ stories into plays.

In fact, this school show is unique in that it teams-up four amazing schools, all in the North Lawndale area and each with their own residencies, into one big show. Chalmers School of Excellence, Dvorak School of Excellence, Herzl School of Excellence, and Johnson School of Excellence are all on the roster of this Avengers-level superhero troop, and I’m glad I get to be a part of this display of community.
superhero team silhouette
Here’s a moment in rehearsal where monkeys Ashley, Elisa, Evie, and Geoff are a group of friends jamming out to their boombox, but I feel like they could easily be a quartet of supe’s warming up to battle some evil foe.
line of groovers
**Note to self: Explore a writing activity where we act out a story from a picture (a la Picture Day), take a snapshot of the acting, then write a totally new story based off of the snapshot. Lather, Rinse, Repeat until infinity!

Now that I think of it, the world could use a superhero team like that, with the energy, talent and creativity of all of our student writers, to overcome a fearsome cataclysmic event like the one depicted in one of our stories we’ll perform in the show, which I leave you with now:

The Ancient Attack
by Justin S., Johnson School of Excellence

Day 13 12:30pm April 15th. One night a war started. The dead dinosaurs came back alive. Every civilan in U.S.A. moved to other places. Cops soldiers and vehicles blocked the bridges to U.S.A.

Day 40 9:50am December 4093. Dead bodies and dead dinosaurs were everywhere
Eagle Wing 3: I just found 10 pterodactyls
Eagle Wing 2: Captain I’m going down. A dinosaur is inside my osprey!
Warthog 6: Our vehicles are destroyed but they have now turned into barriers when the T Rex stepped on them. Oh no we’re under attack run run run!!!

To be continued

The Monkey Minute! Adventures in Group Song Writing

Posted by Amanda Farrar on May 14, 2015

The Monkey Minute Celebration of Authors School Shows School Residencies Company Members

As the end of the school year approaches, Barrel of Monkeys is hard at work in the rehearsal room adapting student-written work from our writing residencies for the stage to be performed for the student-authors and their peers in their schools! Emeritus Monkey and past Artistic Director Luke Hatton describes the fast and furious adaptation process and the joys of collaboration to adequately celebrate the voices of students on the stage.

Do you want to see some of the most exciting work from this year performed for the students, their families, and the public? Please join us for the FREE performance of Celebration of Authors on June 2 at the University of Chicago’s Logan Center! This show features one story from each of our residencies conducted during the 2014-15 school year performed by upwards of 30 Monkey actor/educators. Call 312-409-1954 for reservations.


Adventures in Group Song Writing
By Luke Hatton

The Barrel of Monkeys school show rehearsal process is always fast and furious. Every moment is valuable. On a particular day in the Winter of 2010 we were working on an upcoming performance at Columbia Explorer’s Academy. We were missing a few actors, so couldn’t productively review anything we’d already created and nothing that musicians had taken home to adapt was ready to stage. We were stuck.

Philip, one of our musicians, had taken some students’ poems home to adapt into a rap. He said it wasn’t finished. Desperate to use our valuable time productively, I said to him, “Would it be all right if we all work on the rap together?” Fortunately, he said yes. This is a hallmark of how Monkeys operate creatively. There’s rarely if ever ego involved. So Philip played us the instrumental of No Diggity which he was thinking would underscore the piece. People started bopping to the piece. We’d overcome our temporary inertia. Quickly I had everyone grab a partner and one of the pieces and for about 20 minutes the room was alive with pairs of Monkeys spitting mad beats, devising hilarious choreo. The final product was tremendous: total commitment and abandon to the pieces (reprinted below). Group song writing doesn’t always work, but thank god for the ‘yes and’ Spirit of the Monkey, because this time it worked gloriously.

Dixie Uffelman, Philip Markle, and Chris Matthews in Celebration of Authors

Puffins Muffins
By Alejandro I.

Oh baby oh baby
I’m talkin’ puffins you
fly like a kite up in
the sky you like
muffins when
your hand cuffin

By Joshua P.

Oh baby oh baby I’m
talking about Ms. Parise style yo.
I see you writing but you don’t see
me writing. When I see you you don’t
see me because I am under my desk looking
for sandwich extra beef don’t forget the tomato
I’m really hungry. I did eat but I want to eat again
my doctor said you got eat 10 meals day.

By Gustavo P. 

Oh baby oh baby I’m talking about
Skateboarding, at the skate park, you know
how I do it, it’s hard, but I know, I know
ollie, kickflip, 360, 180, 180 kickflip, you know
what I’m talking, oh baby, oh baby. Remix! yo!

Oh baby, Oh baby, I’m O.P.P., It stands for
other peoples’ plastic yo. You got to go
green don’t be a fool, don’t go cheesey afar

All about you
By Alfredo V. 

Oh baby, Oh baby I’m
thinking all about you
Oh, baby, oh, baby I’m
thinking all about you!
You hypnotize all about you!
I can’t stand all about you!
You should not leave me around
I will hunt you down. I will
search you down! I’m thinking all
about yooouuuuuuuuuuuuu!
Were the only one to kiss
would look!

Lollipop Chair
By Miriam H. 

Look at my candy.
“Oh no the bug eat it.
look at my candy again.
look how delicious is it
“ill the bug eat it again.
Pop the candy broke.
“Oh my god what am I going to do
Pop the candy broke again.

The Monkey Minute! Happy Mother’s Day

Posted by Amanda Farrar on May 7, 2015

The Monkey Minute That's Weird Grandma School Residencies Company Members

Barrel of Monkeys teaches writing residencies to students, but more often than naught it’s us who are receiving the education. There are many lessons to learn from the pens of elementary school students, and below are some that I, Amanda Farrar, have learned about what it is to be a mother.

Do you want to learn about our programs and learn from students, too? Watch this news story from CBS Chicago that aired last week and then peruse our story archives for more immersion into the wonderful imaginations of children.

Reminder: We are on a hiatus from That’s Weird, Grandma but summer Monday night performances start again on June 8!
5 Motherhood Lessons
By Amanda Farrar

Lesson #1: The first lesson I learned about being a mom from student-authors is from “Bagels or Nothing”. “I want a SNAAACCCKKKK!” is a constant plea in my household. I took this lesson from Toby R.’s mother, and offer one snack of my choice, or nothing. Sometime my daughter picks nothing. Sometimes she eats the thing I’ve offered. But the negotiation tactic totally works. Thanks, Toby and Toby’s mom!

Untitled (Bagels or Nothing)
By Toby R, Dawes Elementary

My mom said I had to pick nothing or bagels I pickt nothing. I don’t like bagels.

Lesson #2: Mothers, like everyone, are not infallible. Our bad and sad days are their bad and sad days, too.

Good Days and Bad Days
By Joemy P., Johnson School of Excellence

I believe I want to change bad days to good days sad days to happy days far days to close days scared days to brave days.  So people won’t be mad or people won’t be bad.  So people can have good day.  I wish my mom would have better days.  THen bad days she can have lovely days.  Some people are not equal.  So are not happy.  SO that I don’t have to be scared.  Why I believe in miracles.  The End

Lesson #3: If it comes down to it, your mom will kick butt. Even to battle a celebrity-monster/monster-celebrity.

Untitled (Beach)
By Lynda H., 4th Grade, Chalmers School of Excellence

On a hot sunny day I went to the beach with my mom. At the beach it was all super stars and the stars didn’t talk to me, so I went up to Hannah Montana and I said “hi” and she said the same, but that wasn’t really Hannah Montana it was a monster. I knew it was a monster because he pulled of his wig and mask. So he pick me up and I call my mom then she came to kick his butt and after that we went home and I tell my sister and brother all about it. The name of the stars was Lil Wayne, Justin Beiber, Sonny With a Chance and Chris Brown.

The maid and mom in

Lesson #4: How hard you work to get it all done? Yeah. They get it. Probably more than you realize.

The Darkness
By Taniya J., Willa Cather Elementary School

Once upon a time there was a lady who was by herself and she was just looking around and she was on the bridge. She wanted to swim home in the water but she had on her work clothes so she couldn’t because she had to go to work in the morning and the whole family was going out and there was nobody to watch her kids so her kids were about to go with their dad but he had work in the morning too and then her kids start crying so then she said to herself I need to swim home but I got on my work clothes and I got work in the morning and the clouds were dark and scary and she saw a scary mountains then she saw her husband and her kids and then her whole family came and saved her and she hopped in the car and went home. THE END.

Lesson #5: By doing you what you do as a parent for your child, you can be their superhero.

Superhero Story (my mom)
By Destiny C., 4th Grade, Chalmers School of Excellence

My Super hero is my Mom. Her powers are too take care of me and her 2 other kids. What happen was she took care of me as I grew up. It’s my point of view because I’m telling people who is my hero and superhero because she’s a nice mom who do things for me like put clothes on my back, and she’s a person who have strong powers by doing stuff like getting me up in the morning, taking me to fun place, and most of all trying to help me get an education.

Thank you for all the lessons, student-authors. And thank you to all the moms, and dads, grandparents, aunts, uncles, godparents, foster parents…anyone who helps raise a young person.


Cinco de Morton

Posted by Lacy on May 6, 2015

Rehearsals for the Morton School of Excellence are going great. This year they happen to overlap with Cinco de Mayo.
One year ago, Brandon was at an undisclosed upscale grocery store where they sell a Whole lot of Foods and also have some children’s entertainment during the day. Anyway, on May 5, 2014, a woman arrived (to provide the entertainment), wearing a giant sombrero, pistoleros, and a fake mustache, and yelled:
That was pretty much the sum total of her presentation on Cinco de Mayo.

So, to commemorate the anniversary of the widespread misappropriation of Cinco de Mayo, Brandon brought us ...

chips and salsa!


By the way… Brandon is directing his first show. He’s killing it. AND bringing snacks. Nice one, Cloyd.