Artistic Director Brandon Cloyd Talks “That’s Weird, Grandma” Matinees [video]

Posted by Gavin on October 5, 2018

That's Weird Grandma

We’re thrilled to return to The Neo-Futurists Theater this Sunday for our first round of the 2018-19 season, That’s Weird, Grandma: Ghosts, Ghouls and Talking Potatoes. Artistic Director Brandon Cloyd and the cast are ready to share stories old and new about zombies, witches, and of course, sentient produce.

Learn more about the show in our interview with him below - and then grab your tickets here. We’re performing every Sunday at 3pm through November 4. And if you want to make a full day out of theatre-going, check out our newest package in collaboration with The Neo-Futurists - The Monkey Wrench. You’ll save money and get to see both That’s Weird, Grandma and their 60-minute barrage of short plays The Infinite Wrench!

Who’s the Talking Potato?

Posted by Gavin on September 20, 2018

That's Weird Grandma

If you’ve seen the subtitle of our upcoming round of That’s Weird, Grandma - Ghosts, Ghouls and Talking Potatoes - you might be wondering who exactly this talking potato is. Well, he’s the title character in “Old Man Potaters,” a story by Brian B. from Wharton Elementary School.

While Old Man P. hasn’t made his debut on the Neo-Futurists stage yet, he was featured in our school show in the Summit, IL school district, and he also made an appearance during our annual end-of-year performance, Celebration of Authors. He’s become one of our favorite new characters, and we’re excited to finally share his story with Chicago theatre-goers in That’s Weird, Grandma!

Here’s a quick look at the beginning of Brian’s story:

Mary Tilden as Old Man Potaters and Noah Appelbaum as a farm animal during a performance of

Old Man P was a very curious potato he would wander everywhere

Mary Tilden as Old Man Potaters during Barrel of Monkeys' Celebration of Authors 2018

One day he wondered little bit to far. . .

Mary Tilden as Old Man Potaters surrounded by Barrel of Monkeys company members miming a scary forest during Celebration of Authors 2018

. . . and he said “Oh no wheres my wittle farm he cried and cried AAAAh! Farm where did you go?”

Mary Tilden as Old Man Potaters holding onto Joan Figarella miming a tree for dear life during Barrel of Monkeys' Celebration of Authors 2018

Do Old Man Potaters’ animal friends end up finding him? And does he make his way back to his beloved farm? We don’t want to spoil the story for you - so come find out for yourself in just a few weeks at That’s Weird, Grandma: Ghosts, Ghouls and Talking Potatoes, performing Sundays at 3 p.m., October 7 - November 4. This Halloween-themed line-up includes scary (and silly) stories by Chicago elementary school students, featuring new characters like Old Man Potaters as well as classic characters from BOM’s repertoire.

We can’t wait to kick off our 2018-19 season with you, so be sure to book your tickets ahead of time here!

Zoe Schwartz and a Few of Our Other Favorite Things

Posted by Tom on August 24, 2018

That's Weird Grandma

We’re wrapping up the final production of our 2018-19 season, That’s Weird, Grandma: Stories About Food, this Monday night at The Neo-Futurists Theater - and it’s your last chance to catch a BOM show ‘til October. We’re taking a short hiatus to prep for our next year of teaching creative writing in Chicago elementary schools, and adapting new stories to eventually share with you!

Zoe Schwartz and Barrel of Monkeys company members performing Nacho and Work during a performance of That's Weird, Grandma

Zoe is very concerned during the board meeting in “Nacho and Work” by Biana R. from Lorca Elementary School

Sadly, this Monday night is the last time you’ll see Zoe Schwartz in That’s Weird, Grandma for awhile. She’ll be moving to Los Angeles within the next two months and heading onto a new adventure. We asked her some questions about the most memorable parts of her eight years as a BOM company member.

What’s a BOM teaching memory that you enjoyed?
One time at Logandale- Avondale, our teaching team approached the school in our BOM shirts and all the kids in the playground went wild like we were mega celebrities. They started screaming and ran to the fence to try to touch our hands. It was pretty special.

What’s a BOM adaptation that you treasure?
So, so many - but if I had to pick ONE it would be “Sad Butterflies at The Wedding,” which was from my first school show and was the first time I was like, “Oh yeah I should be doing this forever.”

Zoe Schwartz in a Hershey Kisses costume during a performance of That's Weird, Grandma: Stories About Food

Zoe plays a singing Hershey Kiss during “I Believe That Everything Needs to Be Chocolate” by Luis M. from Seward Communication Arts Academy.

Three things you’ll miss about Chicago.
The Lake
My friends and family
Monday nights at TWG!

Three things you’re so looking forward to in L.A.
No Winter
The Ocean/Mountains
Fame and Fortune! JK maybe all the succulents.

What’s a story that’s in TWG now that you’re thrilled to be a part of?
“Nacho At Work” (pictured below).

Barrel of Monkeys company members performing Nacho at Work during a performance of That's Weird, Grandma: Stories About Food

We don’t want the final blog post of the 2018-19 season to be entirely sad, though! So with food on our minds, we gave the cast and crew a silly task - telling us their favorite (and least favorite) foods.  How do you compare? 

Cedar likes potatoes, not raw mushrooms.
Joe likes corn, not tomatoes.
Nancy likes tacos, not pizza puffs.
Deanna likes potatoes.
Laura likes tacos al carbon, not licorice.
Mary Winn likes peaches, not dill.
Mari likes tacos de carne esada, not liver.
Raquel likes sweet potato fries, not olives.
Nick likes shrimp, not brussels sprouts.
Rawson likes protein, not spamone.
Zoe likes hot dogs, not mustard.
Jen likes pizza, not salmon.
Jean likes rice and beans, not artichokes.
Noah likes Jet Puff marshmallows, not Natto (fermented soybeans).
Diana likes cornbread, not eggplant.
Tom likes sushi, not liver. 
Ida doesn’t like stale potato chips.

You can catch all the food-themed fun at our final performance of That’s Weird, Grandma: Stories About Food Monday at 8. Avoid waiting at the box office and purchase your tickets ahead of time here.

Barrel of Monkeys company members performing the closing number of

Food Has Feelings, Too!

Posted by Gavin on August 10, 2018

That's Weird Grandma

Many Barrel of Monkeys students enjoy imagining what their food thinks. Their stories explore questions such as, “what emotions does a pizza feel?”, “would chicken sandwiches eat humans if they could?”, and “can pies be cannibalistic?”

In That’s Weird, Grandma: Stories About Food, BOM performers take some of these food-related musings and bring them to life through short sketch pieces. Here are three of our favorites that you’ll see in Monday night’s show!

1. “Sad Pizza” by Matthew G. from Poe Classical School

In this touching piece about a pizza who lives in China, Matthew shows us that family reunions aren’t just for humans. This pizza’s family lives in Texas, so he doesn’t see them very often - and he misses them so much that he can’t help but drown his sorrows in ice cream, all while Celine Dion plays in the background.

Barrel of Monkeys performers wearing cardboard pizza box masks performing in That's Weird, Grandma.

Once there was a pizza he was very sad because his family lived in Texas. He lived in China. But he visited them. But he can’t. Pizza was so sad he cried. He only eat his favorite snack ice cream Then he went to sleep. When he wake up he went in the kitchen and saw his family. He was just imagining it. And that was so sad he cried even more. He watched TV all day. He was the saddest pizza in the world. Then not was just a dream. His mom hugged him. He was so happy. THE END.

2. “KFP” by Jacob R., Almani C., Kemani B., Gabrielle S., Monica J., Jala B., and Lashay E. from Dixon Elementary School

Some foods become fed up with constantly being eaten by humans, including Fred, the chicken sandwich in this story. He starts his own offshoot of KFC called KFP - Kentucky Fried People - and his musical talents let him get away with this gruesome entrepreneurial pursuit.

Jen Johnson in a chicken hat and Ida Cuttler in a pickle costume performing KFP during That's Weird, Grandma: Stories About Food

It was a sunny day in Hawaii. Fred, the chicken sadnwich, was opening up KFP (Kentucky Fried People). On the roof was a blow-up chicken that was orange and holding a human heart. Shrimp, the dancing cucumber, went into the kitchen and saw Fred cutting up the food. But the food wasn’t chicken, it was people. She called the police (Devie & Stewie, who weren’t very smart) and when they came, Shrimp starting singing the KFP song. KENTUCKY FRIED PEOPLE, IS PEOPLE NOT CHICKEN *COME ON* The police started dancing. So they didn’t arrest Fred (Who just made his hit single that made $1000, and the album cover had a chicken sandwich with a human in his hand) Instead, Shrimp solved it by eating Fred. Shrimp says, “Sandwish. sw. sw.” THE END.

3. Life as a Pie by Christopher H. from Poe Classical School

How would a pie feel if it was forced to eat other pies? Christopher H., another one of our students from Poe Classical School, explores this conundrum in his dialogue between Pieman and pie factory owner, Bob. Bob doesn’t like pie himself - but he does enjoy seeing pies’ reactions to eating their own kind in this macabre tale.

Raquel Torres surrounded by darkness with arms extended performing Life as a Pie during a performance of That's Weird, Grandma

PM:(walk into pie factory) What is all this!?!?
B: It is a Pie factory.
PM: Ahhh. I’m a pie!
B: Not any more (picks up Pie Man)
B: Yesssss. You will have to eat a pie.
PM: Wait you’re not going to eat me?
B: Why would I. I hate pies.
PM: Oh. No…now I will become a cannibal.
B: That is how I torture pies.
The End

Explore the trials and tribulations of these and other food-inspired characters during Monday night’s show at the Neo-Futurists Theater. Avoid the line at the box office and grab your tickets ahead of time here!


Three Delicious Arguments From “That’s Weird, Grandma: Stories About Food”

Posted by Gavin on August 3, 2018

That's Weird Grandma

Barrel of Monkeys spends one day of each creative writing residency teaching students to write persuasive arguments. Students choose something they’re either for or against, and then they identify three compelling reasons to support that position.

Our students love writing food-related persuasive arguments, and we’ve adapted many of them into songs and sketches over our twenty-one years. Here are three that director Joseph Schupbach chose for our current production at the Neo-Futurists Theater, That’s Weird, Grandma: Stories About Food.

1. “I Believe That Everything Should be Chocolate” by Luis M., Seward School

Like many of us, Luis loves chocolate - and they’re adamant that everything from your house to your homework should be made of it. Barrel of Monkeys company member Laura McKenzie adapted this song into a soulful musical number, capturing just how amazing a world filled with chocolate would be.

Barrel of Monkeys ensemble members performing as donuts during That's Weird, Grandma

I believe that everything needs to be chocolate. My first reason is that you need to have chocolate because you could eat your house. My second reason is that you could eat everything instead of buying it. My final reason is that you could eat you homework and your teacher wouldn’t know what color is your paper. That is why you need to have chocolate.

2. “Buffalo Joe’s Argument” by Jamari J., Dawes Elementary School

We all have a favorite local restaurant, and Jamari’s is Buffalo Joe’s. They argue that feeding kids more Buffalo Joe’s barbecue wings and seasoned fries will help them do their homework and chores - even if it turns them into barbecue-addicted, zombie-like people.

Barrel of Monkeys ensemble members putting Buffalo Joes buckets on their head during a performance of That's Weird, Grandma

I believe people should buy more buffalo joe’s to eat so they can have more juicy (drewling)
Delicious bbq chicken and seasoned fries and when they get their juicy (drewling) delicious buffalo joe’s they can just give it to their kids, then the kids can go to their room and watch tv or play video games and then when their done they can go ask their parents to buy some more juicy (drewling) delicious buffalo joe’s. And when they get they are going to get good grades, behave, cut the grass, and wash the dishes, and also wash their laundry. And then they will freak out. And they will freak out because they’ll get more buffalo joe’s then they’ll had more then they had before. THE END.

3. “Chitterlings” by Samuel B., Harold Washington Elementary

Not all of our students argue for more of a specific type of food. In fact, some argue that we should avoid a certain dish.

For example, Samuel at Harold Washington Elementary wrote a persuasive argument condemning chitterlings. We adapted his disgust for pig intestines - and all pork save for pepperoni - into a slow, rolling song that’s a That’s Weird, Grandma audience favorite.

Barrel of Monkeys ensemble members performing

I believe nobody should not eat chitterlings. 1st because, they’re yucky pig intestines. 2nd because, it is where the poop goes. 3rd because, they eat mud. 4th because, they are pork and I can’t eat pork, except for pepperoni.

See our adaptations of these pieces, as well as other food-related stories by Chicago elementary school students, at our next performance of That’s Weird, Grandma: Stories About Food on Monday night. The fun starts at 8, and we can’t wait to share this batch of sketches and songs with you! 

Purchase your tickets ahead of time here.