Posted by Bradford on October 31, 2017
New Monkeys, A New Space, the first show of the year…Oh yeah, that’s what I’m talkin’ about!
This summer Barrel of Monkeys did a residency with Hearts to Arts, a camp run by the Auditorium Theater for kids who have experienced the loss of a parent. During the four day workshop, kids wrote amazing stories ranging from King Banana Face, Cannibal Cows, to people trying to ride the bus with no money. Adding to the excitement, it’s one of the first rehearsals in our new space, and three awesome Artistic Associates are doing their first school show. Noah Appelbaum, Tyler Liams, and stage manager Rachael Koplin are truly awesome in their Barrel of Monkeys debuts. That’s what I’m talkin’ about indeed!
Meet the New Monkeys Yall!
Under the direction of our fearless director Brandon Cloyd, The Auditorium Theater Hearts to Arts show is sure to be a blast. Check back next week for pics from the show!
Posted by hpalmer on July 27, 2017
I love Barrel of Monkeys, because it taught me to make stories that allow me to create my own characters and create kind of like my own little world, in which I control my characters lives, and how I could choose wether they are solving a mystery or just going to the store to buy cookies. I could enter dramatic plot twists that could change their lives, or I could introduce them to thing that will change them for the better.
Barrel of Monkeys has changed my life in many ways. One way is, now I love to learn new words, and when I do I write them down, and in the future I could use them in my favorite game, Scrabble. I used to hate everything that related to school, math, science, writing, but with Barrel of Monkeys, it introduced me to many other genres of writing that we were not taught in school, and when they did introduce us to those topics I already knew what to do, because I was able to recall when we were taught it. Now I love everything to do with words, I play Scrabble, a whole collection of crossword puzzles and word search, I even read the dictionary for fun, it’s really fun to update my vocabulary with new words, so I won’t sound like everyone else, but when I was sad, I could use longer words to express how I feel, words that will capture the real feeling, not just sad or happy, but sorrowful and elated, which in my opinion are much better words to use.
From my background knowledge, the ‘90s were very colorful, so the shows performed on stage would be colorful with wacky asymmetrical hairstyles and awesome noises.
In 20 years, I think that the light technology would have improved a lot, so then there would be more awesome special effects to make the stories awesome and so that you can’t even think about looking away for a second, and there would be cool robot costumes with a lot of things used to help out, so then the costume changes would go easier and quicker, to make it look like a professional show.
-Naysa S., BOM Student
Posted by hpalmer on July 27, 2017
20 Years of BOM
Barrel of Monkeys has opened new opportunities that may help me in the future. I think that I would like to be a movie director when I grow up, and storytelling is a big part of a movie! I think that Barrel of Monkeys is a good experience for meeting new people as well. It’s never a bad thing to make new friends!
-Sofia V., BOM Student
Posted by hpalmer on July 26, 2017
20 Years of BOM
This past Sunday I dropped my 11 year old daughter off at Northwestern for a 3-week summer program. There’s a lot about that sentence that I don’t really know how to process (especially that I have an 11 year old…what the?!). As we were walking onto campus we passed a little hill where Halena and I were sitting the day we said to each other – “well, we graduated from college, what do we do now?” The germ idea for Barrel of Monkeys was born as we talked about how much we had enjoyed creating and performing stories written by kids but that we were really hungry for more interaction with young people and to work with kids who maybe didn’t have a lot of creative writing or performance in their lives.
We were so lucky to have our early days of experimentation with a small but dedicated group of similarly untrained actor-educators. We got to do things like help run an after-school homework help club for the kids of refugee families in Albany Park and store all of our props in a windowless van because we didn’t have an office space. We made a lot of mistakes, but everyone was generous and kind from the beginning; we gave ourselves permission to screw up and the schools and teachers we worked with let our energy, enthusiasm, and talent as artists be enough until we could figure out the rest. A special shout out to company member Jason Sperling who has been with us literally this entire time.
I think all the time about how some of the early decisions we made have influenced my life in really significant ways. (Halena mentioned her selfish reasons for starting BOM, I’m going to talk selfishly now in a way that she never does!). When we were building out the idea for the program, she and I had to divide up roles. Neither of us really knew anything about education, but she was already a better director than I was, so we decided early on that she would take the artistic leadership and I would take the education leadership. Good for me, because I got to continue to be in the shows (hooray!) and good for all of us because Halena is now a brilliant director and audiences get to see her work all over the country.
Flash forward 20 years – I am a Professor of Education at the University of Wisconsin; I am known as someone who studies the arts and learning and I got tenure for my studies of how people learn in and through artistic production. I can draw a direct line from our early organizational decision to my career path all the way to this past Sunday when I dropped my kid off at Northwestern.
I have so many stories of hilarious or heartbreaking or victorious moments we had during the emergent phase of our work. Like the time I broke my foot during the first season of That’s Weird Grandma acting like a cheerleader, vomited in a trash can and finished the show because, what else would you do? Or how we used to rehearse in a doggy day care center and we all had dog hair on all of our clothes and in our hair for months straight. Or how we would get into arguments about whether a robot who was “half man, half sports” could simultaneously make a phone call and bounce a ball at the same time (looking at you Jonathan Mastro!) and whether the kids would buy that.
But I don’t want to be one of those old people who reminisces about the good old days and doesn’t acknowledge the amazing work of the recent and current crop of Monkeys who have taken the program in directions I never could have imagined. Watching the artistic leadership of first Luke Hatton and then Molly Brennan and now Joe Schupbach and the education leadership of Dixie Uffleman, Elizabeth Levy, David Pintor, and Brandon Cloyd is my single favorite thing about being a Monkey. They have taken the best of what we built and done their own “yes and” to all of it.
One quick story to end (I know, I can’t help myself): For the past five years, each fall I bring a class of pre-service teachers down to Chicago to spend a day with BOM as part of their arts integration class. They have a workshop with the education team, they observe the afterschool program, and then we see That’s Weird Grandma. It’s an amazing day. Whenever I ask the students what they’ve taken away from the experience, in addition to how hard they laugh during the show, they almost always say, “scaffolding the risk”. It’s a phrase I’ve heard Joe and Elizabeth say, and now one I’ve heard Brandon and David use. And it’s one that represents the core of what BOM is about – creating supports for students to take risks with their ideas and their writing and for adult performers to do the same. It’s what we’re best at. And selfishly, I love it because I’m pretty sure I came up with that phrase, but now it belongs to everyone. And my students associate it with BOM and with the work that we collectively put into the world.
Thanks team and here’s to 20 more!
Halena Kays and Erica Halverson founded Barrel of Monkeys in 1997.
Posted by hpalmer on July 24, 2017
20 Years of BOM
I really can’t remember how I heard about That’s Weird Grandma, but “Pear and Apple” made my first experience as an audience member unforgettable.
The actors moved quickly in the dark. The epistolary story was introduced. A spotlight focused on solitary Apple, supported by a pedestal. With warm familiarity, Apple sweetly beseeched Pear. “Dear Pear, You are lucky because you have a good view of the city. I would like it if you consider changing places with me. Sincerely, Apple.”
The spotlight darkened and, an instant later, bathed a solitary Pear, on its own pedestal, in light. “Dear Apple,” Pear began, lulling both Apple and the audience into the illusion of safe and delicate
correspondence. “You are weird and no I do not want to change with you. I like it here. We can’t switch anyway we are attached to the branch.”
Pear’s boldness! Its coldly practical response to Apple! It was hilarious. But then the thing that made me unable to stop laughing the rest of the evening happened. Pear signed the letter with a
brilliant, final stroke against Apple. “I hate you. Pear.”
This story is radiantly funny. Even beyond his brilliant comedic flair, Nick, author of “Pear and Apple,” perfectly conveys the characters of both of his subjects in no more than five sentences and two smartly-chosen letter closing. The audience sees both characters so clearly through the language of their short correspondence. Apple is optimistic and idealistic with hints of being an operator. Pear, on the other hand, is pragmatic, analytical, and direct. Probably an introvert, Pear’s colleagues and friends praise its creative genius and criticize its blunt leadership style. Apple could have been Pete Campbell and Pear, Don Draper.
Pear and Apple took me by surprise that night. It remains one of the most efficient character studies as well as one of the most bitingly funny pieces I’ve ever encountered. There are many stories from our students that have struck me. Stories that have made me laugh and cry. Stories that have stuck with me throughout the next day or week or month. Or longer. Stories that I return to. Stories, in all of their forms, are so important to conveying our own human experience – whether it’s through comedy, drama, or something in between. I’m delighted to be a part of an organization that prizes individual voice and storytelling and works to actively engage artists of all ages in this important work. I hope you can join Barrel of Monkeys as we celebrate 20 years of intergenerational storytelling on July 27th . Maybe you’ll get to meet Pear and Apple too.
Kim is on the Barrel of Monkeys Board and serves as Vice-President.