Posts about specific BOM company members.
Posted by Alexis on July 22, 2010
You are the Artistic Director of Barrel of Monkeys. What does that mean?
Every day it’s something a little bit different. It’s a lot of preparation for shows that are coming up. When we have auditions I’m in charge of the casting and organizing that whole process. It’s got a lot of variation to it, including selecting new stories to put in the show each week, That’s Weird, Grandma. I tally all the audience votes and figure out what we should take out, which sometimes is a heartbreaking decision, but it has to be done.
How long have you been with BOM?
I was cast in the fall of 2000, at a time when ... the group was pretty small then. To give you an idea of how much it’s growing, we have 55 active company members, and at the time when I was cast I think they had 14 active company members —I may not have that exactly right—and they cast a big crew that almost doubled their size.
When did you decide to become involved in theater?
Whoa. That’s a loaded one. Well, this sort of ties into my love of Barrel of Monkeys. I was sort of a bad kid in grade school until third grade, and then I had a teacher who did creative drama in the classroom, and suddenly I think it was kind of a night and day switch and I turned around and I loved the teacher, and therefore wanted to impress her, and therefore was motivated to do well in school and so ... that’s when I became turned around from a problem kid to a kid who was a good student, I suppose, or a kid who was at least striving. So anyway, I had this teacher and that’s sort of simultaneously when I got interested in doing drama.
Do you have a memory of a thing you did as a bad kid? A pre-third grade memory.
Oh, a pre-third grade memory. Yeah, in kindergarten we had these life-sized blocks and we built a whole town. We were learning about the mail system, so you had to write letters correctly and write the address of the sender up in the corner, and who you were sending it to in the middle and put the stamp on and all that. And I intentionally did it wrong to see what would happen, and I got put in jail by the kid who was the sheriff, and I didn’t like that so I -
You were testing the system!
I was testing the system. And then I broke the jail. Like I broke the jail—I mean physically threw the blocks and broke out. And that led to a lot of parent conferences and stuff, the kid who was the sheriff was distraught and he was, you know, “Luke’s breaking the jail.”
Did you ride shooting guns down the street?
In my mind, yeah.
Posted by Tai on June 11, 2010
Celebration of Authors
Every June, after the Monkeys celebrate the authors, teachers, and schools that we work with, we reconvene at a secret location to celebrate our fellow company members at our annual post-Celebration of Authors party and awards ceremony. Awards are given out recognizing everyone’s outstanding work in our school performances throughout the past year, such as “Best Shady Character,” “Best Creature,” and “Most Heartfelt.” (This year’s stories featured numerous appearances by our nation’s President, so a “Best Obama” award was warranted.)
At the end of the ceremony, the prestigious Tom Malinowski Award for Enthusiasm and Commitment to Monkey Greatness is presented. Our Artistic Director, Luke Hatton, describes it as such: “It is bestowed upon an individual in the company who made extraordinary contributions toward the success of Barrel of Monkeys this year.” Previous recipients of this award include Sarah Goeden, Curtis Williams, Mike Spatafora, Luke Hatton, Tai Palmgren, Jason Sperling, and Rachel Wilson.
Joining their ranks this year is Donnell Williams.
Posted by Alexis on June 7, 2010
The first in a series of monthly interviews with members of Barrel of Monkeys.
How long have you been with Barrel of Monkeys?
I’ve been with Barrel of Monkeys since the Fall of 2003. After graduating from Northwestern, where I was in Griffin’s Tale, I said to my friend Laura Gray, “I have to keep doing this work, I hear there’s a professional company, how do I become a part of it.” And she introduced me to the Monkeys.
Do you have a favorite BOM story to perform right now?
Oh geez, well right now we’ve brought back an old favorite called Eddie’s Rim Shop, where I play Eddie’s wife ... it’s fun to do that story. I also like stories like The Beat where you have to get something right.
What do you do when you’re not being a Monkey?
I work for Steppenwolf Theater Company and I’m the Production Coordinator there. So it’s always fun when I get to see my Monkey pals at Steppenwolf, and whenever I read in someone’s bio at like the Goodman Theater or Steppenwolf ensemble member at Barrel of Monkeys, it’s like “That’s right! Check it!”
What does Production Coordinator mean?
Production Coordinator is kind of a weird title - basically I am the Assistant Production Manager. What that means is along with my boss (the Production Manager) I help oversee the Steppenwolf Production Department - who are the people that make the scenery, the costumes, hang the speakers, point the lights, run the show and in general do everything to make the play happen. Production managers are responsible for managing budgets, calendars and people. If we have done our job correctly, the show opens on time, under budget, and is just as the director and designers want it, with everyone working on the show feeling satisfied, and probably with a beer in their hand on opening night.
Do you have any pets?
Yes, I have a monster named Booker T. Uffelman. He’s an eleven month old English Bulldog, and he’s the most handsome dog in all of Chicago. He’s very charming ... he’s at home right now eating ice cubes.
Okay, so pretend you can’t be a Monkey or a Production Coordinator at Steppenwolf. What is your dream job?
Butter judge. No question. I’d be a butter judge. One day I was flipping through a food magazine and there was a full-page ad for some kind of artisinal butter. It said “winner of the something-something prize and the something-something prize for fine butters.” I put my university education to use and said, “if there are prizes for butter, there is someone whose job it is to taste butter and judge it …. Butter judge.” Absolutely my dream job. Oh my lord, you just spread it on a baguette and taste it and take notes, and compare it to the other butter, and then you mix it in with vegetables … That, or the people who take care of bee emergencies. You know, there are people who are a squad and they go take care of bee disasters. So butter taster or the volunteer bee squadron.
Posted by Amanda Farrar on June 7, 2010
That's Weird Grandma
TWG Weekly Update
Celebration of Authors
After School Program
Sadly, there will not be a performance of “That’s Weird Grandma” this evening. Happily, there WILL be a FREE performance tomorrow night! Tuesday, June 8 at 7pm, Barrel of Monkeys will perform Celebration of Authors at the Harold Washington Cultural Center, 4701 Martin Luther King Dr. Click here to make a reservation!
Because artistic director extraordinaire, Luke Hatton, was so generous in offering me a part in this year’s Celebration of Authors, I have been spending much of my time in the last week watching the brilliant Monkeys at work, attempting to keep up, and on my own, doing some intense Michael Jackson choreography research.
Being in the room with the Monkeys at work is like nothing I have ever experienced in my decades in the performing arts (albeit, the majority of which had a heavy dance emphasis). Just the term “team work” does not really do this group justice. I have seen the Monkeys work as a small group in the classrooms, but that controlled chaos pales in comparison to that in the rehearsal room when there are 35 Monkeys!
I was amazed watching rehearsal for “The Tale of the Twelve Hip Hop Dancing Proncess”. While Carly was reviewing choreography with everyone, Philip was teaching the vocals, and on the side, Musical Director Laura had an idea of layering in some more vocals. She touched base with fellow Monkey musician Erick to see what he thought. As he was encouraging, she went to Philip to see what he was good with it. After a quick agreement from Philip, Laura had Mari and Rachel on their feet playing around with the additional vocals. After some wrangling by Artistic Director Luke Hatton, and approximately 30 minutes, the play was ready to go!
I’ve always loved the process of art making, and the Monkeys have the process to beat all processes!
The most amazing thing is that the passion and dedication of each individual Monkey is inspired by one thing: the children. The intense urge of each Monkey to do justice to the student author’s story and make them proud is palpable. The question after a performance by a Monkey is never “How was I?” it is “What did the author do when we were performing his/her story?”
Come see the Monkeys perform 30 brilliant stories written by students this school year, and better yet, see the students’ reactions.
Posted by Rachel on May 25, 2010
Chalmers is often the last school show of the year, and while we don’t play favorites, it is true that lots of Monkeys come out for this last blast.
One of these Monkeys is Kristie Koehler, former Monkey Program Director and current emeritus member. Emeritus is a fancy way to say she used to be around all the time, but isn’t anymore. You might remember her as Bob Stickle, Funny Bunny, or the Girl Who Broke Her Two Front Teeth. That story was performed in the very first That’s Weird Grandma and is the source of the title! Kristie’s the original “Grandma” on the very first That’s Weird, Grandma posters! I mean, you guys, that is famous!
Here she is with fellow Monkey veteran Matt Miller.
Kristie is a clown, a Neo-Futurist, a college instructor, a sometime TV producer, and one of the funniest people I know.
One of my favorite things about Kristie is that she’s older than me. (I mean, in Monkey years she’s older. Kristie, that’s what I mean. I’m not telling how old anybody is in real years, though young Philip recently described me as “still springlike.” I will take it. ) Back on track—when I first joined Barrel of Monkeys, I was not always sure what to do, so I would ask myself, “What would Kristie do?” and basically rip her off. While I could never be Kristie, it worked great! At the end of that first year, people told me I had grown a lot as a performer, and I thought, yeah, I learned how to rip off Kristie Koehler . . . Secrets. Learning and growing. Barrel of Monkeys, always learning and growing together.
No, but seriously that’s part of what makes a company strong—internal leadership and a shared sense of style and humor. We copy each other and mix it up with our own special sauce, find our inner Monkey. Mine has a healthy sprinkling of Koehler.