Posts relating to school shows.
Posted by Amanda Farrar on May 14, 2015
The Monkey Minute
Celebration of Authors
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.
By Alejandro I.
Oh baby oh baby
I’m talkin’ puffins you
fly like a kite up in
the sky you like
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
Were the only one to kiss
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.
Posted by Amanda Farrar on April 29, 2015
The Monkey Minute
That's Weird Grandma
Celebration of Authors
Barrel of Monkeys teaches creative writing residencies in Chicago Public Schools to third through fifth grade students. During our time with students, the team of five teaching artists create a safe and supportive space for students to express themselves. Company member Marika Mashburn tells us about some of the more heart-wrenchingly beautiful stories written by our student-authors and adapted for the stage by Barrel of Monkeys.
Be radically kind to one another, Monkey friends! We’ll see you at our performances this summer beginning Monday, June 8.
5 Beautiful Stories from the Hearts of Children
By Marika Mashburn
You might think that a theatre company who adapts stories about Monsters, Aliens and Dinosaurs only has a bunch of weird and happy stories in its wheelhouse. But here at Barrel of Monkeys, our teaching artists encourage Chicago Public School scholars to write whatever they wish – no judgments on the subject or theme. Sometimes, those beautiful stories will truly break your heart. Here are five stories about heartbreak and loss, written by Chicago Public School students, that we have adapted for the stage.
By Ashley F., Garfield Park After School Program
Once upon a time there was a T-Rex named Corey. Everyday he went to his job where he ate cars. He ate trucks, long trucks with lots of metal. One day he saw a rat that was 10 inches. He screamed, “Mommy!”
Rat: You don’t have to be afraid of me.
T-Rex: But I am.
Rat: (starts crying…cries real hard. Hard enough to make a big puddle)
T-Rex: I’m sorry.
Rat: You hurt my feelings.
T-Rex: You want to play with me and have fun together?
T-Rex: Do you want to be my friend?
Rat: Yes I will like to be your friend.
T-Rex: Friends forever and ever.
They play by the pad together. Then he said “We’re going to do everything together forever.” The next day Corey the T-Rex had to go to work then he went to rats house and said, “Do you want t come with me to work?” “Yes I like that.”
T-Rex: Boss I found someone to be the clean up boy.
Rat: I’m going to be a clean up boy.
T-Rex: Yes you are.
Rat: started crying, cause he was happy.
One day the rat is taking out all of the metal. Then people circle around him. They kick him, they punch him so hard that he died. The T-Rex came he started crying and running. I’m sorry I let that happen but the rat was dead.
This wonderful narrative/dialogue was performed in our Barrel of Monkeys 5th Anniversary Season Special. It made our audiences laugh and cry.
My Dreams of My Dad Visiting Me
By Rachel D., Graham Elementary School
Every Dream I have my dad appears he started to appear after 12:00 three days after he died and he appears and we always start off dancing and he sings a song about loving me he always tries to remind me but when he goes to say I love you I had to wake up at 6:30 and get ready for the day and I always think about it and last Sunday he got to tell me everything like I love you, your safe, don’t cry, will see each other again, and we remember each other using are hearts, that’s what my dreams are. The End.
This personal narrative was staged simply and sweetly, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house when we performed it for Celebration of Authors.
Untitled by Rene, Avondale-Logandale Elementary School
Once upon a time there was a very sad microwave oven because they did not use it to heat up food. It always cried every night because they did not use it and it wanted to leave from the house and leave to other things and following day they were going to use for the first time but it (the microwave) wasn’t there and they looked for it and called the police and put papers (flyers) saying looking for a microwave oven and at last / finally they found it in a house. The End.
Nobody likes to feel underutilized, and we turned this cautionary tale into a jazzy number that was a huge hit.
The Tiny Door in the Back of My Closet
By Tyler W., Cleveland School
I had never noticed the tiny door in the back of my closet before. I opened and saw a friendly monster that was scared of me. Then in a few more weeks and he knew me well and we started to play in my room. Then my mom came in and the monster had to hide. Then my mom said that I had to clean my room then my mom closed the door. After that the monster came out and help me clean my room and we finished the room quickly then we played some more and then the monster fainted. Then he got up in an hour. Then he died.
Every kid needs a best friend they can count on, and losing that best friend can sometimes make you feel happy and sad, all at the same time. We explored having all of the feelings when we adapted this story for the stage.
My Streets is Always Quiet
By Takayla N., New Sullivan Elementary School
I believe that I want my streets to be quiet and peaceful. And I don’t want no fighting or gun shots. If my street was peaceful, me and my friends could play outside and play jump rope. If my street was quiet and peaceful I would be less bored because I could go outside instead of having to stay inside. If there were no arguments on my street I could say hello to my neighbors, I could hang out, and then go back outside and have fun. That is why I believe my street should be quiet and peaceful. The End.
This lovely argument was turned into a beautiful song, and has been featured recently in That’s Weird, Grandma.
Posted by Amanda Farrar on April 24, 2015
The Monkey Minute
The overwhelming majority of Barrel of Monkeys’ programming occurs in Chicago Public Schools. During the school day, a team of five teaching artists teach third through fifth graders over a six-week period using theater as a tool to teach creative, persuasive, and narrative writing. The benefit of bringing five teaching artists into the room is that we can deliver one-on-one attention to students more so than is possible in a one-teacher scenario. We are able to build each student’s self-expression abilities by providing writing alternatives as needed, including writing in native language, storyboards, and student dictation. Further, Barrel of Monkeys always validates each student’s ideas through high-quality professional performance, especially those students who may not regularly receive such validation.
Company member Tim Soszko shares his own experience with a student in the classroom and what it was like for them both when performing his adaptation of the story they wrote together.
A reminder, after Sunday’s 2pm performance of That’s Weird, Grandma, the theater is dark until June 8, but there’s always a green light for making a donation to support the imaginations of children!
Adventures in Adaptation
By Tim Soszko
There was a student who, when we would come into her class, was often already in trouble. A particularly sad part of it was she seemingly had no control over and didn’t realize what she was doing. She definitely enjoyed the Barrel of Monkeys teachers being silly, but we were never sure if she enjoyed the games we played in class. She didn’t respond much to questions. Individual writing was a challenge. She didn’t write with ease. One of the Monkey teaching artists were always on hand to help her write, which isn’t abnormal in these residencies. Lots of students need a little help writing or coming up with an idea or just a confidence boost to keep going.
This student needed a lot of coaxing because she didn’t seem to know what was going on at times. On dialogue day she was sitting with her notebook in front of her, pencil in hand, looking around, not sure what to do. I sat down next to her and re-explained the writing assignment. Come up with some characters, a setting, and then have those characters talk to each other like in a movie. She wanted to write a story about school. And when I asked she said she wanted to be one of the characters. Anyone else? She said I should be one of the characters, too. Great! I told her I love being in stories (because it’s true). How should these characters feel about each other? They should be friends. I liked that too. The dialogue she wrote was very simple: hello, how are you, let’s be friends. They’re happy, they shake hands, they say goodbye. She was very proud of her story. She shared it with the kids around her, showed her teacher, and kept talking as we left.
In our reading meeting all the teachers noticed this was the only story she had really completed. If there is a student that’s struggling or would really benefit from the confidence boost seeing their story adapted on stage, we’ll choose it. And this was one student who truly deserved it.
During rehearsal I excitedly shouted that I’d like to help adapt her story. I had a great idea to present the dialogue in a way she would appreciate. Extremes! With just two people. There were big, loud dance and song numbers. And huge physical movements when we shook hands accompanied by loud sound effects. But all the dialogue and emotions were then presented very simply and positively. Back and forth between these extremes. It was super fun to perform. And the author smiled, puffed up a bit, and looked around to see that other kids were looking at her.
For me, that’s always the first thing I tell people that Barrel of Monkeys does for kids. It boosts their confidence in their creative endeavors. If they feel like they CAN do it, then they’ll WANT to do it more. They know that their voice is worth something. Hooray.
Posted by Mary T on April 15, 2015
Listen. Come a little bit closer. Lean in close to your computer monitor or laptop or teeny tiny phone screen or large computer-sized phone screen. I’m going to tell you a secret. Here it is: Barrel of Monkeys runs on PROPS. That’s right! You heard me right! Props! “What do you mean?” you’re saying to your screen, “I thought you were all about stories!!” Well, the REAL truth is WE ARE. We ARE about stories, but we are also all about props. We love props. Props help us tell the stories that we adapt even more vividly and help us create beautiful, engaging, and hilarious stage pictures.
The imaginative team of actors(including me!!) for Lorca Elementary’s upcoming show has been hard at work preparing a fabulous set of stories to be presented next Monday. So far we have been focusing on honoring the stories’ fun characters and imaginative plots, so we have yet to even use props to tell the stories. That doesn’t mean we haven’t been thinking about props, though! We’ve been thinking about what props we will need to rehearse with in our final dress rehearsal so that when the day comes, Maggie knows what props to bring to our rehearsal space at Loyola Park. It’s important we get at least one rehearsal in with the props so that we know we are using them in the most effective way possible and so we know where to place our props before the start of the show. This helps us to not lose our props so easily. (I have lost props before. It is not fun.)
Here is a list of props I am most looking forward to using in this show:
1. The boat, the shark and the other boat in the story “Boat” by Robert V.
2. Fake mud in the story “The Four Sisters and Stepsister” by Selena L.
3. Abraham Lincoln’s beard in “John and the Awesome Meditation” by Ian O.
That is just a mere TASTE of the great props we will be using for this show.
I love props! I can’t wait to bring the show to life with all the props we are going to be using. Wait. I have a question for you, though. Where did I put my props?!?!
Posted by Amanda Farrar on March 18, 2015
The Monkey Minute
That's Weird Grandma
After School Program
After teaching creative writing residencies in a Chicago Public School or the Chicago Park District, teaching artists collect the students’ notebooks and share them with several of the company’s ensemble of professional actors and musicians. Together, the teaching artists, actors, and musicians adapt selected stories for the stage and return to the school to present an original performance drawn entirely from the student-written material.
The experience of seeing their work performed in front of an audience of their peers is profoundly moving and empowering for the student-authors. The experience of performing student-work for the authors themselves can be intensely challenging and stressful for the Monkeys, because as much as we try, not every adaptation is an A+. As Oona Kersey Hatton experienced, students can be our greatest critics and our greatest teachers.
How do the story adaptations currently being performed in That’s Weird, Grandma measure up? Come judge for yourself. Tickets available now for Sundays at 2pm through April 26 and only 2 more Monday at 8pm performances!
Adventures in Adaptation
By: Oona Kersey Hatton
I joined Barrel of Monkeys in 2000. At that time we were rehearsing in a converted warehouse space that was used during the day as a doggie daycare. It had a concrete floor and was surprisingly clean, with only the faintest redolence of the daytime occupants.
I was so excited to be in the ensemble, and I had signed up for the first show of the year. One of my first adaptations was a collaboration with Ryan Walters, Erica Rosenfeld Halverson, and Tom Malinowski. I remember very little about the story except that it involved two forest animals getting into a heated altercation that they ultimately brought to the Bottom of the Pond (personified) for mediation. I played the Bottom of the Pond. Other cast members played Bugs Bunny (an example of how celebrity characters frequently appear in stories, often out of context) and other small mammals.
We had a great time with our adaptation, which showed the animals getting into a fight and then trying to resolve the dispute by all sharing their versions of “what really happened.” This meant that we essentially acted out the story three times. In our creative vision, the differences in each repetition—which relied on subtle adjustments to character portrayal—were increasingly hilarious and absurd. In reality, the satire would have been impossible for an audience of any age to discern—first, because the size and acoustics of the performance space would have rendered any but the most exaggerated contrasts impossible to discern, and second, because the audience had very little opportunity to get to know the characters and therefore would have difficulty grasping how they were being parodied.
If this criticism seems a little heady, take the word of an audience member from that fateful morning. A student sitting in the front row turned to her companion in the middle of our performance and exclaimed, “this story is too long.” We immediately recognized that her assessment was correct, and we enjoyed repeating this pithy critique for years to come.
I left that morning with a few thoughts that my next ten years in Barrel of Monkeys would confirm:
1. The audience is always right.
2. Repetition needs justification.
3. Not every adaptation will be a slam dunk.
I use these and hundreds of other Barrel of Monkeys-lessons every day as I teach and continue to make theatre.