Getting to Know Barrel of Monkeys’ Noah Appelbaum!

Posted by Tom on July 23, 2018

That's Weird Grandma


Noah Appelbaum onstage in That’s Weird, Grandma

Tonight is the first performance of That’s Weird, Grandma: Stories About Food. Not only is it an exciting show because of all the food-themed stories written by Chicago elementary school students, but also, there’s an incredible mix of Barrel of Monkeys company members old and new in the production.

I sat down with one of the newest company members in the show, Noah Appelbaum, to learn more about his summer performing in That’s Weird, Grandma.

How did you discover Barrel of Monkeys?
I had a good friend who was a company member for several years, and it always sounded really exciting whenever she talked about it! Then I became a company member - and she ran away to go to grad school.

Can you describe a memorable experience (or two) you had teaching this year?
Teaching was so fun, and the students I had this year seemed really excited to write and tell their stories. I always really like when kids who tend to be quieter or less participatory in the classroom want to read their stories aloud because they feel proud of their work.

On True Story Day, I got to have a group of fifth-grade reenactors perform the tale of how I broke my arm. They were very thorough and accurate.

What are two stories you’re proud of adapting?
I really enjoyed adapting “The Girl Named Moisture” from Poe Classical School. I was so happy with all of the details the author wrote into the story that we got to include. I got to play a futuristic girl, named Chicken Flavored Seasoning Packet, trying to make friends in the year 9073. Can you ask for anything more?

I was also graced with the opportunity to turn Jordan’s tale from the Poe School’s epic Potato Chip God into a song (featured in That’s Weird, Grandma: Stories About Food!) This story of trying to painstakingly summon The Potato Chip God through feats of strength just seemed really metal to me, so I turned it into a metal song.

Performing it always feels really magical to me, because while I’m playing my guitar and screaming, everyone on stage is so committed. When the Potato Chop God finally shows up, it feels like all of my dreams are coming true.

A group of Barrel of Monkeys actors standing on metal chairs with a cardboard box that says
Noah and fellow Barrel of Monkeys company members performing in the Poe Classical School show.

How did teaching and performing in Chicago’s schools help you get ready for performing in That’s Weird, Grandma?
Teaching and performing at the schools is obviously what it’s all about. You can’t beat the opportunity to perform these stories for the authors and their communities, because nobody else can appreciate them in quite the same way. That said, That’s Weird, Grandma is so much fun, and I love getting to share what I’ve spent all year doing in schools and also getting to share these awesome stories our students wrote with the general public!

Name two things you love about Chicago.
Lots of really good and weird art gets made so constantly here!

[Also], the city is so big and comprises so many diverse neighborhoods and communities! I often forget how much of Chicago exists outside the geographical scope of my usual routine, and it’s always great to be reminded of all the great people and places that are out there.

What’s one non-Barrel-of-Monkeys goal you want to absolutely nail before the end of the year?
I wanted to make a meringue pie, because I hadn’t ever done that before, but I actually just did that recently and it came out great! Boom, goals accomplished!

What are two things you like to do when you’re not performing/teaching?
I practice martial arts—I do wushu and other Chinese martial arts, and recently I’ve been flirting with some BJJ and more MMA-type stuff. It’s just the best exercise, and I really love my martial arts community.

I also really like to play board games. I try to meet up with friends to play some games every weekend if I can!

Kayla Pulley, Meredith Miliron, and Noah Appelbaum performing
Noah playing the part of Batman in “Day of the Dark” alongside Meredith Miliron and Kayla Pulley.

See Noah tonight at 8 in our first performance of That’s Weird, Grandma: Stories About Food. We can’t wait to share some of our favorite food-themed stories with you - get your tickets here.

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