Looking Forward to Lake Forest

Posted by Gavin on November 9, 2018

Education School Shows School Residencies

Piles of stories on loose-leaf paper written by Barrel of Monkeys students from Lake Forest Elementary Schools near Chicago

So many stories!

Last year, Barrel of Monkeys taught a shortened residency in the Lake Forest, IL school district for the first time - and this year, we were so excited to do it again! This residency is a bit different than many of our other ones - rather than just teaching in one school, we teach in nine classrooms across three schools, leading to an expansive collection of stories from students. Our school show - adapted from stories that students wrote during the residency - is next Friday, so our cast is currently in the process of reading through stories and choosing which ones to adapt into songs, sketches, and movement pieces.

Artistic Director Brandon Cloyd plans to put about 18 stories into the final show, ensuring there’s an equal representation of the classrooms we taught in, as well as a good mix of stories written by students in groups and stories written by individual students.

Here’s a quick look at two of the stories that the cast has adapted so far:

Dark vs Light

By Steven, Jonah, and Abby

It’s 1879, and the Night Riders, the best Lacrosse team in New York, are up against the Light Riders. The Night Riders think this will be an easy win - after all, they’re the best in the league, and the Light Riders are . . . not. In fact, they’re the worst in the league. The Night Riders face an unexpected challenge, though - the Light Riders’ goalie becomes injured and their Charleston-dancing, surprisingly-athletic water boy fills in.

For this sketch, our cast leaned into the old-timey setting of the story. Leo Thorpe, one of our new Artistic Associates, provided accompaniment with ragtime-style music, our performers brushed up on their silent-movie-era slang, and when deciding what props to use, top hats and evil-villain capes made the list.

Four Barrel of Monkeys cast members putting their hands in together at the start of a sketch about lacrosse during a rehearsal in Uptown

In it to win it!

Barrel of Monkeys cast member Steph Vondell protecting the goal during a sketch about lacross in a rehearsal in Uptown

The water boy takes charge.

Barrel of Monkeys cast members rehearsing a victory dance for a sketch


Fartbara & The Revenge of the Cats

By Catherine M., Hugh T., Evan B., and William N.

Fartbara (played by Steph Vondell, another new Artistic Associate) is an 800-year-old woman who lives in a log cabin in space and farts a lot. She also loves cats, especially her cat Whiskers (played by Jean-Carlos Claudio). They have a lovely, quiet life, but that all changes when a group of aliens attacks!

This story is less prop-heavy than Dark vs Light - instead, our actors focused on using clowning and other physical theatre techniques while adapting to bring Fartbara, Whiskers, and the aliens to life. And of course, with a name like Fartbara, we had to include fart noises from off-stage that the performers interact with throughout the sketch.

Barrel of Monkeys cast members rehearsing Fartbara and the Revenge of the Cats during a rehearsal in Uptown

Fartbara holding onto Whiskers for dear life. . .

Barrel of Monkeys cast members acting as cats during a rehearsal in Uptown

. . . but she and her cat friends won’t back down!

We still have plenty more stories to read through and devise for next week’s show in Lake Forest. Be sure to take a look at our Instagram story around 10am next Friday to see the final versions of these pieces, as well as the rest of the stories our cast adapts!

Zombies Everywhere at That’s Weird, Grandma!

Posted by Gavin on November 3, 2018

That's Weird Grandma

Our students love writing about zombies - in fact, they’re such a common character in the stories we adapt that zombie-related items are a normal part of our costume stock! So, when choosing stories for That’s Weird, Grandma: Ghosts, Ghouls and Talking Potatoes, we knew sketches about these beloved undead creatures were an inevitable part of our line-up.

Here are three that you’ll see when you join us for this Sunday’s closing performance.

1. Zombie Potion

Did you know that IHOP has a Potion Day? We didn’t either, but it’s an integral part of this story by Edwin from Peirce School of International Studies. A group of women decide to go to IHOP for Potion Day - but when they create a zombie potion that their husbands accidentally drink, they soon find themselves with zombie-husbands.

Jen Allman, Lev Caruso, and Mary Tilden performing Zombie Potion during a performance of That's Weird, Grandma in Chicago
At Ihop Women made a zombie potion. Each women made one. They left the potion in the fridge. Their husbands thought it was something to drink and drank it. The husbands turned to zombies . . .

2. Zombie Story

a collage of old-timey choose your own adventure novel covers

Ethan from our Loyola Park After-School Program brings us a choose-your-own-adventure story that ends in the reader either escaping a zombie invasion, getting eaten by zombies, or escaping the zombies but being nuked by the military. To keep to the story’s original form, we adapted it into a game show complete with audience participation and two possible endings.

Which one will you see? It all depends on what you and your fellow audience members tell the contestants to do!

You find a strange man walking in an alley. Do you ... Talk to him? if so go to page 2.  Walk away? If so go to page 3.
You talk to him. He moans and walks towards you. Do you…  walk away? if so go to page 3.  Stay there? if so go to pg 4 . . .

3. Malcolm X and the Zombie and Monster Infection

Jasmine Henri Jordan performing Malcolm X and the Monster and Zombie Apocalyspe during a performance of That's Weird, Grandma in Chicago

Malcolm R. from Dixon Elementary put a twist on history with this story. Malcolm X goes out one day to photograph the zombies and monsters taking over his city, but he ends up in a fight with the creatures. Don’t worry, though - he’s accompanied by his trusty sidekicks Gerald and Jayden as well as an awesome pair of brass knuckles.

There once was a man named Malcolm X. One day Malcolm was taking pictures and recording. There were a lot of zombies and mutated humans (monsters) in the city. Malcolm was not scared at all,not a bit. He was in the military and he went to the bottom of his building. He put on brass knuckles and started punching and fighting.

Sunday is your last chance to catch our cast’s best zombie impressions in this round of That’s Weird, Grandma! It’s our final performance until December, so be sure to get your tickets here.


What Gives the “That’s Weird, Grandma” Cast the Creeps?

Posted by Tom on October 26, 2018

That's Weird Grandma

We hope the stories in That’s Weird, Grandma: Ghosts, Ghouls, and Talking Potatoes delight Chicago audiences - but perhaps they’re a bit creepy as well?  Possibly! 

To get in the Halloween mood for our performance this Sunday afternoon, I asked the show’s cast and crew what movie or TV show gives them the creeps!

Mary and Izzy think “The Babadook” is creepy.

“The Ring” scares Rachel.

The Black Mirror episode “Crocodile” is nerve-wracking to Victoria.

The episode in “Goosebumps” that features Night of the Living Dummy still petrifies Noah.

Brandon gets spooked by “Beetlejuice.”

Kelen saw “It” last year and it was terrifying.

Jasmine believes the original “Poltergeist” is spine-chilling.

“Silent Hill” is unnerving to Jen.

The original “The Omen” has haunted Jean for years.

Lev feels “Annabelle” is frightening.

And I still have nightmares about “An American Werewolf in London.”

Any of these give you the creeps?

If you want a Halloween experience that’s a bit more on the silly side, join us for That’s Weird, Grandma: Ghosts, Ghouls, and Talking Potatoes this Sunday at 3. And to celebrate the spookiest holiday of the year, we’re throwing a special costume party this weekend only – kids 12 and under who wear a costume to the show get in for free!*  We’ll see you at The Neo-Futurists Theater! 

*Applies to walk-up sales for the Sunday, October 28 performance only. Kids must be accompanied by an adult. Limit three free kids’ tickets per party.

Meet Three Creepy Characters From “That’s Weird, Grandma: Ghosts, Ghouls and Talking Potatoes”

Posted by Gavin on October 19, 2018

That's Weird Grandma

Barrel of Monkeys cast members performing Candyman during That's Weird, Grandma at the Neo-Futurists Theater in Chicago

There’s no shortage of creepy creatures in Barrel of Monkeys students’ stories. Our teaching artists often find themselves reading pieces about zombies, witches, ghosts, and new supernatural beings that our students invent.

We’ve packed our Halloween-themed sketch show, That’s Weird, Grandma: Ghosts, Ghouls and Talking Potatoes, with some of our favorite student-created spooky characters. Here are just a few that you’ll meet!

1. Konny, The Unknown Granddaughter

Rayan S. from Dixon Elementary, the young author of “The Unknown Granddaughter,” describes this story’s title character as a “photo terror.” Is the granddaughter a ghost? A ghoul? We aren’t entirely sure, but we do know that her name is Konny, she appears in the Townerson family’s slideshow, and she’s incredibly terrifying.

Rawson Vint as Konny in That's Weird, Grandma at the Neo-Futurists Theater in Chicago

One day two grandparents John and Michelle Townerson wanted to look through pictures because they were getting old and wanted to remember memories. SO as they looked through pictures they came across a picture of their daughter Melinda and her husband Kyle Bollywood and their three children, one boy and two twins. The Townersons only knew about two of the grandchildren, the boy Kyle Jr. and one twin Jayla. The other twin looked creepy . . .

2. Vampiresses

Should vampiresses be able to be in the light and drink anybody’s blood? Bella P. from Cleveland Elementary considers the question in this persuasive argument:

I think Vampiresses should be able to be in the light and drink anybody’s blood
1)That’s the only thing they eat and drink.
2)The whole world would be vampiresses and vampires
3) We wouldn’t be afraid of each other

I think Vampiresses shouldn’t be able to be in the light and drink anybody’s blood
1) Vampiresses and vampires get bernd from the light
2) Everybody would be dead if they had no blood
3) There would be no one to be a vampiresses and vampires ‘cus they would be all dead

3. The Old Lady in the Ceiling With So Much Coins

Rachel Wilson and Mary Tilden perfroming in That's Weird, Grandma at the Neo-Futurists Theater in Chicago

During True Story Day in our residency at Graves Elementary, Angelica recounted a story that her family from Las Vegas told her about an “old lady that lives in the ceiling with so much coins.” Anyone who touches this lady or her coins dies - and when Angelica visited her Grandmother and Grandfather in Mexico, she had her own frightful encounter with the Old Lady.

Is that last part fact or fiction? We may never know . . .

My family that lives in Las Vegas came to visit to Chicago and We did a bonfire and my God mother was telling a scary story about a old lady in the ceiling with so much coins and if you touch it you would be dead and this story happened in Mexico. My God Mother and My God Father were sleeping when the story happens that was the house of my Grama and Grampa. When I went to Mexico I went to the house of my Grama I went to the room and i saw the old lady I saw so much coin . . .

A performance of

Our cast brings these characters (and more!) to the Neo-Futurists stage every Sunday at 3pm through November 4 - get your tickets here.

Plus, join us next Sunday, October 28 for a special one-day-only Halloween offer. Kids twelve and under that wear a costume get in for free!*

*Limit 3 free tickets per group; must be accompanied by an adult. Door sales only.

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!