Barrel of Monkeys spends one day of each creative writing residency teaching students to write persuasive arguments. Students choose something they’re either for or against, and then they identify three compelling reasons to support that position.
1. “I Believe That Everything Should be Chocolate” by Luis M., Seward School
Like many of us, Luis loves chocolate - and they’re adamant that everything from your house to your homework should be made of it. Barrel of Monkeys company member Laura McKenzie adapted this song into a soulful musical number, capturing just how amazing a world filled with chocolate would be.
I believe that everything needs to be chocolate. My first reason is that you need to have chocolate because you could eat your house. My second reason is that you could eat everything instead of buying it. My final reason is that you could eat you homework and your teacher wouldn’t know what color is your paper. That is why you need to have chocolate.
We all have a favorite local restaurant, and Jamari’s is Buffalo Joe’s. They argue that feeding kids more Buffalo Joe’s barbecue wings and seasoned fries will help them do their homework and chores - even if it turns them into barbecue-addicted, zombie-like people.
I believe people should buy more buffalo joe’s to eat so they can have more juicy (drewling)
Delicious bbq chicken and seasoned fries and when they get their juicy (drewling) delicious buffalo joe’s they can just give it to their kids, then the kids can go to their room and watch tv or play video games and then when their done they can go ask their parents to buy some more juicy (drewling) delicious buffalo joe’s. And when they get they are going to get good grades, behave, cut the grass, and wash the dishes, and also wash their laundry. And then they will freak out. And they will freak out because they’ll get more buffalo joe’s then they’ll had more then they had before. THE END.
Not all of our students argue for more of a specific type of food. In fact, some argue that we should avoid a certain dish.
For example, Samuel at Harold Washington Elementary wrote a persuasive argument condemning chitterlings. We adapted his disgust for pig intestines - and all pork save for pepperoni - into a slow, rolling song that’s a That’s Weird, Grandma audience favorite.
I believe nobody should not eat chitterlings. 1st because, they’re yucky pig intestines. 2nd because, it is where the poop goes. 3rd because, they eat mud. 4th because, they are pork and I can’t eat pork, except for pepperoni.
See our adaptations of these pieces, as well as other food-related stories by Chicago elementary school students, at our next performance of That’s Weird, Grandma: Stories About Food on Monday night. The fun starts at 8, and we can’t wait to share this batch of sketches and songs with you!
Tonight’s the press opening for That’s Weird, Grandma: Stories About Food - so we sat down with the show’s director, Joseph Schupbach (a former artistic director of Barrel of Monkeys) to learn more about the show, the stories he’s excited to share with Chicago theatre audiences, and of course, his favorite foods.
Join us for a delicious lineup of sketches and songs - all adapted from pieces written by Chicago elementary school students - at the Neo-Futurists Theater. The show starts at 8, and you can grab your tickets here. We can’t wait to see you!
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.
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!
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.
That’s Weird, Grandma: Brand New Stories closed last night, but don’t despair - the first performance of That’s Weird, Grandma: Stories About Food is this Monday, July 23!
The show - directed by former Barrel of Monkeys Artistic Director Joseph Schupbach - features a side-splitting lineup of food-related sketches adapted from our students’ stories. Get a taste (pun intended) of the show in our promo video below, and then join us by purchasing your tickets here.
How did you discover BOM?
A friend of mine took me to see That’s Weird, Grandma shortly after I’d moved to Chicago. She described it as, “I’m not really sure how it works, but kids in CPS write stories, and actors perform them. It’s like Saturday Night Live, kinda.” Sounded cool. While watching the show, I realized that this was actually the reason I’d moved to Chicago.
When I got home I did some internetting to find out how to join, only to discover that I’d missed the auditions by about a week. Then, the next year, there weren’t auditions. Fast forward another six months, Tim Soszko and I were teaching together and he was wearing a Monkey shirt and I asked him if he had any advice on how to join the company. He told me that I should ask about volunteer teaching, and I did. The rest is history.
What were some of your feelings when you auditioned and made it in?
I wasn’t really sure what to do for my audition, so I did a monologue from Amadeus and played the piano. I remember sitting outside the room and hearing lots of auditions that were NOT monologues, and were really making people laugh, and I thought, “I’ve made a terrible decision.”
Once I was in, I remember being in the rehearsal room for the first time and thinking, “I am sooo not good at this. These people are really talented and really funny, and I mostly do Shakespeare tragedies.” It took a long time before I really felt like I belonged in the room, and sometimes I still feel like the classical-actor guy who doesn’t really know what he’s doing.
Tell us three memorable BOM stories that you’re proud of being a part of.
1. “Crazy Monkey” by Tyler B. from LP [Loyola Park After School Program], which is in Grandmaright now.
2. “Veronica the Vegan Vampire” from Lorca [Elementary]. I didn’t actually adapt this, but I taught the author. During the residency, she asked me what “vegan” meant, and I explained it was someone who didn’t eat, drink, or wear anything from an animal. Then she asked, “So is a vegan vampire a vampire who doesn’t drink blood?” I said, “I guess so,” and she said, “Go away, I know how to write this story.”
3. Every persuasive argument about ending violence. Sadly, we read them every year, but I’m honored to have worked with this group of humans who respect the depth and gravity of a child’s writing as much as the humor and absurdity.
Three things you’re going to miss about Chicago.
1. Templestowe Pub
2. Horner Park Farmers’ Market
3. Barrel of Monkeys
Three things you can’t wait to explore/discover in Madison, Wisconsin.
1. Tip Top Tavern
2. Dane County Farmers’ Market
3. Whoopensocker [a theatre program run by Barrel of Monkeys co-founder Erica Halverson]
(What can I say, I’m a creature of habit . . .)
Two things you learned about yourself being a teacher for Loyola Park After School Program?
I learned that I actually love teaching more than performing. And, now as a parent of toddlers, I’m beginning to see how things I learned while teaching have prepared me for parenting.