Category: After School Program

Posts related to BOM's Loyola Park After School Program.

Make New Friends

Posted by Rachel on February 26, 2016

School Shows After School Program

One of my favorite things about school shows is working with old friends, like Geoff Rice and Sarah Goeden, whom I’ve known since college in 19-hmm-hmm-hmm. The current Loyola Park show features them along with four amazing friends of Barrel of Monkeys, current volunteer teachers, Katrina Dion and Sarah Sterling, and former volunteers, Patrick Poulin and Michael Whitten.


They are all nailing it.

And so are the Monkey veterans. The whole world deserves to see Sarah Goeden singing Kiran P.‘s “The Day the Family Pets Died” as a series of ukulele-backed, Gorey-esque cautionary tales.

And Geoff Rice has adapted Xitlaly G.‘s modern myth, “The Mountain Top,” into an epic ballad. Kassi Bleifuss plays Ocean, the girl who cries blood when her boyfriend Blue breaks up with her. Patrick will be playing that conflicted jerk, and both of them will be supported by some brazilliant blood puppets. Yes, I said blood puppets. 

The Monkey Minute!

Posted by Amanda Farrar on March 18, 2015

The Monkey Minute That's Weird Grandma Company Members School Shows School Residencies 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.

Even Oona is confused.

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.

The Monkey Minute!

Posted by Amanda Farrar on March 11, 2015

The Monkey Minute That's Weird Grandma Company Members School Shows School Residencies After School Program

In each and every school show since Barrel of Monkeys’ inception in 1997, one or more student-written stories have been adapted into song for the stage. Multiply that by upwards of 15 original school shows each year, and you have a couple hundred songs in the archives!

We have so many songs, in fact, that presently That’s Weird, Grandma is an all-musical revue! You can see 16 of some of our most favored songs adapted from the incredible work of student writers this Sunday at 2pm and Monday at 8pm. Jennifer Johnson, author of the following blog entry and current performer in That’s Weird Grandma: The Musical, shares some of her most favorite epic Barrel of Monkeys songs that have not yet made their way into the current show! Enjoy celebrating the power of these students’ imaginations!


My Favorite Epic Barrel of Monkeys Songs
By Jennifer Johnson

In the classroom, we encourage students in Barrel of Monkeys writing programs to continue stories they’ve started or we ask specific questions to further their creativity during the writing process. Sometimes, a student is ready to write! And the product is long, detailed, complicated, creative and fabulous. Below are my favorite epically long stories written by students in Chicago Public Schools that we’ve turned into songs.

Jennifer Johnson in That's Weird, Grandma: The Musical

Sculpting Alaska

By Gautam R., Hough Street School
“Let the competition begin,” boomed the announcer, as I quickly started planning out my ice sculpture. Scrape, scrape, scrape, went my carving tool as I knocked away ice. This was the regular carving routine. We were at the 2000 year end ice sculpting contest in Alaska. Nobody would think of such a wonderful sculpture as a fish sculpture. “Hey Jimmy,” a voice shouted, how you doing? Continued!

Sculpting Alaska was brilliantly staged using the entire cast. There are so many great characters to play in this story/song. Two people even played the actual ice sculptures!

IRS Moles

By Ben L., Hough Street School
Eeooo! The sirens rang throughout the city. Speakers popped out of buildings. “Run, the IRS Moles are coming” said the speakers. Everyone ran. They knew that moles would make them pay. “Come on” said Harold to his mother as they ran. “But the cookies” said his mother, “we need them.” “We’ll have to leave them” said Harold. “Dang” said his sister. “I say we fight back against this tax collecting” said Bob who was 2 and very smart. Continued!

I was in the original cast of this—I got to sing “Dang, not the cookies!” It’s one of the best lines I’ve ever sung in a BOM song!

IRS Moles from Barrel of Monkeys on Vimeo.

The Race

By Dorian W., South Loop School
Once upon a time there was a man named Truman.  And he was joining the Big Race finals to win $300.  When he was practicing he run 5 miles a day.  When he run home he took his dog out and ran with his dog.  His dog was named Ace.  His dog was really nice and could run so fast.  He was the fastest dog in the whole world. Truman was a gym teacher. Continued!

I love The Race because in the end Truman races by jumping in the sack—it’s so exciting to watch!

The Evil Kangaroo

By Emilio G., Loyola Park After School Program
Once upon a time in 1212 BC and now in the middle of the ocean there was a city named Freeopolis that no one knew about.  Everyone was happy until Professor Wiggems built an experiment on kangaroos.  It went completely wrong.  The kangaroo escaped and destroyed the city, then when there’s no hope left it’s to be continued…The island sinks and the kangaroo finds a boat. Continued!

Emilio G. wrote many stories about evil kangaroos and Professor Wiggems, but this one is my favorite! It’s staged with lots of action and verses!

A long story creates a wonderful basis for a musical theatre masterpiece!

Star Wars? We Got Your Star Wars Right Here!

Posted by Jason on November 30, 2014

That's Weird Grandma TWG Weekly Update Touring Performances After School Program

Much of the online universe - including yours truly - was understandably abuzz this week after seeing the new trailer for the upcoming Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.  A long time ago (fall of 2004) in a galaxy far, far away (Loyola Park), Claudio F. wrote “Star Wars 3”  - several months BEFORE the actual movie came out!  Since BOM is always on the leading edge of pop culture, we’ve brought back Claudio’s vision, performed word-for-word, for this round of CWG, and we invite you to read it now and see it Monday, Dec. 1 at 8:00 in the final “Chicago’s Weird, Grandma” show of the year!

Star Wars 3
By Claudio F. Loyola Park After School Program

LuK: It’s snowy today master.
Jar: Don’t worry. If you are patient it will be gone soon.
LuK: We are staying in de castle 3 more days.
Jar: We need food and supplies.
LuK: Then we are going to outer space.
Jar: Then we are getting to meet Turkey.
LuK: And then we are going to turkey city.
Jar: Then we are going to the sea to relax, take all the human souls to give it to another baby when the baby is gunna come. Now that the soul is gone, we’re going to give you tips about Jedis
To be continued
Jar: Now let’s practice
(They do. With sticks)
Jar: Let me give you tips. There’s a lot of Jedi moves. There’s difficult ones. But you are going to discover them alone
To be continued
Jar: Let’s practice in the ballogram. There we will get our sticks.
LuK: Let’s go first to metro city. Let’s get our octopus bus.
Jar: We have trouble. A giant octopus dragon is attacking us. Let’s go into a cave, we will be safe.
LuK: Oh no, the power is out. Let’s get our suits to swim.
They swim to metro city. To be continued.
To make war.
LuK: We win the war! Let’s celebrate!
Princess: I’m the princess. Now for helping us win the war you win the precious ball of justice.
The End

And in other Star Wars news:
*See what the Ewoks might have evolved to in “Love is Enough for a Bear”! 
*Banish the pod-races from your head with “I Believe Racing is a Cool Job”! 
*Learn the true secret of Yoda’s Jedi training regimen in “Yoga Class in California”!

Special guests this week: The Young Fugitives, performing their adaptation of “The Battle and the War”! (See how this all ties together?!?)

Say “Put this party stuff up” to Ambar at the box office for discounted tickets!


It’s the Most Wonderful Hashtag of the Year

Posted by Amanda Farrar on November 27, 2014

That's Weird Grandma Company Members School Residencies After School Program

Why support Barrel of Monkeys through a donation for #GivingTuesday? For your viewing pleasure, we present this video featuring Sonya and Joanya in…

Giving Grannies

Donate Now!

Thank you in advance for supporting the imaginations of children through a donation this #GivingTuesday, December 2! All amounts donated under the program are tax-deductible to the maximum extent allowed by law.  As always, thank you for your support!

Who are Joanya and Sonya?

Sonya and Joanya are two characters that originated from a student-written story by Stephaun B. of the Loyola Park After-School Program entitled “Grannies Lean Like a Cholo” .

Sonya Begonia
Sonya is a lifelong sports enthusiast and patron of the arts.  She has held many roles in her life: Little League coach, small business owner, mother, grandmother, aunt, friend, and part-time life coach.  Her current interests include attending live theater, instant messaging, and going on adventures with her dearest friend in the world, Joanya.

Joanya Merman Nemoy
Actress Joanya Merman Nemoy starred in Golden Twilight Retirement Home productions like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and BUtterfield 8, but was just as famous for her violet eyes and scandalous love life. Born in Brooklyn on February 27, 1932, Joanya made her theatre debut in One Born Every Minute (Long Island Playhouse) and achieved stardom with National Velvet (Jersey Shore Rep).

“Wait a minute. Is this why this young and attractive camera crew is here? I get it now, we’re here to talk about a very specific way to participate in The Hashtag Giving Tuesday.  We are giving to Barrel of Monkeys.  I just figured it out!” - Joanya

Elizabeth Levy (Sonya)
Levy joined the ensemble in 2004 and was hired as Program Director in 2008. Before becoming Program Director, Levy was the Education Coordinator at Steppenwolf Theatre Company. Levy graduated from The University of Chicago with a Bachelor of Arts in English Language and Literature. While at U of C, she ran several drama programs in neighborhood schools in Hyde Park. Elizabeth has performed locally with Steppenwolf Theatre, the House Theatre, Collaboraction, Strawdog and Dog and Pony.

Joseph Schupbach (Joanya)
Schupbach began his involvement with Barrel of Monkeys in 2005 and has served as After-School Program Coordinator and Education Coordinator for the past three years before being promoted to Artistic Director, the position he now holds. Schupbach has served as a professional teaching artist in Chicago for multiple organizations including Lookingglass Theatre and St. Clement School. He has directed shows for Barrel of Monkeys, North Park University, Murakami Sound Machine and InGen Productions – a company of which he is co-founder and Artistic Director. Joseph has assistant directed for The Ruffians and The Neo-Futurists and has performed all over Chicago.