Category: Celebration of Authors

Posts about BOM's annual end of the school year celebration spectacular.


Posted by Heidi on May 6, 2009

That's Weird Grandma Celebration of Authors

Several Things.

Thing 1: I know I recently asked for your support very directly, but there are also ways to support BOM online without giving any money.  Thank you.

Thing 2: There are only 3 matinees with tickets still available as the 5/31 show is sold out in advance (we fancy!).  Please plan accordingly, you really don’t want to miss the zany delights found within the show right now, or the pleasure on the faces of the children in the audience.

Thing 3: Celebration of Authors 2009 is just about a month away. WOW. This amazing annual event is a chance for some of the kids we work with in CPS schools (plus their teachers and parents and friends) to come see their stories performed in a big fancy theater. This year we’re returning to the Athenaeum, and hope that you monkey fans can join us. Admission is free, though small donations are encouraged.

New Company Members!

Posted by Heidi on June 20, 2008

Company Members Celebration of Authors

Barrel of Monkeys, as you know, is “an ensemble of actor-educators”. We are lucky to have an incredibly talented and attractive (as the TWG robot likes to point out) group of performers, teachers, writers, and musicians in our company. Tai has already told you that after COA we give out awards to the whole company honoring the meaningful, delightful, amazing, and silly things that happen throughout the year. Another great thing that happens after COA each year is that we officially expand the roster of company members.

The new company members come from a typically diverse artistic background. A couple had worked as volunteer teachers for us in years past before being cast in the performing ensemble last October. One, Joe, even started out as monkey intern way back when he was still in college and another, Mike, has provided musical backup at Theater on the Lake and for other public shows. All of them spent much of the last eight months performing in our school shows. We like to make sure that our company members have spent time adapting and performing in CPS gyms, cafeterias and auditoria before inducting them—it takes a certain kind of performer to believe that some of the most important work is done with terrible acoustics, no tech beyond our keyboard, and in front of an audience of fourth graders. We are thrilled to have so many of these performers in our company.

In addition to the people who joined this year, we also celebrated two immensely talented performers who it feels like have been around forever, but who actually hadn’t been around quite long enough this time last year to get the proper ceremony. So while you’ve seen Donnell Williams and Kurt Chiang‘s names on the company roster and in TWG for a while, we still wanted to make sure they got their moment in the sun.

Without further ado, here are the newest members of the BOM company! Please note, they’re so new that most of them don’t have full profiles yet, though their photos are great. Well, for the ones that have photos.
Mikala Bierma
Brandon Cloyd
Erick Deshaun Dorris
Mary Winn Heider
Mike Pryzgoda
Joseph Schupbach
Tim Simeone
Tim Soszko
Bradford Stevens
Mari Stratton

The post Celebration celebration is also one of the three times a year that pretty much everyone in the company who still lives in Chicago gets together in the same room. We were so happy to have co-founders Halena and Erica there as we welcomed this newest class of monkeys into the family.

Jason Sperling: Monkey of the Year

Posted by Tai on June 18, 2008

Company Members Celebration of Authors

Most non-Monkeys don’t know about this, but after the Celebration of Authors show every year, the company, ensemble, volunteers, and assorted friends and cohorts gather for our own little celebration. We have a silly awards ceremony, as our way of looking back on the previous school year and acknowledging all the fun characters and amazing adaptations. Awards include Best Villain, Best Line Reading, Best Inanimate Object, Best Drag, and so forth (I’m still relishing my Best Deity award this year from my portrayal of the “Comcast Guru” from the winter Loyola Park show). All the award nominations are made by our peers in the company, and we each get one (either because we’re all talented or because our Artistic Director is nice…probably both).

There is one award we give out at the post-COA party every year that is a little less silly, and that is the Monkey of the Year award, also called the MVP Award, but officially known as The Tom Malinowki Award for Enthusiasm and Commitment to Monkey Greatness. It is named after Monkey legend Tom Malinowski, a Monkey whose enthusiasm and commitment to Monkey greatness is so powerful that we’d have to give him the award every year if we didn’t name it after him.

Last year the award went to this guy, and I’m proud to hand it off this year to Mr. Jason Sperling.


Jason has been in the company since its inception in 1997. That’s almost 11 years, people. He’s one of the most integral members of our company and he has kept BOM and its mission a priority for all of those 11 years. Not to mention, he’s a hilarious actor and talented songwriter. But don’t just take it from me. This is just a part of what his fellow company members had to say about him this year:

Jason keeps us honest! He makes sure we don’t forget anything, that we’ve thought through everything fully, that we’re thinking first of our mission, and that we have kept our sense of humor.

Jason spends countless hours outside of rehearsal and classrooms volunteering in other capacities…proofreading, helping Gretchen with merch, welcoming newbies into the company, and occasionally vacuuming the office. Possibly he’s cleaned Heidi’s desk more than she has.

From the menial to the grandiose, no BOM decision is too small for Jason’s heart ... any time we’re facing a major decision he is happy and anxious to offer his feedback and advice, and will step back when we’ve heard it, whether or not everyone agrees.

Jason Sperling was very helpful in showing me the ropes and throwing out encouraging words.

He brings a joyful sensibility to his work with the company, which is much to be admired and appreciated.

He’s always ready to jump into ANY role, whether it’s a kid, dad, mom, dog, alien, or caveman/hippie. He’s been writing more songs this year and they’ve been getting better and better. Also, Jason is the one who notices all the little details that the rest of us miss. He always remembers to turn off the dressing room lights before TWG starts. He makes sure props are put in the right place. And he knows every detail about every story we’ve ever done. Amazing.


Guess what? You can see this MVP in action right now (and for the next 5 weeks, at least) in That’s Weird, Grandma. Come to the show on Monday and congratulate him!

TWG June 16th, 2008

Posted by Heidi on June 16, 2008

That's Weird Grandma Celebration of Authors

It’s been an amazing week at BOM. Celebration of Authors was a fantastic show. We had our biggest house ever, at a big fancy theater, with a huge cast. The performances were great It was really wonderful. If you missed it, no worries! You can come to TWG tonight to see some of the stories we performed last Tuesday. Delightful! There are also some videos on YouTube that you really won’t want to miss.

After you’ve laughed at the ninjas and been moved by the appeal to stop the fighting, you’ll need to come to TWG. Full running order for tonight’s show after the jump. As always, you can buy your tickets online in advance with a credit card, or pay cash at the door.

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