We’ll be sharing some of our favorite adaptations from this year in the show - and to capture just how wacky and energetic it’ll be, we compiled this promo video featuring footage from some of our 2018-19 school performances. Take a look - and then join us at the Neo for the public premieres of our newest sketches and songs. You can purchase tickets here.
Our students write dozens of stories, poems, and dialogues during our in-school creative writing residencies. We’ve been teaching in elementary schools all across Chicago throughout the school year - so we have a plethora of new stories share with you!
That’s why we’re thrilled to return to the Neo-Futurists Theater this June for That’s Weird, Grandma: Brand New Stories, featuring adaptations created during the 2018-19 school year. We first performed these stories for students in their schools, and now we’re excited to give them their Grandma premieres.
Our first performance is still a few weeks away - but in the meantime, we want to share some of our favorite new stories with you!
1. The Girl who said NO! By Victoria V.
We love adapting stories with a social justice angle, such as this piece from Columbia Explorers Academy (our longest-running school partnership) about a girl who chooses her passion for painting over marriage. Company members Juanita Anderson and Jon Schniedman took the adaptation an extra step by turning it into an original pop song - saxophone solo included.
Once a girl named Layla and she live in a Beautiful grey house that was very big and she loved painting. One day her dad said “you have to find A husband”. But Layla said “no I am fine all alone”. Her father said “oh but there is wonderful guys out there.” So all the guys came in even if Layla said no. After Layla meet all the guys she said no to all of them the last guy came and her dad liked him but Layla said no and she ran out. So no Layla lives in a little house she made and she has no husband and still love to paint. The End.
2. Larry’s LIfe by Treavan H.
Crafting a visually-engaging adaptation through choreography is always exciting for us. This story from Sherman School of Excellence, our newest school partner, details a grandmother’s plight to rid her house of a pesky mouse. We brought the story to life by forming a maze of lasers with red string and various poses, leaving Larry the rat to navigate through with stylized movement.
Once upon a time there was a rat name Larry he Lived in a kitchen he had to kids name Jeff and Luke and a wife name timara he had a problem every time he went to get food he almost runs into mouse traps the women who owns the house has camra’s she is a grandma who is 90 years old and has a shot gun and always watches the camra’s so if the rat name Larry comes out she will know and she can see him and see where Larry’s going one day she saw him go into the hole at the hole she put a mouse trap there.
3. Shame by Ingil E.
Many of our students’ stories include masterful use of figurative language, rhyme, and alliteration, so they sound incredible when read aloud verbatim - and this is especially true of stories written during our Level II curriculum’s Poetry Day. Rawson Vint adapted this poem from Dixon Elementary School into an R&B song to capture the feel of the language, while Jen Allman choreographed a dance with umbrellas for an extra layer of spectacle.
It was a cold night. Rained poured puddles and sleet slid off ceilings from yesterday. I wonder with a sad sorrow sulking voice, “Do igloos imitate iguanas or impress ice?” I wandered off in my mind, sad as a shrew on a sunday with no sunflower seeds. I was wearing a bashful baby blue, crying operas of sad body language. Tears fumbled down my posters of people’s postured and pasteurized face. All left was gloom, sadder than a dog caught destroying and damaging D-Rose sneakers. Captain Crunch was Captain Crud. Cocoa Puffs were Blank Puffs. And Fruit Loops was Gloom Rings. My piano weeped and guitar wined and trombone whimpered. I was a sad moon, wanting to shine but no sun reflection to do so. Drowned in doom and gloom, no life in my room, stale hay on my broom, sad depressed mushrooms, string and yarn too bummed to be loomed. Soon, the daylight and flowers began to bloom. My piano sang, my guitar talked soothingly, and my trombone whistled. The moon peeked from the sky, & the sun brought it out. Life listened and learned, and lived lively for life in my room. Shame shimmed on. The End.
Want to join us for the public premieres of our latest adaptations? You can get tickets to That’s Weird, Grandma: Brand New Storieshere. Plus, you’ll get to vote on which stories should stay in the Grandma repertoire - we think that’s pretty awesome!
Our students are young, but they are not naïve. They know exactly what took place at the ballot box this week, and inside each of their brilliant minds are opinions and questions and hopes and fears about the future.
At Barrel of Monkeys, we work to provide our students with the tools and the confidence to express their ideas and share their stories. Sometimes, they write funny stories about monsters and aliens and attacking vegetables. Other times, they write beautiful testaments to the world as they experience it and their aspirations and dreams for a better future. All of their stories are important, and worth celebrating.
Today in this uncharted era, we offer the strongest words of hope we can find. Unsurprisingly, they come from a student. Please enjoy.
Untitled [Peace Lives]
by Beth C.
Peace lives in my eyes
They allow me to see what
good and beautiful things
there are in the world
I see the leaves on the trees
I see the smiles on people’s faces
I see my friends laughing
My eyes allow me to see
the bad things in the world
I see people living on the streets
I see people fighting
I see people crying
Peace lives in my hands
My pencil hits the paper
I let out all my anger
I write how I feel
My hands allow me to feel
I can touch
I can create.
With The Ten Diamonds and Sisters by Michelle A. from the Johnson School of Excellence slated to go into TWG on Monday, I sat down with Rawson Vint, the mastermind behind adapting this story into a song. We chatted about his process and special connection to the story. Read an excerpt from the interview below.
What first drew you to The Ten Diamonds and Sisters in the rehearsal room?
I think I gravitate to those types of stories because of the challenge, the originality of the work, and the chance to experiment. Diamonds in particular was a challenge because I set myself a task to do it word for word. There’s maybe two exceptions, but other than that—it’s verbatim what the author wrote.
Not only did you adapt this story into a song, you also originated the role of the mother. If this song were to be performed on Broadway, which celebrity would the producers hire to replace you? (Not that you’re replaceable but let’s face it, it’s a tough business)
I keep thinking “who’d be the most unlikely person to do this song” and it would have to be Alex Trebek from Jeopardy. Wouldn’t that be weird? And great? Can he even sing?
Does Diamonds tell a larger story? What metaphor or real life connections do you hope audience members take away?
There’s definitely some attachment anxiety going on in this family, not to mention they eat dinner at 10pm. But I think the take away is “take care of yourself and your family….and your diaaaaaaamonds”.
The That’s Weird, Grandma 15th Anniversary Show is just around the corner! Here is a wishlist list from company member Tom Malinowski!
That’s Weird Grandma: 15 for 15
Hey! It’s me Tom! And here are my 15 favorite TWG memories! So many great ones, but here you go!
15 Toothless Beaver & Broom - Probably one of the fastest adaptations for a school story I was in
14 Croc & Eggnog - Halena gave us the easy direction of “Do this exactly like Toothless Beaver & Broom.”
13 Funny Bunny - Kristie is my main antagonist who finally gives in to the silliness of the story
12 Superheroes - Only two awesome women have played ?, Lacy and Laura who each bring a similar hilarious yet deliver it differently
11 Magical Place - The only story where I’ve used an annoying high voice over and over and not gotten tired of it
10 The Lobster Factory - The only story when we did it at TWG (5th year anniversary I believe?!) where Beau supplied me a blood packet to burst when the lobster first claws me. I haven’t used a blood packet since. Fake blood.
9 The Meat one (with puppets) - I usually held one end of the curtain the puppets hid behind and I continually, genuinely laughed at the ridiculousness of the reasons why meat is good for you
8 The Raven - The only adaptation of a story into a song about a roller coaster by Geoff Rice which is all full of amazingness
7 The one where I’m in a movie theatre and when it was at TWG Jeff did the voiceover - Whenever he mimicked Carol Channing I lost it
6 The Boat War - This might’ve been the first piece I was in where a non-musician did the music on Garageband (Anthony!)
5 We grouped three stories under the umbrella “A Very Scary Scary Story Minute” We spread this throughout the school show and eventually TWG Green Glob, The Ugly Girl, and one more….. probably one of the first adaptations where we did something like that. We came out singing the jingle, said the title of the story, and then the very short story started
4 The Opening - When we first did the opening for TWG, we would change up the choreography constantly as the schtick
3 Closing Speech - Remember when we did the closing speech and we also did the dance while we did it? That was a first!
2 The basketball one that Jeff and I were in.. - Jeff was the main driving force, and he picked “On to the Next One” song which I hadn’t heard before until he brought the song for rehearsal
1 Old old story I can’t remember the title - But Charlie and I would start on opposite sides, stomp to each other at the center, growl, then I put him over my shoulder and walked off stage. I haven’t put someone over my shoulder ever since.
More information about THAT’S WEIRD, GRANDMA: 15th ANNIVERSARY SHOW directed by Joseph Schupbach and Halena Kays
Company members old and new will reunite as Barrel of Monkeys celebrates 15 years of its hit revue THAT’S WEIRD, GRANDMA with two special anniversary performances on Sunday April 17 at 2 pm and Monday, April 18 at 8 pm at its long-time home, the Neo-Futurist Theater, 5153 N. Ashland Ave. in Chicago. Tickets are available here!
The special 90-minute production will feature 30 sketches and songs, two from each of the 15 years THAT’S WEIRD, GRANDMA has been performed at Neo-Futurist theater, including plenty of audience favorites. Directed by current Artistic Director Joseph Schupbach and Founding Artistic Director Halena Kays, the 15TH ANNIVERSARY SHOWS will feature long-time company members, as well as out-of-town artists returning to the show they performed in years ago. Back in the booth is Maggie Fullilove-Nugent, who served as the company’s stage manager for ten years. All of the stories are written by Chicago Public School students and adapted for the stage by Barrel of Monkeys Company Members. The 15TH ANNIVERSARY SHOW cast includes active members Ashley Bland, Kassi Bleifuss, Brandon Cloyd, Anthony Courser, Lindsey Dorcus, Linsey Falls, Michael Govier, Nick Hart, Mary Winn Heider, Jennifer Johnson, Elizabeth Levy, Laura McKenzie, Spencer Meeks, Matt Miller, Meredith Milliron, Shá Norman, Tai Palmgren, Zoe Schwartz, Jason Sperling, Kate Staiger, Brad Stevens, Rawson Vint, Curtis Williams and Rachel Wilson.
Emeritus and out-of-town members include Brenda Arellano, Lisa Barker, Brennan Buhl, Sarah Garner, Luke Hatton (former Artistic Director), Mike Lubin, Tom Malinowski, Philip Markle, Jonathan Mastro, Lauren Sharpe, Eric Silverberg, Mike Spatafora, Kristie Vuocolo (former Executive Director), Ryan Walters and Donnell Williams.
“I am absolutely thrilled about this celebration! I have the incredible opportunity to co-direct with Founding Artistic Halena Kays, who led the company for ten years – and welcome back alumni into the cast. My relationship with ‘Grandma’ now spans eleven years, so I’m delighted to put some of my favorite stories back on stage. Long-time audience members will enjoy some ‘oldies’ and brand new audience will be delighted to see this mega-sized cast perform the written work of Chicago Public Schools students. There will be song, dance, puppets, short films, surprises, blasts from the past and much more. It will undoubtedly be a magical place to spend 90 minutes.” -Artistic Director Joseph Schupbach