Posted by Amanda Farrar on March 11, 2015
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.
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!
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!
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!