Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone

Posted by Rachel on May 16, 2008

Company Members School Shows

Blog: So, Rachel, as the official Chalmers blogger, why have you been neglecting me?
Rachel: Well, because Lacy and Dixie pretty much covered it. They told you all about the Bollywood number, and the power outage, and the uniform debacle.
Blog: They didn’t tell me about one thing.
Rachel: What one thing?
Blog: Don’t pretend you don’t know.
Rachel: Oh, but that’s the dark side of the Chalmers show. Do we have to go there? 
Blog: It would be wrong not to.
Rachel: Fine, we’ll go . . .

The Chalmers show was the last*** school show performance for Jonathan Mastro and Eric Silverberg, and I cannot deal.


These guys have always been a bit ahead of me on the road—seniors when I was a freshman at Northwestern. Eric starred in the first show I saw at college. We all had the same acting teacher. I remember sitting in on their acting class and watching Jonathan rehearse a Pinter scene. Little did I know, within four years time I’d be watching Jonathan perform fourth grader David E.‘s story “Ordering Cars” in the same style.

These two witnessed my horribly awkward audition for the company. They were around for the Sorry Tournaments, and rehearsing at the dog kennel, and Thursday night karaoke at Carol’s. They remember when the Monkeys’ first collection of props got stolen because the company kept all its worldly possessions in a van—I wasn’t around for that, but they were. They did nearly every school show my first couple of years. Eric signed me up for my first Monkey teaching gig. Now he’s a full-time public school teacher. Jonathan’s been teaching at Chalmers for so long, and so well, that kids in the 8th grade swarmed him the second we walked on campus.

If Halena Kays is the Monkey Mama, these guys are the Daddies. They’ve stuck around, shaping the company since the very beginning. Now, they’re real daddies, which is at least part of the reason they’ve got to call it a day.

*** Instead of last, let’s say, “last for now,” because you never know where life’s going to take you, and because I’m certain we’ll all be doing Monkey shows together in our senile delusions when we’re 110, and because, as I said before, I can’t deal.

Eric Silverberg served as the first Education Coordinator for Barrel of Monkeys, and he has the voice of an angel.


He is Mister Bones, a man named Dirty, and a Flying Jacket. Eric remembers his “First Juking Party.” His monster work in pieces like “My Mom Kiss a Slimy Monster” and “The Tiny Door at the Back of My Closet” is unparallelled.

Eric originated the Silverberg Turn, in which cast members pivot and are magically transported to a new time or space. Without Eric, we’d have no way to represent time passing or transit.


Jonathan Mastro served as the Barrel of Monkeys Musical Director for many years. He is Friendly Man, The Dog Who Loved Water, a Vetafelon, and The Bear with Steel Wings Who Tells about Opposite Day. He wrote the current opening and closer to That’s Weird, Grandma, along with several other that have come and gone. He challenged us with experimental musical numbers like “I Stop to Get a Pop,” wrote the music to classics like “Bad Car” and “H2O,” and helped many of us feel confident singing on stage for the first time.

Jonathan has the most irreverent sense of humor you’ll ever encounter. He lives across the line. He’ll talk up a stranger anytime, anyplace, and has an uncanny knack for reading people. He likes to make this face . . .
. . . and tell you important things you didn’t know about yourself.

For the Chalmers show, Jonathan wrote a tasty Silverberg vehicle, “My First Girlfriend” . . . Eric singing, Jonathan on keys, relatively new monkey John Dixon rapping, and the entire audience keeping the beat—if I hadn’t been singing backup, I would have cried.


At summer’s end, Jonathan and his family will be moving to Maine, where Jonathan will have more time to devote to his brilliant writing. Eric and his family will be moving as well—to the opposite coast. We can only hope that Jonathan and Eric will make a point of reuniting in Chicago to bring “Dracula and Mummy Together” again—and to sing an endless karaoke duet of “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone.” Eric and Jonathan, you will be missed!




Lacy May 16, 2008 at 07:39 PM

Sing it, sister! Eric and Jonathan, you will be missed. The company will go on, but no one will ever be able to replace you two beautiful mens.

Oona Kersey May 16, 2008 at 07:55 PM

I remember when you were both hit by a van.

And now, like Rocky and his mens, all I have is this crippling loneliness.

Miller May 17, 2008 at 12:25 PM

the first time I saw a Barrel of Monkeys show I saw “ordering cars” and knew this was something I needed to be a part of.  One of my first school shows I was in included Eric as the monster in the “Tiny Door in the Back of my Closet” and I tear up every time we do that story.  Jonathan and Eric, you continue to inspire me.

Elizabeth Levy May 17, 2008 at 11:08 PM

It’s enough to make me want to dig out the video I have of you guys doing Papa Was A Rollin Stone at Monkee-o-Kee (2004) and maybe put it on youtube.  Maybe. 

Thanks for being awesome in my first documentary and just for being awesome in general.  Good luck out there.  “I hope it don’t…blow uuuuup…”

Collin May 17, 2008 at 11:52 PM

BOM simply would not exist without these two. Love them, thank them, give them reasons to come back…when you are at a loss as to what to do with a story, think of them and their spirit will lead you to brilliance and/or something inappropriate.

Halena Kays May 18, 2008 at 12:48 PM

thanks for writing, rachel!  thanks, mastro, for being my dog bishop, and thanks, eric, for somehow making me cry every single time you’ve played a friendly monster.  you are all fantastic people whom i’m honored to know.

Lisa Barker May 18, 2008 at 06:37 PM

Lagrimas de dolor y lagrimas de felicidad. Los extra?aré mucho.

Cesar May 19, 2008 at 11:30 AM

I have an idea…Why don’t you both just stay? Amazing, I’ve fixed everything! Welcome back!


In Denial

Geoff May 19, 2008 at 03:19 PM

Good people. 

That is what you both are. 

You both will be missed a lot because everyone misses the good ones.

Michael Govier May 20, 2008 at 10:34 AM

Man these two men are amazing. If you have seen them perform then your life is better and your day was funnier because of it.

I’m going to cry every day until you both come back. Which will be awkward for people. So you shouldn’t even go. You don’t want poeple to feel awkward, do you?

Jen Johnson May 20, 2008 at 11:19 PM

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