Profile of a Monkey: Artistic Associate Molly Brennan

Posted by Heidi on January 31, 2008

Company Members

Ever wonder how the adaptation process works? What the actors look for in a story? Here’s one monkey’s answer!

Molly Brennan has been a BOM ensemble member since 1999. She’s currently BOM’s Artistic Associate, which means she’ll spend six months helping Artistic Director Laura Grey by directing shows, leading performance workshops, and giving advice on artistic decisions.

When not performing or teaching with the Monkeys, Molly is a member of the action based clown theater ensemble 500 Clown, a company member of The House Theatre of Chicago (where she recently received a Jeff award for Curse of the Crying Heart), and a performer with the Big Apple Circus’ Clown Care. Molly has performed extensively in Chicago, including with the Factory Theater, Steppenwolf, The Chicago Children’s Theater and Second City. Executive Director Heidi Thompson Saunders convinced Molly to answer a few questions about her work with Barrel of Monkeys.

HTS: Molly, you’ve been a BOM company member since 1999, pretty much from the beginning. What has kept you interested in working with us as your career has evolved?

MB: I feel privileged to be invited into cultures that I otherwise would not be privy to. The BOM work is largely ego-less. People do it for the love the kids, their stories, and each other.

HTS: From your perspective, what is the biggest change to Barrel of Monkeys in the last few years?

MB: It’s a higher profile company for sure. Efficiency has increased, there are lots more members. All the changes are for the best.

HTS: What do you look for when choosing a kid’s story to adapt? What is the most important thing to remember during the adaptation/development process?

MB: Being moved by the STORY, as opposed to putting something onto it. I think sticking truthfully to the text produces the best sketches.

HTS: What is something that surprises you about Barrel of Monkeys?

MB: I am continuously amazed by the extraordinary level of talent that is evident in the members of BOM, teachers, performers and teacher-performers. I am delightedly surprised as new members continue to bring fresh perspectives and unique talents.

HTS: What is the hardest thing to explain to other people about Barrel of Monkeys?

MB: The program. Six weeks, journals, doing just the stories from that school…

HTS: How does your work with other performance companies inform your work with BOM and vice/versa?

MB: Again, through finding the truth in the stories. Bringing forth the humor, the beauty, the tragedy…it’s in the text. I’m a big fan of returning to the simple text, instead of approaching the work with a big “idea” of “Let’s do it as a spaghetti western,” or whatever.

HTS: People often ask us what the kids reactions are after the school shows. What do kids usually say to you?

MB: It varies. They’re usually super psyched and want me to repeat some bit from the show.

HTS: Do you think they generally approve of the adaptations?

MB: For the most part. They’re brutally honest if they DON’T approve. But I think I’ve heard that a total of 3 times.

HTS: What’s your goal for your term as Artistic Associate?

MB: My goal is to share the process of working from the body rather than the mind, and to learn about leadership from Laura.

Thanks Molly! We’ll feature interviews with other company members in future months. In the meantime you can catch Molly performing with 500 Clown in California, DC and Chicago this spring.

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