This week, Laura and Joelle are joined by Brandon Cloyd of Barrel of Monkeys. Barrel of Monkeys is an ensemble of actors and educators who create an alternative learning environment in which students aged 7-13 throughout Chicago share their personal voices and celebrate the power of their imaginations. Their current production, That’s Weird Grandma: Fanastic Beasts and the Stories About Them can be seen Monday nights at 8PM now through August 12 at The Neo Futurists Theater at 5153 N. Ashland.
“In a quick look at Barrel of Monkeys you could think it’s a ‘Kids say the darndest things’ moment. But for us it’s not that at all. It’s that the students are really intentional and really smart.”
– Brandon Cloyd
Listen to Episode 71 with Brandon Cloyd!
Here are some references from Episode 71 that you may want to check out:
- Brandon is originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan and got involved in theatre through his dad, who was on the board of directors at a local theater. One of his tasks was to check in on rehearsals, and he took Brandon along with him, which is where he fell in love with the idea of performing.
- After doing theatre in middle and high school, and teaching at a theatre summer camp, Brandon went to Northwestern University to study theatre and business administration, always keeping a focus on children’s education.
- An audition is what brought Brandon to Barrel of Monkeys originally; however he had known about the company for a while; it was one of the first places he auditioned after college in 2007.
- He’s had many roles within the company, such as: actor, teaching artist, program director, and artistic director.
- Barrel of Monkeys was started by two women, Erica Halverson and Halena Kays, 22 years ago. They were part of a student theatre group at Northwestern University called Griffin’s Tale, which also performed children’s stories. After college they wanted to continue that work, as well as add an educational aspect to it, leading to the creation of Barrel of Monkeys.
- Most of the work that Barrel of Monkeys produces isn’t seen by the public. Instead, it’s shown to the student authors, in roughly 20 public schools all around Chicago.
- The public shows are performed weekly at The Neo Futurist Theater (5153 N Ashland) here in Andersonville, although Barrel of Monkeys is looking for an additional theatre space on the south side of Chicago as well so they can be accessible to all of the students they work with.
- Aside from the in-school programs, Barrel of Monkeys also offers after-school programs. The main difference between the two is that the after-school program is a little more exploratory and the curriculum bends towards what the students are interested in, as they are often students who chose to be there. The in-school program curriculum is pretty structured, as they work with a classroom for about 90 minutes once a week, for six weeks. Each week, they take a look at a different aspect of the curriculum.
- When converting the student’s stories into scripts, the ensemble tries to honor them as closely as they can. So if they stories contain dialogue, they perform it word for word. The key is to really embrace the characters. For narratives, they look at every moment and consider how they can represent it on stage. Take a look at the student’s stories here.
- Barrel of Monkeys has their own podcast, where they showcase even more of the students’ work. You can listen to this podcast here.
- Their current production of That’s Weird Grandma is Fantastic Beast and the Stories About Them, contains about 18 student written productions, all about beastly creatures. The current production runs through August 12. Buy tickets now!
- If Brandon could switch with an Andersonville business for the day he’d pick Helen Peirce International School (1423 W. Bryn Mawr), due to their beautiful dance studio and the wonderful students.
This week’s episode is sponsored by locally-owned Pearle Vision on Clark & Lawrence at 4818 N Clark.