“That’s Weird Grandma”: A Barrel of Monkeys Production

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It was one of the best hours of sketch comedy I have seen in months. No contest. And here’s the kicker — the entire show was penned by 4th graders.

“That’s Weird Grandma” is performed every Monday night by the Barrel of Monkeys at the Neo-Futuriam on North Ashland.  BOM teaches six-week creative writing workshops to disadvantaged Chicago Public School students. At the end of the term the BOM ensemble of professional actors chooses a handful of student’s plays to adapt for stage. And the result is…wild. “That’s Weird Grandma” is an hour-long sketch show of physical and musical comedy that has a Shrek-like appeal –- parents are able to ‘catch the sillies’ sitting right next to their kids.

Audience members are handed a show program filled with the student’s original stories as they enter the theatre. What makes the performance so rich is reading student’s original ideas only minutes before witnessing how BOM has adapted the tale for the stage. For instance, 4th grader Dionta’s short story “The Time We Had a Snowball Fight” was transformed into a slow-motion battle spoof of “The Matrix.” In “The Gun Shot,” student author Jesus wrote about seeing violence in his neighborhood, which BOM chose to portray in the genre of 1920’s film noire. Think Dick Tracey.

The mission of BOM is to empower low-income elementary students by bringing their ideas to life. But none of the sketches felt preachy, and all remain true to the student’s original voice. Also, every week the performance changes, as sketches are added and dropped based on audience voting. So, in keeping with the Neo-Futurist mantra, “If you’ve seen the show once, you’ve seen the show once.”

“That’s Weird Grandma” is ideal for a group of friends out on the town. Or for a first date. Or the next time you are guilt tripped into babysitting your boss’s horrible little child. Looking for more? Check out the Neo-Futurist production “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind.”

The Essentials:
Location: The Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland
Price: $10 at the door (and “safe” for all ages)
Check out upcoming shows at http://www.barrelofmonkeys.org/


Dan Bush

About Dan Bush

After college, Dan spent a year traveling in a van performing volunteer work around the country, otherwise known as, AMERICA. A South side of Chicago native, Dan now feels smug when he argues with people in bars that Chicago is the greatest city in the world. The Bears, brats, John C. Reilly and Comiskey Stadium are things that Dan thinks rule about Chicago. Go White Sox.

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