Barrel of Monkeys’ THAT’S WEIRD, GRANDMA: 15TH ANNIVERSARY SHOWS – April 17 – 18, 2016 at Neo-Futurist Theater

Company members old and new will reunite as Barrel of Monkeys celebrates 15 years of its hit revue THAT’S WEIRD, GRANDMA with two special anniversary performances on Sunday April 17 at 2 pm and Monday, April 18 at 8 pm at its long-time home, the Neo-Futurist Theater, 5153 N. Ashland Ave. in Chicago. Tickets are available at

The special 90-minute production will feature 30 sketches and songs, two from each of the 15 years THAT’S WEIRD, GRANDMA has been performed at Neo-Futurist theater, including plenty of audience favorites. Directed by current Artistic Director Joseph Schupbach and Founding Artistic Director Halena Kays, the 15TH ANNIVERSARY SHOWS will feature long-time company members, as well as out-of-town artists returning to the show they performed in years ago. Back in the booth is Maggie Fullilove-Nugent, who served as the company’s stage manager for ten years. All of the stories are written by Chicago Public School students and adapted for the stage by Barrel of Monkeys Company Members.


The 15TH ANNIVERSARY SHOW cast includes active company members Kassi Bleifuss, Brandon Cloyd, Lindsey Dorcus, Linsey Falls, Jennifer Johnson, Laura McKenzie, Spencer Meeks, Meredith Milliron, Shá Norman, Tai Palmgren, Zoe Schwartz, Jason Sperling, Kate Staiger, Brad Stevens, Rawson Vint, Curtis Williams and Rachel Wilson. Emeritus and out-of-town members include Brenda Arellano, Tom Arvetis, Lisa Barker, Luke Hatton (former Artistic Director), Tom Malinowski, Philip Markle, Eric Silverberg, Mike Spatafora and Kristie Vuocolo (former Executive Director).

“I am absolutely thrilled about this celebration,” comments Artistic Director Joseph Schupbach. “I have the incredible opportunity to co-direct with Founding Artistic Halena Kays, who led the company for ten years – and welcome back alumni into the cast. My relationship with ‘Grandma’ now spans eleven years, so I’m delighted to put some of my favorite stories back on stage. Long-time audience members will enjoy some ‘oldies’ and brand new audience will be delighted to see this mega-sized cast perform the written work of Chicago Public Schools students. There will be song, dance, puppets, short films, surprises, blasts from the past and much more. It will undoubtedly be a magical place to spend 90 minutes.”


Barrel of Monkeys, a Chicago-based arts education theater ensemble now in its 19th season, conducts creative writing workshops with 3rd through 5th grade students in underserved Chicago Public Schools. The ensemble of actor-educators then turns their stories and words into professionally performed theater, presented both in-school and for the general public through its revues. Barrel of Monkeys annually performs more than 300 student-written stories for the students in their schools and 175 stories on the stage for the general public. Clever and funny – touching and poignant – the collection of short sketches and songs featured in THAT’S WEIRD, GRANDMA is equally entertaining for adults and children.





Written by: Chicago Public School Students

Adapted for the stage by: Barrel of Monkeys Company Members

Directed by: Joseph Schupbach and Halena Kays
Stage Managed by: Maggie Fullilove-Nugent

Featuring: Barrel of Monkeys Company Members

Location: Neo-Futurist Theater, 5153 N. Ashland Ave. in Chicago

Dates: Sunday April 17 at 2 pm and Monday, April 18 at 8 pm

Tickets: $15 for adults; $6 children 12 and under. Tickets are available at


About the Directors

Joseph Schupbach has directed shows for Barrel of Monkeys, North Park University, Murakami Sound Machine and InGen Productions – a company of which he is co-founder and former Artistic Director. Joseph has assistant directed for The Ruffians and The Neo-Futurists and has performed all over Chicago. In November 2014, he was appointed Barrel of Monkeys’ new Artistic Director, having served as the company’s Education Coordinator since 2011.

Halena Kays is the co-founder and former artistic director of Barrel of Monkeys, where she directed the majority of their public performances. She is also the former Artistic Director of The Hypocrites and a founding member of the artistic collaborative, The Ruffians. Chicago credits include: Endgame, Ivywild, Six Characters in Search of an Author at The Hypocrites; The Magic Play at The Goodman, Lord of the Flies at Steppenwolf Theatre Company; Burning Bluebeard, 44 Plays for 44 Presidents, Daredevils, Daredevils Hamlet and Fake Lake at The Neo-Futurists (artistic associate); Roustabout at Concordia College; Buried in Bughouse Square at The University of Chicago. Kays is a UT-Austin and Northwestern grad, former member of the Big Apple Circus Clown Care unit and professor of directing at MTSU. Halena has been nominated for a Jefferson Citation for Best Supporting Actress and Best Direction, was the recipient of the prestigious 3Arts Award and was named one of the top 50 “players” in Chicago theater by Newcity.


About Barrel of Monkeys

Since Barrel of Monkeys’ inception in 1997 it has worked in 60 Chicago Public Schools. More than 8,000 lower-income elementary school students have participated in the Barrel of Monkeys programs that provide a rare opportunity for creative expression and build literacy skills, self-esteem and confidence in student ideas and abilities.