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The darnedest things.

PERHAPS BARREL OF MONKEYS FOUNDERS ERICA HALVERSON AND Haiena Kays heard a little too much Carpenters growing up. They've set out to challenge Karen's lament in "Bless the Beasts and the Children" that "in this world, they have no voice." Or perhaps they just fancied the notion of completely inverted children's theatre. Whatever their inspiration, the duo hit on a winning strategy for bolstering creative expression, self-esteem and confidence among underserved Chicago public school students. Since 1997, Barrel of Monkeys' growing company of actor-educators has helped elementary school kids develop their original stories into scripts that are then staged by grown-up professional actors. In 2001, the company began performing these stories for the public under the title That's Weird, Grandma. Ten years later, the show still runs every Monday night at the Neo-Futurarium.

"What has given TWG its lasting appeal is the high quality of talent performing the work, the audience participation and the excellent source material," says BOM artistic director Molly Brennan. The show's volunteer performers, who have logged time at prestigious Chicago theatres, never know what acting challenges await them in a fresh batch of TWG scripts.

"Our first - agreement when we enter a classroom is 'every idea is a good idea" Brennan explains. "From tales of talking globes to autobiographical accounts of gang violence, BOM is in the business of putting kids' ideas and experiences first." The holiday edition, she adds, features "such gems as Santa and the Muscle Bound and The Time I Ate a Christmas Ball."

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Title Annotation:CHICAGO; That's Weird, Grandma
Author:Marrs, Homer
Publication:American Theatre
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1U3IL
Date:Dec 1, 2011
Words:253
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