Barrel of Monkeys, one of Chicago’s premier arts-education organizations, announced today it will officially change its name to PlayMakers Laboratory Theatre. The change follows a year-long journey of engaging discussion and reflection among board members, staff, company members and outside stakeholders. As Playmakers unveils its new brand, the company’s unique in-school programming and long-running public revue, That’s Weird, Grandma, will not change.
In a joint statement from the leadership team, Executive Director Kemper Florin, Program Director Shá Norman and Artistic Director Brandon Cloyd said, “In truth, concerns about the name Barrel of Monkeys has periodically surfaced among both internal and external stakeholders for years. Use of monkey imagery and racial slurs is a well-documented tendency throughout American history, and as our organization has evolved to become a more diverse organization at all levels, consciousness of this issue has increased, resulting in a consensus that the time has come to change the name. This year, with the generous support of the Arts Work Fund for Organizational Development we were able to partner with media design company, LimeRed, to embark on the journey of changing our organization's name. After many discovery sessions, conversations and surveys, we have selected PlayMakers Laboratory Theatre as our new name to take us into the next evolution or our company. While the work itself will not change, it is our hope that once the new brand is launched, stakeholders will recognize the bold intention behind the endeavor and their respect for our company as an organization that upholds its values and puts its constituents first will grow. Fear of change is a strong motivator, but the world has indeed changed and the awareness of systems of oppression has grown and the need to be better is more apparent now than ever before.”
Founded in 1997 as Barrel of Monkeys, PlayMakers Laboratory Theatre has spent over two decades providing vital arts education to Chicago elementary schools. The company’s ensemble of teaching artists and performers conducts six-week creative writing workshops with 3rd through 7th grade students, then brings the young authors’ stories to life as raucous sketches, songs and movement pieces, performing first for students in their schools and then for the public. The company has worked in over 60 Chicago elementary schools, serving more than 50,000 students. In 2004, Playmakers’ also implemented a year-round after-school program at Loyola Park Fieldhouse, in partnership with the Chicago Park District. These programs provide a rare opportunity for creative expression and build literacy skills, self-esteem, and confidence in students’ ideas and abilities.
In 2001, the company launched That’s Weird, Grandma, a revue for the general public at the Neo-Futurist Theater in Andersonville featuring student-written stories, songs and sketches performed by Barrel of Monkeys Company Members. Now in its 18th year, That’s Weird, Grandma showcases over 175 stories annually, with new sketches at every performance!
For additional information, visit www.playmakerslab.org.
Barrel of Monkeys is sponsored in part by Wintrust Financial, Allscripts, Inc., Ernst and Young and Punchkick Interactive. It receives generous support from the Illinois Arts Council Agency; the National Endowment for the Arts; a CityArts Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events; the Chicago Community Trust; Crown Family Philanthropies; Alphawood Foundation of Chicago; the Maurice R. and Meta G. Gross Foundation; Polk Bros Foundation; the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation; the Robert and Isabelle Bass Foundation, Inc.; The Saints; The Topfer Family Foundation, and many other generous individuals and foundations.
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