PerformInk is Chicago's entertainment industry trade publication.
Photo: PlayMakers Laboratory Theatre’s teaching artists conduct a creative writing residency at Chicago’s Dixon Elementary School. | Shá Norman.
Arts education and performance organization Barrel of Monkeys announced today it will officially change its name to “PlayMakers Laboratory Theatre,” The change follows deliberation among the company about society’s use of monkeys in racially disparaging imagery.
A joint statement from the company’s leadership (Executive Director Kemper Florin, Program Director Shá Norman and Artistic Director Brandon Cloyd) stated that “concerns about the name Barrel of Monkeys have 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.”
Since 1997, the organization has provided storytelling arts education to Chicago elementary schools. The 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 sketches, songs and movement pieces, performed first for students in their schools and then for the public. Their 18-year-old review “That’s Weird, Grandma” features student-written stories, songs and sketches performed by professional performers, showcasing over 175 stories annually.
The company partnered with media design company LimeRed to come up with the moniker “PlayMakers Laboratory Theatre” and initiate the branding process. The company’s unique programs will continue unchanged.
“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,” the statement continued. “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.”
For additional information, visit the new web address www.playmakerslab.org.