Confessions of a Former Monkey Mind Doctor

A Traveling Theatrical Lecture

by Daniel Povinelli and Brandon Barker


As the world teeters on the brink of granting apes personhood, folklorists, a talking chimpanzee, and a former-monkey-mind-doctor convene to finally resolve the ancient question: What’s the difference between humans and animals? No simple answers await them.


Once upon a time in the not too distant present, scientists decide to “test” Aesop’s ancient fable of the Crow and the Pitcher by training crows to drop pebbles into a half- lled test tube to get a drink of water. What was thought for 2,000 years to be mere fabulist’s fancy, becomes a cognitive reality! The Science of Animal Folklore is born.

The world of professional folklorists splits at the seams: Animalists swallow the new science hook, line, and sinker, but humanists smell a rat. To get to the bottom of this paradoxical pitcher, the folklorists convene an emergency meeting of the International Folklore Society and invite none other than the infamous retired ape psychologist, Doctor Fomomindo, to speak on the controversy.

Our theatrical lecture begins when—to everyone’s surprise— Dr. Fomomindo arrives with his trained, talking chimpanzee, Mojo. And just as Dr. Fomomindo begins, Mojo receives a letter announcing that the Global Anthropological Society has voted to give apes, including Mojo, personhood. Amid the ensuing chaos, Fomomindo presses on with his lecture- turned-autobiographical-confession, fending o dissenters from all sides. In the end, he must help Mojo make a decision: should she accept humanity’s invitation to become a person . . . or not?

No easy answers await them.


$9,474 of $10,000 raised

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Campaign ends Sept. 15, 2017.

Two-thirds of the budget is associated with the costs of mounting the production (involving 4 actors) at an international folklore festival/conference in Tartu, Estonia. The remainder will cover the up-front costs of several local productions scheduled for late summer/fall 2017.


 Daniel Povinelli
After monkeying around in science for thirty years, Daniel Povinelli now devotes most of his time to his first love, creative writing. His staged plays include Before You, Mercy for Puppets, Sultan’s Prize and a recent one man, one ape show co- authored with Brandon Barker, Confessions of a Former Monkey Mind Doctor.



Brandon Barker
Teaching and working in Bloomington, Indiana, Brandon Barker is a folklorist—which is to say he passes most of his time chatting about traditions and melodramas. Somebody looking hard could find his writing in the Journal of American Folklore or Journal of Folklore Research, but they could also just listen to Hank Williams’ catalog and catch most of Barker’s drift. http://www.indiana. edu/~folklore/people/barker. shtml

Issues & Discussions

A digital interface with platforms for discussion, comments, and further investigation. We invite participation and contributions on key questions and issues that this work raises. In spirit of the script, we’d like to continue questioning and debate. This is a constantly evolving critical apparatus, which will continue after this phase of the project is completed.

The Question Concerning Science

Science as a journey of discovery raises the issue of its veracity. There are rules to science, a map to its discoveries. Choices are to be made; intuition and prejudgments are involved. Fidelity to science is always already at work. Read More.

The Question Concerning Animals

The question is not what constitutes the animal, but what does not constitute the human. Are animals in need of liberation, or are humans the real prisoners in need of emancipation? What would an animal science be: would it be possible for animals to study humans scientifically? This is not a dumb question. Read More

The Question Concerning Language

Language is a code of figures created by humans as metaphors for reality. As such, language is a virtual reality, or at least a description thereof. If you can’t speak, do you have a voice? Is the human mind a prison of analogies? Do animals (and even plants) have a language that mimics reality? Read More.

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