from U of I News Services - January 31, 1997
CONTACT: WINSTON BARCLAY
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0073; fax (319) 384-0024
UI students' No Shame Theatre now has World Wide Web site
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- No Shame Theatre, University of Iowa drama students' version of ad hoc street theater, has staked out new curbside territory on the information superhighway. No Shame Theatre scripts, history, photographs, press clippings and internet links can now be found at <http://members.aol.com/NoShTh/index.htm>.
No Shame Theatre was founded in 1987 by undergraduate playwrights Todd Ristau, Jeff Goode and Stan Ruth as as a no-budget, low-tech venue for playwrights and actors to try out new material.
At its beginning, No Shame was actually parking-lot theater rather than street theater. The first performances were in the box of Ristau's green 1976 Dodge pick-up truck, with light provided by the motorcycle headlight of Kris Farrar, another theater student.
Vowing to continue the performances until prohibited by snow and cold, Ristau told a reporter, "We just want to put our ideas out in front of people. It's an important way to get stage experience."
As the weather turned less hospitable, Robert Hedley, then the chair of the UI department of theatre arts, invited the students indoors, and No Shame became a non-official fixture of the department. Late every Friday night theater students and anyone else who was interested performed pieces of five minutes or less in an uncensored, supportive, "license to fail" atmosphere.
"It's cheap, raw and unpredictable -- and sometimes it's twisted," theater major Megan Gogerty commented last fall to the UI student newspaper, the Daily Iowan. "This is no 'Les Miz.' This is garage theater. Every night is a gamble."
Faculty member David Thayer, acting chair of the UI theater department, says, "No Shame Theatre is not a part of the theatre arts department, but has always had the department's enthusiastic support. It provides a unique opportunity for performance and audience participation that could never survive in a formal structure.
"The people who have made No Shame such a success have provided us with evenings of fun, provocative ideas and not a few groans. But they have always provided a solid reason to come to the theater at 11 o'clock at night."
With No Shame well established, Ristau became a graduate student in the Iowa Playwrights Workshop. In 1990 he was offered an internship to establish a No Shame Theatre at the HOME for Contemporary Theatre and Art in New York City, which produced No Shame evenings at Joseph Papp's Public Theatre. No Shame "franchises" have also popped up in Miami, Chicago and other cities. The concept drew national attention, with articles in the New York Times, the Drama Review and other publications.
Last fall playwrights and performers returned from as far away as Los Angeles, Chicago and New York to celebrate the tradition's 10th anniversary with "The Best of the Best of No Shame" in the UI Theatre Building. Some No Shame veterans returned not to perform, but merely to be in the audience for the anniversary event.
"I credit No Shame as being one of my greatest teachers in playwriting ever -- and I think a lot of other people feel that way, too, if they're willing to come all the way back to Iowa City to do a little five-minute scene they performed five or 10 years ago," Gogerty said.
The No Shame internet homepage was inspired by the anniversary celebration's excitement. Jeff Goode, who was the original No Shame emcee and stage manager, preserved No Shame documentation during his student years at the UI, and with the help of more recent No Shame activists he assembled scripts, performance schedules, performer and writer rosters, photographs, press clippings, trivia questions and other materials for the No Shame site on the World Wide Web.
"For a long time, I've felt that if there was a way to make this information available to the people it would serve as a nucleus to gather other archival information and serve as a motivation for future No Shamers to keep records of their performances," Goode explains.
Although the No Shame homepage has been on-line only since mid-January, Goode says the site has already had numerous visitors.
Goode hopes that as former students who were active in No Shame, either as participants or as audience members, learn of the site, he will be able to expand and refine its content. "If people do have any other information, I will find a way to include it," Goode promises. "And almost anything can be helpful."