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 Ruthas 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
"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
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
"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."