No Shame Manifesto

By Todd Wm. Ristau

No Shame Theatre was created to provide a place where people interested in working in the theatre could "dare to fail." In the fall of 1986, Todd Ristau, then an undergraduate member of the Iowa Playwright's Workshop, declared his pickup truck a theatre. He parked it in an empty lot, lit it with a motorcycle headlamp, and emerging writers and performers did their work in the truckbed. Since then, those writers and performers have gone on to establish a network of No Shames, of which this branch at Live Arts is one.

The focus of No Shame is on experimentation, low production values, and creative expression in a low-risk, nonjudgmental environment. It is open to all and all are encouraged to participate. As it was in the days of the truck, so it shall remain, that the audience is free to let the performers know what they think about the performances in their own way. It has always been one of the unique and exciting aspects of No Shame that the audience has little regard for the conventions of audience behavior in other theatres....up to and including becoming performers themselves. No Shamers should be aware that the audience may interact with a piece quite unexpectedly.

In addition to being an alternative in style and content to mainstream theatre, No Shame is committed to providing hands-on training in all aspects of theatre, and exists to put into action personal intiative in the creation of original performance pieces. We come to the theatre not to find work, but to make work.

No committee chooses the scripts and there is no censorship policy. However, we do rely on participants to respect the forum, and to present only what they themselves honestly feel is interesting, dynamic, and worthwhile. No Shame should never be construed to mean No Pride.

Lastly, it must be emphasized that No Shame is a philosophy, not a building or a stage. It is not the space, but what we bring to it that is No Shame. Wherever there is light enough for a new script to be read and a space for people to gather to hear it, No Shame can happen.

  1. Each performance will begin at 11:00 PM on Friday.

  2. At 10:30, the house will open and the Stage Manager will begin to take names for the order and collect scripts for the Light Board Operator.

  3. Each piece must be accompanied by a (preferably typewritten) script indicating any desired light cues. (Please limit them to Up, Down, and, Blackout.) These scripts are retained by No Shame for its archives, and for planning the periodical Best Of No Shame shows. For this reason, they should include contact information. It is also helpful if you note the cast of your piece on the archive script. In the case of an improv or a song, an outline or lyrics must be submitted.

  4. The lights which are in use in the space are not to be altered and they are all that are open to you. At no time will you be allowed to change the light hang. If we are outside, there will be no lights. Writers are advised to be as self-contained as possible.

  5. Props and set pieces in the theatre are not to be used, with the exception of designated items on the stage at the start of the show. No Shame and Live Arts take no responsibility for loss or damage of personal property which you or your actors provide for the performance.

  6. Pieces are to be no longer than 5 minutes in length.

  7. The writer of each piece is responsible for casting that piece, as well as rehearsing it. Many times scripts are hand-held and rehearsal is minimal, but it is entirely up to the writer what degree of "polish" the piece is in when it is presented. The UpStage and Live Arts in general are not available for rehearsal. Often, writers will approach audience members before the show and ask if they have an interest in being in a piece, in which case they will likely be reading cold with no rehearsal at all. We encourage the use of fresh faces and new people, as giving performance opportunities to those without much experience is one of the reasons why we exist.

  8. Space for audience is limited and we expect to turn people away for every performance. If you want to watch, you have to buy a ticket, even if you are a writer or a performer.

  9. Please extend the same courtesy you expect from other performers and, if you are backstage, remain as quiet and orderly as possible.

  10. Even though you may think you have the position in the order you requested when turning in your script, it is important to listen to the roster at the top of the show, or get it from a Production Assistant in order to confirm it. The Stage Manager reserves the right to re-order the line up if, for example, too many monologues follow each other. This is to keep the evening from bogging down in the middle.

  11. Each piece will follow the next without individual introduction—but if you are late in getting on, the Stage Manager will bellow out the writer's name and the audience will snicker.

  12. The performer(s) and writer(s) are required to clear the stage after they finish their piece so that the next piece has the same neutral stage to set up on. This must take place quickly and in low light, so take it seriously and be careful.

  13. After the evening is over, all the writers are required to to help clean the stage and return the space to a neutral condition. Don't just leave after your piece is over. Writers are not to leave until the Stage Manager gives them the OK. Writers who don't obey Rule 13 may not make it back onto the line up next week. (After all, it is the Stage Manager who takes the names....)

  14. Audiences are not encouraged to throw bottles or tomatoes, but they are encouraged to let you know what they think of your piece in ways that probably wouldn't be tolerated in one of those big-shot main-stage theatres. Be prepared for anything to come out of the audience—and cross your fingers it won't be chicken bones or hand grenades.

  15. Post-performance discussion is a big part of fostering a community that is supportive instead of competitive. Through the free exchange of ideas, criticism, and skills No Shame can't help but grow stronger....but don't have those creative conversations in the theatre or the lobby after midnight—you don't have to go home, but you can't stay at Live Arts!