Joshua James’s Iowa City No Shame History 91-93

(writing and performing during that time period as White-Boy-Black-Boy and todd j. peterson)

This document is intended to fill in some of my participation history with No Shame Theatre at Iowa City during the time I was there, which was September of 1991 to December 1993.

History being what it is, what is recorded here is strictly subjective; meaning that it’s mostly what I remember, and memory is always faded and full of holes. But I will do my best to unload what I can definitely recall and hopefully someone else can fill in the gaps as they appear.


I attended the University of Iowa in the fall semester of 1991 as part of the MFA graduate acting class (at that time I was performing under my legal name Todd J. Peterson). My MFA classmates at that time were Robb Barnard, Clint Corley, David Drayer, Liz Davis, Anne Fogarty, Kirsten Fitzgerald, Bill Hairston, Susan Lynsky, Brenda Lawton, Wendi Weber, Gary Widland and David Woodside, all of whom performed different things at No Shame theatre, though some of us, Clint and Robb in particular, were very prolific and I believe Robb also served on the No Shame board for a time.

Other No Shame regulars were the MFA playwrights Laura Quinn, Peter Ullian, Mike Geither, undergraduate students Adam Whisner, Eric Summers, Eric Johnson, Margie Dube’, Jen Shepard, Mark Johnson, Brett Neveau, Sean Judge, Eric and Amy Pot, John Smick, Josh Peskay, Shannon McCormick and a whole bunch of other folks that I’m sure I should remember but at this moment cannot.

Also very active during this time was Carolyn "Space" Jacobson, who was studying in the English department, Scott Smith, James Thorn, Bruce Viera and Fred Norberg, all of whom did not attend Iowa but were very active in the Theatre scene there.

I was also very fortunate in that Todd Ristau was finishing his final semester that fall and was active and present throughout my time there, in fact, we were both cast in the main stage production of "Buried Child" in the spring of ’93 and in "The Kentucky Cycles" that same summer. Todd is, along with Jeff Goode & Stan Ruth, the founder of it all.

I first heard about No Shame my very first day of school from Robb, who attended a show the year before and was very excited about participating in the show. The thing that I remember most was that he was not really able to describe what it was to me (which may have been more my failing rather than Robb’s, I was barely off the farm), other than to say that it was theatre and that it was anything goes. A very apt description, as it turned out.

I don’t remember much of the first show in terms of the acts involved, but I do remember being incredibly entertained and most of all, inspired. I believe that I turned to David Woodside that very night and said, "Hey, we can do this!"


In the Deadwood bar, after the show, I proposed a sketch for Woodside and myself to do as a team together, outlined the idea and said, "Want to do this?"

Woodside laughed and said, "Only if we call ourselves White Boy Black Boy!" (For the uninformed, I am very white and Woodside is very black.)

Woodside’s other stipulation was that we somehow involved our classmate Bill Hairston because, as he put it, "That fucker is fucking funny." I said, "Okay, we’ll make him President."

"President of what?" Woodside asked. "President of White Boy Black Boy Productions!" I said. It made sense at the time, and besides, I didn’t know what else he could do.

And that’s how White-Boy Black-Boy Productions was formed.

I wrote the first sketch out in longhand and Bill typed it up for us on one of the Macs in the computer room, giggling and adding his own jokes to the mix (David was right, Bill was definitely a funny fucker.)

The very first White Boy Black Boy piece I have rewritten from memory, and so it’s not that complete but the arc is still there. That first piece is attached here


In my very first piece ever done at No Shame, I remember being scared out of my mind, scared so bad it was like a bad case of the shits, and it was unusual to me because I was never scared of anything as an actor. I never had stage fright as an actor, never. Ah, but as I was soon to find out, I wasn’t simply an actor anymore.

Bill introduced himself as President of White-Boy Black-Boy Productions "Hereafter known as Wubba-Bubba," something he made up right on the spot and garnered a big laugh. We became known as Wubba-Bubba after that.

I don’t remember much of the show because I was shit-scared and shaking, but I know that folks enjoyed it, because they laughed and clapped and because many of them told me so, after the show, and I knew that I’d have to do it again.


We performed six or seven more sketches as Wubba Bubba that year, most of which were lost forever (with a lot of letters and other documents) when my Mac Classic crashed for good in 97. I wrote all of the sketches (David wrote the song) but Bill always added a joke or an idea and he and David would usually go off script during the performance and do something entertaining. Woodside wrote the piece where we got killed, I think.

Before each piece we did, there was usually some sort of introduction that Bill would do as the President, which he would make up on the spot and would almost always be funny (sometimes funnier than the actual written piece itself). One time he introduced us as "Wubba Bubba, which stands for White Boy Black Boy, cause what the fuck else would it be?" This prompted another writer the very next week to list off all the many other things Wubba Bubba could very well stand for. That was a lot of fun that night.

Anyway, some of the pieces I do remember doing were —

"Daddy Webster" which was me playing an adolescent dealing with wet dreams and Bill as my father giving me advice straight out of the dictionary.

"Leave It To Beaver" Mrs. Beaver (played by Anne Fogarty) goes on a menopausal rampage, tying up Ward (Woodside) and setting him on fire as Wally (me) and Beaver (Bill) look on in wonder.

Wubba Bubba song — David wrote and played a song on the piano that all three of us sang.

Some piece where David wanted to know why it was WhiteBoy BlackBoy, why couldn’t it be BlackBoy WhiteBoy and Bill response was because Wubba Bubba sounds a lot cooler than Bubba Wubba, which got a big laugh. "Too gay," Bill said, I think.

"That’s It" — I don’t remember much about this piece, except that it failed spectacularly and that Woodside skipped it (very smart of him, seeing at how the piece was received) and Dave Drayer and Gary Widland were in it with Bill and myself. It was some sort of comment on Voice glass, I think I may have been busting on Joe Gilday (the Voice teacher), whom I did not care for. Doesn’t matter, if really didn’t work and I wrote it.

Some piece we did in which Marge Dube and Jenn Shepard killed us, for some reason that I can’t recall, but it seemed like a good idea at that time. Woodside kind of wrote this.

There were others, but those are the ones I remember best. I’m sure that they weren’t nearly as good as I remember them, since I was just starting as a writer and everything always seems better once ten years has gone by (except for acne, of course.)

The first White Boy Black Boy piece we performed was also selected for the Best Of No Shame (Fall of 1991). We participated in that show and did the piece without our shirts on.

What a show that one was, a whole lot of very funny pieces that semester, and ended with some spoof of Les Miz. It was a great show. The show was taped for posterity (by Eric Pot, so perhaps he still has it somewhere) and I think I have a copy of that tape in storage back in Iowa (storage being a trunk in my brother’s garage that holds all my yearbooks, medals and whatnot).


Great pieces done by other performers that I remember that year were —

Eric Johnson and Doug Steckel doing Sanford Meisner and Son, one of the greatest theatre in-jokes ever done. Ever.

Carolyn Jacobson and Laura Quinn performing Aggressive Women’s Theatre (different pieces by Aggressive Women in Theatre). They did different pieces and they were very good.

Peskay and McCormick doing Pork and Beans, which was the two of them beating on empty Pork and Beans cans, chanting "Pork!" "And Beans" over and over. Very funny. These two guys would team up with John Smick next year to form a group called Nekid Percussion and did many, many funny pieces together. I remember one really great Nekid Percussion piece which was essentially a take off on the movie ALIVE. Very funny.

A Star Trek piece, about how any crew member on the Enterprise that wears a red shirt on Star Trek is destined to die. I don’t know who wrote this but it was funny as shit. I believe John Smick played Kirk, and I think Doug Steckel was in it as well.

Peter Ullian doing some sort of clever "social commentaries" which was usually him standing up and acting like he was complaining about something, which was usually nothing. Peter did do a piece with Brenda Lawton about cannibalism which I thought was very good.

Carolyn Jacobson doing a very funny monologue about how people would piss her off and that’s why she flashes them, during which she flashes we, the audiences members, many times. Of course I would remember this one. Carolyn was also very prolific at No Shame, she wrote, performed and participated in a lot of pieces. She and Robb also did a piece together about being nude at No Shame.

Clint Corley’s 4 Tall Men, (I think he wrote that one with Eric Summers, actually) —

Clint also did a piece with Bruce Viera called "Pants" which was about a man that found "Pants" worn, said or thought of, to be very stimulating, sexually. Clint not only wrote many pieces, he acted in work by many other folks.

I think Clint also wrote (or probably co-wrote) a piece called "Wandering Man" which featured Bruce Viera as Wandering Man, some sort of existential hobo traveling the country and having many adventures. It was a lot of fun.

Clint did a lot of pieces, he was very prolific during his whole time at Iowa, in fact, if I recall correctly, he had one Best of No Shame dedicated strictly to his work alone.

Robb Barnard "Why Ask Why?" a great piece, which consisted of Robb doing the ABC song as he slowly got undressed. He got the audience to sing along and we kept thinking, the whole time, he’s not really going to get completely undressed, is he?" And he did.

Robb also did a piece with a lighting designer (who’s nickname was Beast, I remember) in which they together discovered the erotic qualities of fruit.

Robb was probably, next to Clint, the most active participant in No Shame from my graduate class, although he wasn’t a writer (a claim Robb makes, not me) he was there just about every show (he hosted the show for quite awhile) and could always be counted on to act in something that you wrote and do a fine, funny job. Robb is also a great singer (in fact, I believe he was the lead in the Les Miz parody) and sang in a lot of pieces as well.

Dave Drayer did a very funny piece (which made it to Best Of) about an actor trying to do a monologue, but he keeps screwing it up, finally bringing his girlfriend up onstage to help (Sue, Dave’s real life girlfriend) him get through it. This piece was brilliant because Dave actually got us believing that he was really screwing up a speech that he wanted to do for No Shame. Sue was very funny in it also.

Adam Whisner doing many funny things, but also playing his guitar and singing.

Keith Huff, an MFA playwright who attended fall of 1992, wrote a lot of very fun No Shame pieces. I liked his work a lot. He did a piece on sexual harassment featuring Eric Johnson and Jen Shepard that killed, it absolutely killed.

Eric Johnson did a funny walking monologue about how people should get out of his way when he’s walking down the street. And a send up of a breath mint commercial that was very good.

Scott Smith doing a lot of demented songs on the piano.

Marge Dube and Jen Sheppard doing a whole lot of funny pieces about many different things.

Rebecca Gilmann did some piece with puppets that was funny, though I do not remember why.

Joshua Peskay did a very fun piece on his own, and it was about masturbation, which he talked about while playing chess with himself.

One of the more controversial pieces that first year was one of Gary Widland’s pieces, the title of which I do not know, and the reason that it incited such controversy wasn’t because of subject matter but rather because the piece consisted of Gary talking to the audience and it ran well over fifteen minute long. There was a lot of storm over that one and the time limit was more vigorously enforced after that. Gary said, as I remember, "Hey, I was just doing my thing, isn’t that what it’s about? Besides, it didn’t feel like fifteen minutes." I liked Gary, but he was definitely one dry individual.

I would say that all of my MFA classmates performed in other folk’s work at No Shame at least a few times, but that first year only Clint and I and Dave Drayer wrote with any regularity (I would include Robb in that list, but he always insists that he’s not a writer) and Robb was always present there.

I’m sure that there are a lot of great pieces that took place on nights that I wasn’t able to attend No Shame, but there is what I remember. I wish I had more in the way of dates and whatnot, but unfortunately I wasn’t keeping a journal at that time. I will see if I can find that tape of the Best Of show from 1991.


It was pretty simple, really, but what happened was that David Woodside and I, great friends with each other the first year — we had a rather large falling out (over something small and insignificant, of course), which led to the dissolution of White Boy Black Boy, which was too bad.

We came back for one other piece (I don’t know which one it was, maybe the one where we were killed) but for the most part Wubba Bubba was done after our first scholastic year, cemented even more when Bill Hairston decided to drop out of grad school after that first year and move to New York City.

David Woodside and I made up, eventually, and went our own artistic ways. He wrote a couple of pieces at No Shame, something called The Green M & M I believe, and he also wrote and acted in a couple of plays featured in Black Action Theatre. I went on to do some pieces on my own, from the fall of 1992 to spring of 1993.


I myself couldn’t shake the writing bug once it settled in my bones, and I ended up writing more pieces for No Shame under my name todd j. peterson (I had some kd lang thing going then, it made sense at the time, I swear), though I will admit that I did not attend as regularly as I did that first year, I think I was still trying to work it out, the writing thing, especially when you have to do it on your own. It’s the best teacher and the hardest, doing it yourself.

All of the pieces I wrote for No Shame during that period were lost, except for two that were on paper when my computer crashed. Here are my memories of the other pieces I wrote and performed at that time.

How To Be An Anus — This was a self-help commercial parody that I performed with John Smick and some guy I don’t remember. Short and fun.

Battle of the Opposite Sex — Wendi Weber and I traded barbs and blows in a stage combat piece featuring fists, wooden staves and rapiers. No one got hurt for real (in the sketch, anyway), and of course, I lost that fight. Nice piece, though, and this one I still have.

A Gay Piece — This is not the title, I’m sure I had a cool title for this piece but I can’t remember what it was. In this piece, Robb and Carson Becker (an MFA playwright) play my parents — I bring home my boyfriend (played by Bill) and conflict over my sexuality ensues. I did this piece just to have Robb play my homophobic father (Robb screamed, "My son is a faggot, my son is a homosexual faggot!" which is very funny if you know Robb) and it was a lot of fun — Carson was good too.

COCK — I wrote this piece, which was very crude and basically one joke told in many different variations — I don’t remember who did the piece with me (Adam?) but while the idea was fun, the piece wasn’t structured in a way that made it successful. Which is another way of saying the writing sucked. Basically the joke goes like this, different manly men would come forward and proclaim, "After a day of planting the crops, baling hay and working the land, there is nothing I like better than a big hairy cock, right in my mouth." And we could go on from there, exploring different manly professions (police officers, lumberjacks, etc) but the punch line was always the same (well, sometimes they liked it up the butt rather than in the mouth). Bill and I used to the do this joke in the bar all the time, and it still makes me giggle. But it didn’t work as a No Shame piece (maybe because by this time Bill was gone, I don’t know, maybe he could have saved it).

I also performed in works by a couple of other writers, for the most part I don’t remember them — save one, I did a piece for Thomas G. Waites which was some sort of Dog Day Afternoon rip off, and the reason I remember it so well is because it failed so spectacularly, failed even better than the That’s It piece I wrote. I acted in it as a favor for Tom, whom I liked, but I don’t look or sound like Al Pacino at all (in fact, up to that point I don’t even think I’d seen the movie yet) so when I started screaming "Attica, Attica" the piece went from low to subatomic levels. In fact, I didn’t even know (at that time) what the hell Attica was or why I was yelling it. Every notice how you remember the pieces that crashed and burned better than the pieces that did reasonably well?

All this led up to my final offering to No Shame in Iowa City, a piece called —


Though, if I remember right, Robb kept messing up the title of the piece, sometimes calling it homosexual theatre and sometimes just saying the homophobes, something like that. He always did it with a smile, though, which is why it is next to impossible to get upset with Robb over anything.

This piece got its inspiration from a pot-smoking session with my good friend and roommate, Bill Hairston, sometime before he left Iowa at the end of the summer in 1992. Bill wanted to get me stoned (something which I did not do much of, at least back then) before he hit the road and to see how much he could make me laugh while whacked out of my skull. Laugh we did, killing ourselves with laughter over many things I couldn’t even remember the next day. In the endless stream of illogical pot haze, we wondered what it would actually be like if we ourselves were gay, for some reason. "If I were gay," I began. "Which you are not," Bill interjected. "Which I am not," I agreed, this was very important to establish, seeing as that we were both sitting closely on his bed in his room, stoned out of our gourd. "If I were gay, I would fuck men," I said. Bill thought about that for a moment, and then said. "You would. You would fuck men," and then we both started laughing. That was the birth of that scene.

It would be almost a year before I would write it, mainly because I just couldn’t get it out of my head. I finally wrote it, even put Bill’s name to one of the characters (though in person Bill was a lot more like Bob in that piece). Writing this piece would change many things for me.

I first performed it, playing Bill, with Adam Whisner playing Bob, in theatre B in early March of 1993. It got a big response, bigger than I expected.

It was selected for Best of No Shame 1993 and performed at the end of that spring semester. Adam dropped out on me at the last minute to go to Minnesota and so Channing Work took the part of Bob for that Best Of No Shame and did a great job. It went extremely well, at one point the audience going from outright laughter to cheers to applause, which shook me, as an actor and fledgling writer, because I’d never dreamed that I would be able to ignite a response like that.

Walking home that night, I overheard some people quoting my work, not even knowing that I was there or responsible.

A whole world of new possibilities opened up for me, courtesy of No Shame Theatre.

And this underlines, for me, the reason I’m taking time to write this history, because I am indebted to No Shame Theatre. I had no idea that writing was something that I could possibly do and may have never discovered it had I not had the opportunity to participate in No Shame.

Bill and Bob’s Homophobic Theatre became the basis for my very first produced full length play, called THE MEN’S ROOM, which would subsequently be produced in New York, Los Angeles and London.

The fall semester of 1993 I wrote and performed a one man show BUILT FOR ABUSE as part of my thesis requirement (I would later perform the show in New York City). It did well, and was inspired by my involvement in No Shame.

There were other advantages to be had while at Iowa, of course, I was lucky to be in the company of all talented writers that were there in the MFA Playwright Program at that time, to be able to watch and learn from what they do. In particular Keith Huff, Carson Becker and Naomi Wallace, all MFA playwrights, encouraged me to write, telling me that I was really a writer at heart, if there is such a thing (and I believe that there may be). Naomi was critical to the formation of The Men’s Room, demanding that I write the play I started with that scene and she also edited the first drafts of the play.

I am indebted to those people, absolutely but I am a writer today, I devoutly believe, because I had the opportunity to involve myself in No Shame Theatre. I am deeply grateful for that.


It’s been ten years since I left Iowa City, driving to New York City in a truck stuffed with luggage. Here’s what I know of where folks from my MFA class ended up and also some of the others in that era.

David Woodside — David dropped out of the Iowa program after two years in order to start over with the MFA program at Yale. He always wanted to go Ivy League. He graduated Yale and has gone on to a very successful career as an actor, mostly in television and film. He acts under the name DB Woodside and was a regular on Murder One, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the mini-series the Temptations (I also heard he’s got a big part on the upcoming season of 24). I hooked up with Dave a couple times when he’s been in New York City, he seems very happy with life and where he’s going. He’s also still writing, I did a reading for him of a screenplay he wrote a couple of years ago.

Bill Hairston — Bill made it to New York City but didn’t stay long, opting for an MFA from Ohio State and later made his way to Hollywood. When last I spoke to him, in 1999, Bill was teaching high school English in Los Angeles and was rather deeply involved in scientology. He was still funny, just in a very different way.

Clint Corley — To my knowledge, Clint got his MFA and moved to Chicago, where he is a very active actor/director. I’m not sure if he’s still writing, but I certainly hope so.

Robb Barnard — Robb got his MFA and lives in Brooklyn in a wonderful apartment. He tours regularly with children’s theatre and teaches acting during the summer. Robb is one of the happiest people that I know, unless he’s deliberately trying to fool me and if so than he’s the best actor I know (but he’s a damn good actor even if he’s not trying to fool me).

David Drayer — David received his MFA and ended up in Hollywood, where he acted in some television and film stuff before devoting himself full time to his true calling, writing. Dave has written a well-reviewed novel called STRIP CUTS (which I have read and love) and working on a second. He’s also still with his lovely girl Sue.

Gary Widland — Gary did not return after the first year of grad school, and I honestly don’t know where he is to this day. I’d like to.

Anne Fogarty, Kirsten Fitzgerald, Wendi Weber — All received their MFA’s and have good acting careers on the Chicago stage.

Susan Lynsky — Probably got her MFA and I heard a rumor that she has a great career as an actress in the Washington DC area.

Brenda Lawton — I’m also not sure where Brenda is, although I do know that she got her MFA and had a baby.

Liz Davis — Liz also received her MFA, and I saw her act in a play in NYC in 1996. I don’t know where Liz now, either, though I heard a rumor that she got married and moved to San Francisco.

Carson Becker and Naomi Wallace both went on to write award-winning plays. Carson is based in Chicago and Naomi is based in England and Kentucky. I’m still in touch with both and proud to call them friends.

Keith Huff — I don’t know where Keith is, I just realized, and now I’m thinking I should try and find out.

Carolyn Jacobson is a professor of English at some University, though I know not where. I hope that she is still writing.

Laura Quinn moved to New York City and was writing plays and getting them done when last we spoke, about 1997 or so, though I’ve since lost touch with her.

Peter Ullian moved to New York and writes books for musicals.

Adam Whisner is an actor in Minneapolis.

Channing Work is an executive in Los Angeles, though I’m not sure what his exact job is, it is just want I heard and was told.

Many of the other notable folks in No Shame at that time ended up in either Chicago or Los Angeles, though some did stay in Iowa. Accessing the who’s who section on the Room 41 website breaks this down pretty good, for those interested in digging them up.

I also know that Shannon McCormick landed in Austin Texas and started a No Shame there. Joshua Peskay is in New York City and participated in the latest No Shame chapter that ran here 2002-03.

Todd Ristau — I have a pretty good idea as to where Todd is and what he’s doing, but I’m going to divulge (just in case the government is watching and listening) any exact details. I’ll just say that I’m glad he’s out there.


As for me, I took an internship with Anne Bogart and left Iowa City before my final semester. I changed my name to Joshua James and by the time I finished the internship, I’d decided that I needed to be a writer in New York City. I think I’m still one credit shy of my MFA in Acting. I had my first one acts produced in the city that same year and have been very blessed to have many productions of different plays I have written in New York City and across the country in the years since. For a more complete bio, feel free to email me.

I’ve written many other things besides plays, but my roots go down to theatre and No Shame. I’m also co-founder of The Defiant Ones, a writing / performance group. Anyone interested in more information on us can email me at or check the website for more info.

No Shame ran in New York City at PS 122 during the year 2002 — 2003 and I participated as much as possible, doing around twenty or so pieces during the nine-month run, getting up on stage and doing some of my own pieces as well. There is really nothing like writing something in the afternoon and reading it in front of an audience that very night.

I actually got Robb Barnard to do a couple of my pieces again at New York (just like old times) and worked with other writer / performers who went through the No Shame Mill at a different time than I did. It was great fun to go through it again, and I hope that it keeps on going here in New York City.

I’m also honored that some of my NY No Shame work was eventually selected for No Shame Goes To War and performed at different theatres around the country. For more information go to the No Shame website, check the New York script library or the First Aid Kit to check out the work.

I can’t think of anything else to say about it, at least right now, other than thank you to those that started No Shame and everyone that keeps it going. Hell, writing is now my life, I’m a fucking writer, and who knew that was going to happen the day I walked into theatre B and sat down to watch my very first No Shame show?