from the Liberal Arts Student Association's LA NEWS, vol.1, no.2 - Spring 1987

LIVE from Iowa City,
It's Friday Night!

by Sid Smith

The time is eleven o'clock in Theatre B. A respectable size crowd quiets down as stage manager Jeff Goode announces tonight's line up. For the next hour or so they will be subjected to 15 to 20 "anything goes" productions aimed at their enjoyment and oftentimes involvement. This is No Shame Theatre.

A number of years ago the University's Playwright's Workshop, a predominantly graduate level troupe, began Midnight Madness. Their aim was simply to provide a performing outlet. A year and a half ago it was replaced by the short-lived Cabaret. However, by December of 1985, the graduates had lost interest completely. In 1986, the undergraduates took over.

During the 1986 fall semester Todd Ristau and Stan Ruth created Gorilla Theatre. Performed in the back of a green 1976 Dodge slant six (with a bad clutch), the location was less than ideal.

"Every single night we performed it rained," confessed Ruth, "but we had a crowd of 30 to 40 people each time."

Not easily discouraged, Ristau asked the Theatre Department for the use of their parking lot. The department gave them a theatre.

The founders contend that the need for such an acting vehicle lies in the growing size of the department and the increasing difficulty in being cast. "We just want to put our ideas in front of the people," claims Ristau. "It's an important way to get stage experience."

"We want to reestablish a sense of artistic community," added Ruth. "It's our answer to artistic fascism."

The setting of the production is meant to be uninhibited and open to audience response and involvement. "They [Midnight Madness and Cabaret] were too complacent," said Goode.

"We're just not bound to audience preconceptions," added Ruth, "If they want to 'boo' they can."

"It's obviously shameless," said Ristau. "It's like back when the crowd used to bring a chicken lunch and throw the bones at the stage when they didn't like what they saw."

Goode, Ristau, and Ruth, all published playwrights, encourage everyone inside and outside the department ot perform. "All you need to do is write one up, cast it, and tell the stage manager," said Ruth. There is, howver, a three-minute time limit on each piece. "We want everything to be full and rich."

The entire purpose of No Shame is to offer new talent a no-pressure vehicle for theatre experience. According to Ristau, "The importance is placed on process, experience, and the craft of playwrighting."

And at eleven o'clock on a Friday night," added Ruth, "a drunk audience will laugh at anything."

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