from The Cedar Rapids Gazette - Friday, January 5, 1990

It's late night... with U of I theater

By Greg Smith
Associated Press writer

IOWA CITY - Every Friday night, students at the University of Iowa gather at the theater building to show they have no shame.

The students, including some from local high schools, perform a series of brash, ad hoc plays for the weekly theatrical adventure known as No Shame Theatre.

The plays are irreverent, comical and original. A recent offering: a Christmas play entitled, "Flood of the Cheese Man."

There are usually 10 to 15 offereings each Friday. The only criteria is they don't go on too long.

"The bars close at 2 o'clock. We take the attitude, 'Take however long you need to say what you need to say, but remember the bars close at 2," said senior Cheryl Snodgrass of Dubuque, producer of No Shame Theatre.

"It can be anything. It can be a 30-second play, five minutes, whatever. We don't censor anything," Snodgrass said. "It's an alternative theater."

"A BIG PROBLEM with theater in America today is that you sit around and wait for someone to give you a job, saying what they want to say. And we found that this has allowed us to explore what we want to say and how we can say it," she said.

No Shame Theatre is in its fourth year.

"We started out of the back of a pickup truck in a parking lot on Friday night, right around 11 o'clock. The only light we had was the headlight of a motorcycle," she said.

Its appeal is apparently growing. Audiences of up to 300 people are not uncommon. And although the University does not oversee No Shame Theatre, it now allows Snodgrass and the others to use the theater building.

"We literally had to beg for our lives," Snodgrass said. "But it's been supportive."

No Shame Theatre was the brainchild of Todd Ristau and Stan Ruth. Ristau is working as an intern at the Home Theatre in New York City and Ruth is working on a playwriting degree in Seattle.

Ristau wrote a "Statement of Purpose" before he left Iowa City.

"No Shame was created to provide for people interested in working in the theater a place where they could 'Dare to Fail.'"

"The focus is on experimentation, low production values and creative expression in a low risk, non-judgemental environment," Ristau wrote.

Snodgrass said a group of students from Grinnell College is interested in starting up a No Shame Theatre, and another branch of No Shame is expected to open at the Home Theatre.

"IT'S NOT 'WHERE' that's important, it's 'what,' " she said. "You need to have a passion for it."

A national publication, The Drama Review, also will have an article on No Shame Theatre in the spring, said editor Richard Scheckner of New York City.

Scheckner, who is on the faculty at New York University, was on campus last spring and he dropped by for a Friday night performance. He praised No Shame Theatre, saying it was "brash and subversive."

"I liked it very much. I like the idea," he said in a telephone interview. "The idea of this kind of thing is that it has to be, to a certain degree, underground and subversive."

Scheckner said he hoped the weekly production "doesn't get swallowed up by the theater department."

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