from The Des Moines Register - Wednesday, January 7, 1990
[This is actually an Associated Press article which apparently appeared first in the Omaha World-Herald on 12/29/89]

Iowa's irreverent 'dare-to-fail' theater

IOWA CITY, IA. (AP) - 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 plays for the weekly theatrical adventure known as no Shame Theatre.

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

There are usually 10 to 15 offerings each Friday. The only criterion is that 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. We found 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 an intern at the Home Theatre in New York City and Ruth is pursuing a degree in playwriting 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,'" Ristau wrote. "The focus is on experimentation, low production values and creative expression in a low risk, non-judgmental environment."

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.

A national publication, the Drama Review, also will publish an article on No Shame Theatre in the spring, said editor Richard Scheckner of New York City. Scheckner, a member of the faculty at New York University, was on the U of I campus last spring and he dropped by for a Friday night performance.

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