from The Daily Iowan - Iowa City, Iowa - Thursday, June 27, 1991

No stage, no rules: No Shame

Kristen Carr

This Friday marks No Shame Theatre's seventh season of providing Iowa City's aspiring performers with an audience that will either love them or throw pop bottles at them.

"The great thing about No Shame is that the audience isn't trained in being a theater audience," says founder Todd Ristau, a TA in the theater department. "Whether they like something or they hate something, they'll let you know. People have to really believe in what they're doing to get up there."

He created No Shame in 1986 to fill the gap left by a similar show called "Midnight Madness," which ran aground after its grad school writers got sick of cranking out material for unseasoned performers, so Ristau left it to the performers themselves to come up with the material. The rough-edged productions were staged in the back of Ristau's pickup truck, with a motorcycle headlight taking the place of a lighting system.

No Shame's decidedly unacademic definition of what constitutes theater is reflected in a history of energetically bizarre performances.

"There've been some really odd ones," Ristau said in the slightly awed tones of one who knows he hasn't yet seen it all. "One time a group of guys played baseball with a TV set as the ball."

The audience also adds to No Shame's air of daring experimentation. "Every audience members is a potential performer," said Ristau, citing the time an actor lost his contact in mid-performance and the entire audience trooped onstage to help him find it -- all the while thinking it was part of the play. This Friday, wanna-be Tennessee Williams and Laurie Andersons can take the stage, or rather, the patio of Theatre B for five brief minutes of dramatic glory.

Doug Dawson, No Shame's stage manager, stresses that No Shame is not "a performance troop. We're an organization that provides a structure for creative groups to try out their original works." Dance works, poetry readings, monologues or anything else that can be performed onstage is welcomed.

Artists should bring an extra copy of their script to the Theatre Building by 10:30 on performance nights for inclusion on the first-come, first-serve roster. The No Shame staff takes care of the artists' lighting requirements short of laser beam technology, and props are the performers' responsibility.

No Shame Theatre and its trusty audience can be found on the Theatre Building patio every Friday at 11 p.m. through July 19.

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