December 10, 1998
Have you No Shame?
Turning comedy inside-out
From comedy skits that trace the growth of a lizard boy to novice jugglers and mystical poets -- for years, No Shame Theatre has been teaching audiences to expect the unexpected.
"No Shame is never safe. There's always the risk of something really horrible or really amazing happening," said Jeff Goode, a UI graduate and co-founder of "No Shame."
No Shame Theatre will celebrate the midpoint of its 13th season with "The Best of No Shame Theatre" at the E.C. Mabie Theatre in the UI Theatre Building Friday at 11 p.m. The presentation will showcase some of the most memorable skits and performances of the 1998 fall term.
"No Shame Theatre is a collection of original pieces. It's really a grab-bag; there are many comedy sketches, some dance and art performances ... primarily it seems to be comedy sketches, but it isn't limited to that," said Mandi Lee, a UI senior and No Shame board member.
No Shame Theatre has never been about "limits." The organization, established at the UI in 1986, strives to promote the creation and development of any short works. It is a no-budget, low-production forum that gives area writers and performers the chance to test their semi-raw material in a low-risk, uncensored atmosphere. Each Friday night during the school year, No Shame has practiced an open-stage policy in which UI students as well as Iowa City residents are encouraged to participate.
For "The Best of No Shame Theatre," the organization's three board members had the overwhelming task of determining the top sketches and performances presented over the fall term. The board had more than 150 pieces to choose from.
"We've narrowed it down to a collection of 21 pieces that we believe will make the best show. We've picked the ones that went over best with the audience and those that have a particular flair.
" 'The Best of No Shame Theatre' will have quite a few comedy sketches, some songs, a movement piece -- it's a pretty wide variety. We're hoping to show variety as well as quality," Lee said.
Aprille Clarke, a UI senior and regular No Shame participant, had her comedy sketch "Like a Baby's Behind: An Allegory" chosen as one of the featured performances.
"I'm honored and pleased (my sketch) was selected," she said. " 'The Best of No Shame Theatre' is the best show. They've filtered through all the material and have taken everyone's best night or performance and collected them into one show."
Michael Rothschild's piece "Ultrasuede" will also be included in the best show. Rothschild, a UI junior and theater major, believes that No Shame allows him to "gauge his improvement."
"I've found that I like to perform my own work, so it is really convenient for me. I'm able to write and perform, and it's a good venue for that kind of thing because you get immediate feedback; you know instantly if the audience likes you or if they're going to kill you after the show," Rothschild said.
No Shame originated in the fall of 1986. One evening, Todd Ristau, a UI undergraduate at the time, decided that his pickup truck could be a theater. He parked the truck in an empty lot and used the headlight of a motorcycle to illuminate the truck's bed. This crude form of entertainment lasted a few weeks and was known as Midnight Madness.
Goode, now a Los Angeles playwright and screenwriter, was one of the founding members of Midnight Madness and remembers performing on the truck bed.
"It rained every week we were out there. We had about 30 people under umbrellas in the dark ... It was fun, extremely casual and impromptu," he said.
When it moved indoors to the UI Theatre Building, Midnight Madness took on the title of No Shame Theatre. No Shame's first "Best of" show was held in 1989 to pay for a damaged piano.
"During a No Shame show, one guy accidentally broke a school piano. The head of the department suggested doing a best of show to raise money to pay for the piano. The best show then became a tradition and rent also began being charged for the use of space," Goode said.
No Shame has come a long way from its humble, pickup truck beginnings. Today, No Shame is a national name with theatres located in New York City, Chicago and Miami. Some of these theaters were started by former UI No Shame members.
Clarke encouraged people to attend this fall's "The Best of No Shame Theatre."
"It's a cheap night out ... It's a nice way to go out and have fun," she said.
Tickets for "The Best of No Shame Theatre" will be available at the door of E.C. Mabie Theatre before the show for $2. To learn more about No Shame Theatre, log on to its Web site at http://www.noshame.org/
DI reporter Deanna Thomann can be reached at