UI's No Shame Theater turns 25


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The University of Iowa's student-run No Shame Theater only has three rules.

One: pieces must be five minutes or less in length. Two: the piece must be original (none of that Shakespeare or Broadway nonsense). Three: the performance cannot harm the audience, stage, or any other materials involved with the piece.

"I [am] really impressed by No Shame because it has such a free atmosphere," said freshman participant Aubrey Christensen. "You don't have to worry about being embarrassed because everyone is going up there and performing."

For the past 25 years, actors, comedians, musicians, poets, prose writers, and many other imaginative community members have teamed up to share ideas at the open creative forum.

This weekend, members of the theater will host a series of shows to commemorate the work of the theater since its first performances given from the back of a cofounder (with Stan Ruth) Todd Ristau's pickup truck in the Theatre Building parking lot in 1986.

The first shows will be at 11 p.m. today and Firday in the Theatre Building's Theater B. Admission is $1. The final show at 11 p.m. Saturday will be a "Best of Best of No Shame," which will review some of the performance highlights from the theater's archives. Admission is $3.

"No Shame Theater has always kind of flown by the seat of its pants," said UI graduate student Spencer Abbe, a member of the Board of Directors and . "[That] gives it an organic feel."

At every show, hosted at 11 p.m. on Fridays, the No Shame Theater group, usually composed of 50 to 75 members, puts on a series of 10 to 15 short performances. Anyone is welcome to attend, regardless of theater experience, and piece submissions are accepted until 30 minutes before the show.

"[The timing] does give the show a very raw feel," Abbe said. "You're bound to get some gems in there, but there's also a lot of subpar pieces — there is always something good to see."

For her first No Shame show this fall, Christensen said she wrote a song on the ukulele about baseball pants and asked a member of the audience to preform an interpretive dance in front of her while she played the song. Abbe said the performance was a crowd pleaser.

"The hardest part for me is nerves, because there are people who have performed there for so long," she said. "And those people are extremely hilarious and good at what they do."

Bryan McIntyre, another member of the Board of Directors who studies theater at the UI, sees No Shame as a different type of outlet for his talent.

"There's a lot more freedom with creativity," he said. "It's more laid-back and about having a good time."

Abbe said he believes this weekend's anniversary performance will be a testament to the theater's success, and he hopes that a lot of alumni will return to recreate some pieces from past shows.

Since No Shame's beginning in the mid-80s, other universities have taken the UI's lead and started their own No Shame chapters, performing in this open-ended improvisational style across the country.

"I hope after this board moves on the theater can continue," Abbe said. "We'd like to be back for a 50th — that would be swell."

In today's issue:

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