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No Shame Theatre showcase comes to Carrboro ArtsCenter

Playwrights, actors and performance artists put their talents — and speed — to the test monthly at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro.

No Shame Theatre is a Saturday night showcase that prepares original works for production, all in the span of an hour. The November showcase is this Saturday.

An hour before performance time, The ArtsCenter opens its doors to writers with scripts in-hand, as well as actors, singers and performers. The first 15 pieces to sign up are given a time slot.

Jeri Lynn Schulke, stage director at The ArtsCenter, brought No Shame Theatre to Carrboro in March.

She said the short timeframe creates a spontaneous, unique and supportive experience for all involved.

“People are encouraged to perform whatever they’ve been working on — no shame,” Schulke said.

She said there are only three rules: pieces must be original, must not exceed five minutes and cannot damage the performance space.

Otherwise, anything goes.

The concept for No Shame Theatre began at the University of Iowa in 1986, when Schulke was a student there, as a series of weekly performances showcasing plays by student playwrights.

Schulke said the Iowa group overcame its share of adversity, at one point even performing out of the back of a pickup truck. She said many of its original members went on to create No Shame Theatre series across the country.

Mark Cornell, a local playwright who helps organize the monthly shows, said the brief rehearsal time leads to exciting and varied results.

“It’s sort of like cabaret theater. Because there’s very little rehearsal, the whole experience is kind of frenetic,” he said.

“Sometimes the pieces are wildly successful. Sometimes the pieces are wildly unsuccessful. You never really know what you’re going to get.”

No Shame Theatre serves as an open performance venue for more than just theater pieces. Poets, singer-songwriters, dancers and anyone else willing to debut a performance are welcome.

No Shame Theatre is late-night entertainment, a departure from the earlier evening times of most ArtsCenter programs, Schulke said.

“No Shame is cheap and it’s only about an hour long, so people still have time to go out to a bar afterwards,” Schulke said.

She said she hopes the number of student audience members and participants grows in the future.

Schulke also said she wants to gather the successful pieces for an annual “Best of No Shame” show.

Annie Taft, member of the Playwrights Roundtable at The ArtsCenter, said No Shame Theatre’s vision has been a welcome addition to the local playwriting scene.

“It’s a great opportunity to get to know other people in the community, test out your work and watch it succeed — or fail — spectacularly.”

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