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Monday December 5th


'No Shame Theater' makes a home in Carrboro

One showcase is getting particularly experimental in Carrboro this weekend.

Every first Saturday of the month, the ArtsCenter hosts “No Shame Theatre,” an artistic forum that features original content from actors, playwrights and performance artists.

Originally piloted in 1986 on the University of Iowa’s campus, No Shame Theatre was established to offset the dearth of on-campus performance groups for undergraduate playwrights.

Jeri Lynn Schulke, an alumna of the University of Iowa and artistic director for the ArtsCenter, said “No Shame Theatre” had humble beginnings, to say the least.

“They weren’t allowed in a building at first because it wasn’t university-sanctioned,” Schulke said. “So, they did performances in the parking lot in a flatbed truck.”

The group persevered through inclement weather and was eventually given a space to perform indoors.

Schulke said because performances were held weekly, little time was spent on rehearsal. The spirit of “No Shame Theatre” largely became about being spontaneous.

Many alumni of “No Shame Theatre” went on to launch satellites of the program in cities across the nation, from Los Angeles to New York.

For her part, Schulke launched the performance at the ArtsCenter in March 2012 as part of an effort to increase opportunities for playwrights to present works-in-progress.

The showcase now serves as an open platform for a range of performance artists — from poets to comedians — to experiment with material onstage.

Twelve to 15 acts are presented monthly, and pieces are accepted up to one hour before show time.
In an “anything goes” environment, “No Shame Theatre” only has three rules: pieces must be original, must be five minutes or less, and cannot damage the performer, stage or audience.

Schulke said that the show’s success can be attributed to this relaxed ambiance.

“The idea was there’s no shame in just getting up and trying to do something – in experimenting and daring to fail,” Schulke said. “It’s only five minutes, and it’s a very supportive crowd.”

John Paul Middlesworth, a local playwright, actor and director, said that “No Shame Theatre” also gives artists a chance to try novel modes of performance.

“Lately, I’ve been doing magic tricks — a form of it — in the guise of a character named Baffeloni. It’s something I had in mind and I had that opportunity at No Shame,” Middlesworth said.

Schulke said that the novelty and spontaneity of the show is reason enough to draw crowds.
“It’s an opportunity to see something you’ll maybe never see again and probably have never seen before, and you’ll still get out in time to hit the bars,” Schulke said.

Middlesworth said that audience members who get there early might be able to get in on the action, too.

“Maybe they would like to be in a play – show up ahead of time and someone might give them a script,” he said.

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