Wednesday, June 08, 2005

"No Shame is Awful...Can I do it, too?"

And now, we reprint without permission the review from Bill Davis of the Charleston City Paper:

Piccolo Spoleto
The Best of National No Shame Theatre
June 3-5, 9-12 at 9:30 p.m.
June 4, 5, 11, 12 at 3:30 p.m.
$12 evenings, $10 matinees
Theatre 220
54 St. Philip St.

Frivolous shoes mar the performance of No Shame Theatre

Shoes are important.

Many of the performers in Thursday night’s performance of The Best of National No Shame didn’t wear shoes. They wore flip-flops, sandals, or Tevas.

Sandals, like gum, need to be left backstage. Onstage, they bespeak of a lack of seriousness, and a bounty of unprofessionalism.

Many of the scenes in Thursday night’s show were performed by people wearing frivolous shoes.

Sure, there were a couple of winners, especially a show-ending song about a woman being left to walk a lonesome highway of love on her own. And there was a really fun bluesy tune about a man dying to spend his last five dollars — performed by a man wearing socks and sandals.

At least they were black socks.

“Goth illusionist” Nelson Oliver returned and presented a really cool trick where he swallowed a long, inflated clown’s balloon and shat out a purple balloon poodle. And he did so without a prompt sheet or exposed toes. Huzzah!

Otherwise, most of the pieces were masturbatory — and not in the good way.

No Shame founder Todd Ristau hosted the evening in a garish red suit, purposely worse than the one he wore last year. He began the night on a darkened stage illuminated with only a hand-held flashlight, performing a solo piece about masturbation that he presented throughout last year’s festival.

Despite having written the piece nearly 20 years ago, Ristau read many of his lines off a sheet of paper. He should have no excuse for not having memorized his own writing, especially since he’s a drama professor at a Virginia college who’s had a play produced in London’s West End theatre district.

When asked after the show why he still wasn’t off-book, Ristau offered the following excuse:

“I could be if I wanted to, but when I wrote it I was trying to see how it would look on stage to shine a flashlight off a sheet of paper. A lot of stuff you see here isn’t writers trying to turn out great pieces of dramatic literature, but actors posing challenges to themselves and writing for it.”


I like Ristau and will likely perform some of my own misbegotten pieces later in the festival (or not, depending on how he reacts to this pan).

Many of the other pieces performed were repeats from last year’s “not best of” offerings, including a spirited love poem by Robb Rouse, who took to the black box’s stage ... in Tevas ... with a copy of the poem in hand.

This is definitely a show for actors and not for audience members. There’s got to be more “best” to their best of show to warrant attending.

Ristau, who hands out free tickets to future No Shame showings, says that ticket sales aren’t such a big deal this year because the group had such success fund-raising before they came.

So go in with lowered expectations — no, lower; remember they aren’t worried about ticket sales — and you won’t be disappointed.
Or maybe you’ll be amazed, as each night they’ll be performing a brand new slew of five-minute scenes.


Blogger Todd said...

In the interest of accuracy, I did $80 a week exactly twice last year, and even if I hadn't planned to do it this year I would have stuck it in the order the first night this year since it figured so prominently in your preview article, Bill.

Each year I gain ever more insight to your tortured psyche...from Pavarotti fetish to Flip Flop Phobia. You are a very interesting man, Bill Davis.

Thanks for the column inches, but I'm not sure why you think something called "no shame theatre" is going to feel shame over our footwear...or anything else. I feel bad that you were ashamed of us, but I feel great about the show, our writers, and our performers. Where else in Piccolo are you going to see a street poet, a truck driver, a security guard, a government investigator, a West End playwright, and a newspaper reviewer all sharing the same stage and offering a heartfelt, personally courageous alternative to Always Patsy Cline (an admittedly flip flop free zone)? Fortunately, the No Shame philosophy is designed to help people to continue to learn by doing and not to be so adversely affected by criticism that they stop trying.

I gotta say, though, it is an odd thing to tell people they should stay away and then in the same paragraph tell them that you hoping we'll still let you participate despite the fact you think we suck. What's up with that mixed message?

Don't worry about my reaction to the pan, or the reaction of any other member of the company. We are No Shame, and even though I am not convinced your offerings would raise our GPA, you're as welcome to bring whatever shoes you like to our stage as anyone else. Come on down and show us how you'd do it, because that is the no shame challenge. Don't, however, expect us to stop doing it like we'd do it.

See you soonly.

6/08/2005 5:47 PM  
Blogger Howzi said...

Wow... this guy reminds me of one of those guys who complain about frat culture while part of them just wishes they had been asked to join one. Oddly enough, he also reminds me of the Niedermeyer type frat boy who wouldn't take people based on what clothes they wore/etc. Either way, I'm sure if he comes to perform (what with his shiny new loafers and all) he'll be welcomed with open arms.

The point of No Shame, of course, was never to be a polished, well-rehearsed theater. It was a come as you are series of attempted art. Sometimes people dressed well, wrote well, and/or acted well. Often not. But that's the beauty of it.

I've seen bad work at No Shame. I've seen good stuff that I didn't enjoy. More importantly though, I've seen No Shame make people cry, think, get angry, and even laugh until they fall down. Not once has the presence of a script in hand or sandals on one's feet interfered with that.

I guess it all reminds me of the writers of Mystery Science Theater 3000, when they were asked why they often use jokes not many people will get. I think it was Mike Nelson who replied "the right people will get it."

That's how I see No Shame. The right people will get it.

6/09/2005 10:01 PM  

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