Letters to the Editor

Viewpoint: Nothing shameful about Little Theatre’s performances

Shame on you, Mike Kee!

I find it curious that Kee recently took the time to write a long and detailed letter to the editor against a performance of No Shame Theatre at the San Luis Obispo Little Theatre without actually taking the time to attend the performance in question (“Shameful smut theatre,” Jan. 2).

His opinion is that “this stuff belongs at some late-night comedy club where you can be as crass and offensive as you desire, not on public property in our community theatre!” 

Exactly what “stuff” are you referring to, Kee? Certainly you are not talking about the outstanding performances by some of the best actors on the Central Coast? Perhaps you were speaking of the theater pieces, which explored not only the human condition, but love and family relationships as well?  

Unfortunately, Kee cannot specify the No Shame piece to which he is referring since he wasn’t at the performance. And yet, he feels it is within his rights to call the community to action against the San Luis Obispo Little Theatre, encouraging them to voice their opinions to the theatre staff, board members and City Council members. I highly doubt anyone who actually experienced our No Shame inaugural performance would follow this advice. 

As someone who was there, I can tell you that the evening was anything but “smutty filth.” Anyone who has experienced No Shame at any of the more than 40 locations throughout the United States can attest to the excitement of sitting in the audience with no idea what is about to happen and in pure anticipation of the magic of original work.

Those of us in the lobby at the Little Theatre on Dec. 11 witnessed the open collaboration of actors and writers from Santa Maria to Paso Robles. It was a wonderful evening full of people sharing their work openly and without fear. It had nothing to do with theater politics or personal grudges. It simply was what it was.

Naturally, not every five-minute performance presented was appreciated in the same way by every audience member. Taste is subjective. Some people consider “M. Butterfly,” which not only won a Drama Desk award and Tony award but was also nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, to be offensive while others consider it a masterpiece. Some people consider David Mamet to be vulgar and offensive while others flock to the theater based purely on his name on the poster.

No Shame Theatre has hosted such prominent playwrights as Rebecca Gilmore, Naomi Wallace, Mac Wellman, Jeff Goode, Jonathan Price, Bonnie Metzgar, Jason Grote, Tanya Saracho and many more. Who knows what playwrights, poets, comedians and songwriters will emerge from the Central Coast No Shame experience? Life is not all revivals and Eugene O’Neill, Kee. It also includes vulgarity, sensuality and originality.

No Shame Theatre is a reflection of its community — all aspects of the community. It does not censor an artist’s work or judge it. That’s up the audience. It’s also part of the reason the event is free. There are no promises made to the audience in regards to quality or content. You simply never know what you’re going to get.

Based on the high level of laughter and applause in the full theatre last month, however, the audience did not seem to have any complaints, and most plan to return Jan. 28.

Perhaps Kee would like to join us and see firsthand what No Shame is all about. Naturally, he’s welcome to bring a script to share that reflects his theatrical tastes. I would suggest getting there early though. The 15 slots filled in less than three minutes last performance.

I, for one, applaud Kevin Harris and the entire San Luis Obispo Little Theatre board for their vision in hosting No Shame Theatre and giving emerging artists an opportunity to find and develop their voice. Kee, your letter did nothing more than encourage me to make a donation to the theatre in support of original work and artistic expression.

Wendy-Marie Foerster is a former executive director of the San Luis Obispo Little Theatre. She has been writing and directing theater in the United States and Europe for more than 15 years. She is currently at Hollins University, studying under No Shame Co-founder Todd Ristau.