Aesthetically Speaking

Penumbra ‘Let’s Talk Voting Rights’discussion and ‘Precinct 8 Pride’ seek to help get out the vote

As Penumbra Theatre kicks off its 40th anniversary season and looks towards the future, it is thinking deeply about what theatre can be for a community.

Under the leadership of Co-Artistic Director Sarah Bellamy, Penumbra is developing new ways to fully activate the mission and the spirit out of which it was born. At the heart of Bellamy’s vision is a question … how can Penumbra best serve its community and leverage the art it produces to mobilize forces for good?

This fall Penumbra will pilot a civic engagement campaign called “Precinct 8 Pride” to support voter participation in this year’s election process. Penumbra’s home in the Hallie Q. Brown/the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Center serves as the polling station for Precinct 8, one of the most economically and racially diverse neighborhoods in St. Paul. In partnership with local businesses, Penumbra will roll out the campaign to encourage neighbors to exercise their right to vote on Nov. 8. The goal is to increase voter turnout and eliminate barriers in Penumbra’s local community through a three-pronged engagement campaign.

“As part of our 40th anniversary season, we welcome brave artists, activists and audiences to face the most pressing issues of our day, to pose tough questions, and to uncover strategies for solutions,” said Bellamy. “We’re celebrating a new era for our company and our community. It is an exciting time.”

Raising Awareness
The 1965 Voting Rights Act was a watershed moment in American history, coming after a long struggle to protect the rights of the poor, the disenfranchised and people of color. On Oct. 24, in partnership with MPR News, Penumbra will host a “Let’s Talk” focusing on voting rights. Guests include Ari Berman, contributing writer with The Nation and author of “Give Us The Ballot;”Lecia Brooks, outreach director for Southern Poverty Law Center; Dr. Josie Johnson, pioneering educator and activist and Dameun Strange, artist, activist and organizer.

“MPR News is really excited to partner with Penumbra Theatre to shed light on the historical context of current events and to amplify perspectives that have gone unheard,” said Nancy Cassutt,MPR executive director of news and programming.

Hosted by Sarah Bellamy, the event begins at 6 p.m. with refreshments and light bites, followed by a 90-minute presentation and discussion. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at

Registering Voters
On Oct. 15 and Nov. 8, Penumbra will lead volunteer teams of staff, artists and audiences on door-knocking eventsto register voters in its neighborhood. In addition to its Election Day door-knocking campaign, Penumbra will staff a booth outside the polling station at the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Center to provide complimentary treats for voters, ending the day with a shared meal.

“It is so critical that we work to get people to the polls,” said Southern Poverty Law Center’s Brooks. “Penumbra is doing a great service.”

To learn more about Penumbra’s voter registration campaign, visit

October 17, 2016
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