A brilliant poet, it was Penumbra Theatre and its founder and artistic director Lou Bellamy that helped turn Wilson from poet to playwright. Wilson, whose Pulitzer Prize winning play “Fences” that has been transformed into an Oscar-nominated film, produced his first play, “Black Bart and the Sacred Hills,” at St. Paul’s Penumbra. His equally lauded “Jitney” debuted at Penumbra, located at 270 N. Kent St.
With the presentation of “Eden” in 1977 – a Steve Carter production – Penumbra opened its doors, offering audiences the opportunity to take in some of the best of Black theater. Forty years later Penumbra is as vibrant and as vital as ever. Now Bellamy is turning over the reins to his daughter, Sarah Bellamy’s capable hands.
Recognizing the value and importance Penumbra has had in the arts and the state, the Minnesota Historical Society is honoring the legacy of the production company with an exhibit, “Penumbra at 40,” at the Minnesota History Center, 345 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul. The exhibit provides a behind-the-scenes look at the founding and history of the nation’s largest and preeminent African-American theater. Original scripts, props, costumes and more document Penumbra’s “epic journey and its unwavering commitment to artistic excellence and social justice.”
The exhibit is a partnership between the Minnesota Historical Society, Penumbra, the Givens Collection of African American Literature at the University of Minnesota Libraries, and Umbra: Search African American History. For more information on this and other exhibits visit www.mnhs.org.