The 2013-2014 season opens with Summer Institute Student Performances allowing audiences to witness the power of youth art in action. "At Penumbra we train youth to embrace their own potential to lead, to critically engage the world around them, and to respectfully take action to realize the luminosity of their dreams." New to the stage this year, the ALOUD Festival is a 3-day event, each featuring a different group of third year student performances. The performances are informed by the advocacy work the students experience with partner agencies including OutFront Minnesota, The Emily Program Foundation, 180 Degrees, Sexual Offense Services of Ramsey County, The Advocates for Human Rights and World Without Genocide.
Next in the season lineup is the Claude Edison Purdy Individual Artist Festival. "Claude Edison Purdy was a founding member of Penumbra who believed that an artist's greatest responsibility was to tell the truth, no matter how daunting. In his honor, this series celebrates the insightful, independent voices of contemporary black theatre, their courage and vision," stated Lou Bellamy, Founder and Artistic Director. This year, the festival features two artists: James T. Alfred and his play "A Brown Tale" and Debra Ehrhardt and her play "Jamaica Farewell."
For the holidays, Penumbra brings back the songs and stories of Black Nativity with Black Nativity: A Holiday Concert and Let's Talk Theatre: Sewing the Christmas Story. The holiday concert features Dennis W. Spears, Greta Oglesby, Yolande Bruce, Latonia Hughes-Kendrick, Sanford Moore and the Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church Mass Choir with narration by Lou Bellamy. Let's Talk Theatre: Sewing the Christmas Story, hosted by Sarah Bellamy, will explore the tradition of African American quilting, celebrate the magnificent Black Nativity quilts, and hear from leading members of the Black Nativity cast as they reflect on 21 seasons of telling the Nativity story.
The season continues with the play The Ballad of Emmett Till written by Ifa Bayeza, directed by Talvin Wilks. Emmett Till was one of the youngest victims of racial violence that seized the American South in the 1950s. His brutal death was the spark that ignited one of the most important social justice movements in the world, but Emmett Till remains a stranger to most Americans. "At Penumbra we provide the opportunity to bear witness to the triumphs and tribulations Americans have faced as we struggle through our racial past and present," said Lou Bellamy. "We invite you to explore one story where simply bearing witness changed the course of a nation—the story of Emmett Till."
The next event of the season is Let's Talk Theatre: Revisiting the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. hosted by Sarah Bellamy. This conversation will explore the ways the play The Mountaintop both commemorates and complicates Dr. King's legacy and consider his contributions to contemporary civil rights efforts.
Up next is the Penumbra production of The Mountaintop by Katori Hall, directed by Lou Bellamy, presented at the Guthrie Theatre. Winner of the 2010 Olivier Award for New Plays and a Broadway sensation, The Mountaintop is an intimate, fictional portrait of Dr. King of the eve of his death. The Penumbra production will be presented at the Arizona Theatre and at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center in Charlotte, North Carolina before its regional premiere at the Guthrie.
Bookends will be offered for both The Ballad of Emmett Till and The Mountaintop. Bookends, hosted by Sarah Bellamy, are an informal, content rich way to learn more about the plays and gain special insight into the production. The first Bookend explores the production through the script and study guide. The play is then seen at one's convenience. At the second Bookend, return for a lively discussion about the staging, the issues the play illuminates and the experiences as members of the audience.
Sarah Bellamy will also host Reel Talk, film screenings that explore topics that tie to the mission of Penumbra Theatre—to provoke thought and dialogue around issues of race, promote social justice and illuminate the human condition through the prism of the African American perspective. There are two screenings this season. The first is Reel Talk: The Murder of Emmett Till, a PBS American Experience Series. The second is, Reel Talk: Mighty Times: The Children's March by Hudson & Houston. These events are free, but seats must be reserved.
The season closes with Let's Talk Theatre: Art & Advocacy. What is socially responsible art? Why is theatre such a powerful tool to combat racism? How do we use our creativity to make the world more humane, more just? These are the questions that will be explored in the evening's conversation with host Sarah Bellamy.
Tickets for Penumbra Theatre events are on sale now through the Penumbra Box Office at 651.224.3180 or www.penumbratheatre.org. All adult tickets purchased for events at Penumbra by June 30, 2013 will receive a 30% discount. Tickets for six select performances of The Mountaintop are available through the Penumbra Box Office for a special price of $40 if purchased by June 30, 2013. All other tickets for The Mountaintop are available for purchase only through the Guthrie Theatre Box Office at (612) 377.2224 or toll-free (877) 44-STAGE, (612) 225-6244 (Group Sales) and online at www.guthrietheater.org.