Wednesday, April 12, 2017

"Penumbra Theatre at 40: Art, Race and a Nation on Stage" Exhibit at the Minnesota History Center

Penumbra Theatre is celebrating its 40th anniversary with an exhibit at the Minnesota History Center entitled "Penumbra Theatre at 40: Art, Race and a Nation on Stage." I toured the last weekend yesterday with my fellow Twin Cities Theater Bloggers from Artfully EngagingCompendiumLife in Revue, and One Girl Two Cities, and we had a great time. This comprehensive exhibit tells about the history of Penumbra, its beginnings 40 years ago, its close relationship to one of the most important African American playwrights August Wilson, and its growth to become one of the top African American theaters in the country. On display are posters, playbills, costumes, set pieces, and props, as well as photos of past, present, and departed company members. It's an incredible collection of artifacts important to history, theater, Minnesota, and the African American experience.

I attended my first Penumbra production at the Guthrie in 2009 (A Raisin in the Sun) and made my first visit to Penumbra two years later. Since then I go to as many of their productions as I can. Not only are they always top quality in terms of actors, designers, and other artists, but Penumbra beautifully and eloquently speaks to and from the African American experience, which is the American experience, which is the human experience. I feel so lucky that Lou Bellamy and friends started Penumbra in my beloved home state of Minnesota just a few years after I was born and that I am able to witness the wonderful, engaging, relevant work that they do. Penumbra is a boon not only to the many black artists who have found a home and support there, and the black theater-goers who see their stories portrayed on stage, but to all of us who have been touched by their work in some way. Penumbra Theatre makes our state and our theater community so much richer, and I'm looking forward to the next 40 years and beyond.

The Penumbra exhibit will be on display at the Minnesota History Center through July 30 and is a must for theater fans. While you're there, you can also check out the new WWI exhibit that doesn't just focus on the war itself, but also the social and cultural changes that happened before, during, and after the war. Not to mention the other wonderful exhibits in this beautiful museum, all about our fair state.

Here are a few photos from the Penumbra exhibit.

W.E.B Du Bois quote
Penumbra's first full production

costume from Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
costume from Fences

playbills from 1976 through 1987
playbills from 1997 through 2007
props from The Ballad of Emmett Till

costume from The Owl Answers