Penumbra Exceeds Fundraising Goal; Resumes Programming


Penumbra announced today that it exceeded its fundraising goal and will resume programming this spring. Over 1,400 individuals, corporations and foundations donated $359,000 by December 30, 2012.

"The response was inspiring and humbling with donations coming in from across the nation. We are fortunate to have such a passionate family of supporters," stated Bill Stevens, Chair of the Penumbra Board of Directors. "The matching grants from corporations, foundations and individuals had a huge impact. The board and volunteers leveraged it with calls straight through the holidays. The response speaks to the importance of Penumbra and its mission."

"We are grateful for the tremendous support - and excited to present SPUNK, a George C. Wolfe adaptation of Zora Neale Hurston's Three Tales. This sensuous and witty show has a great cast to bring its rich mixture of storytelling, dance and the blues to life," stated Lou Bellamy, Penumbra Founder and Artistic Director. He added, "We are proud to have RBC Wealth Management as the presenter of our spring season which will also feature the popular Let's Talk Theatre and REEL Talk events. Tickets are available now. It will be good to see everyone in the lobby again." The Penumbra Summer Institute, a nationally recognized three-year arts education and leadership training program, was not impacted by the fall suspension and continues as scheduled.

Due to an income shortfall in August, Penumbra made the critical decisions to suspend its fall programming; to reduce its FY13 budget by $800,000 including eliminating six full-time staff positions; and, to set a goal to raise $340,000 by calendar year end. Observed Michael Kaiser, President of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the DeVos Institute of Arts Management, "It is a great testament to the vision and commitment of the board and staff of Penumbra that this remarkable goal has been achieved. It is especially gratifying that so many individuals have made contributions towards this goal. Of course, the organization must now build on this foundation to ensure that its programming can thrive and that Penumbra can maintain its leadership position in the arts ecology of the Twin Cities and the nation."

Penumbra has also committed to develop a seven-year business plan (FY14 through FY20) by June 30, 2013. The plan will identify the most effective structural and financial models to ensure sustainability while incorporating artistic and administrative succession. 3M is providing members from their Strategy Development and their Lean Six Sigma groups to help lead the project and to provide analysis on the viability of the key revenue streams. The 2020 vision remains true to Penumbra's mission and legacy and will not change what it does but it will change how it activates the mission. It is a vision of a sustainable and vibrant culturally specific theater that uses technology to connect people to the art, and, that supports itself through profit generating business units.

"Penumbra has strong internal systems in place to complete implementation of the business model changes. The discovery of the cash flow problem this summer surfaced a weakness in the system that was addressed with authority and speed," stated Kate Barr, Executive Director of Nonprofits Assistance Fund. Barr added "I believe that with continued commitment from staff and board leadership, support from key stakeholders and supporters, and a shared vision, Penumbra can rebound from this serious setback and build an institution for the future."

Presented by RBC Wealth Management

All activities take place at Penumbra Theatre, 270 North Kent Street, St. Paul, MN. All tickets for the play or any other activities can be made online at or call the box office at 651-224-3180. Check the Penumbra website which is updated continuously with more details and news at or call the box office at 651-224-3180.

Adapted by George C. Wolfe from Three Tales by Zora Neale Hurston
Directed by Patdro Harris
Featuring T. Mychael Rambo, Dennis W. Spears, Jevetta Steele, and Austene Van.
March 14 - April 7, 2013
Tickets: $40 adult, $15 students

Based on the folklore collected by literary icon Zora Neale Hurston, SPUNK is a sensuous and witty journey through African American life at the dawn of the 20th century. A rich mixture of storytelling, dance and the blues, SPUNK is both a celebration of life and a testament to the travails black Americans have endured. A pillar of the Harlem Renaissance, Hurston's voice is lovingly brought to the stage through a lively adaptation by award-winning playwright George C. Wolfe.

Other related activities:
§ Study guides will be available mid-February. These guides provide a context for the art and enrich your theatrical experience. These guides can be downloaded free from our website. They include an overview of the artistic process; the history of African American theater; play specifics; a contextual essay; and an annotated bibliography. Standardized curricula with innovative lesson plans are also included for teachers and students. These comprehensive guides are highly regarded by theater professionals for their historical and cultural depth.

§ Let's Talk Theatre is an intimate social gathering paired with thought-provoking topics about theatre and the making of culturally specific art, hosted by Sarah Bellamy, Associate Artistic Director - Education. On Monday, February 18, from 5:30pm to 7:30pm, we will explore the Harlem Renaissance and the Little Theatre Movement, and celebrate the generative spirit and cultural wellspring of Black Thought and art in America during the 1920s and 1930s - the era in which SPUNK is set. Tickets are $15.

§ Bookends are an informal, content rich way to prepare for and reflect upon SPUNK. At the first Bookend on Monday, March 18, you will explore the script and study guide together, as well as hear insights about the production. After you see the play, the second Bookend on Monday, April 1, is a lively discussion about your experience and the themes in the play. These facilitated discussions are hosted by members of the Penumbra Education team. Tickets are $20 for both sessions.

These specially selected films will definitely stimulate a lively discussion. Share your reactions and thoughts at this biannual event, hosted by Sarah Bellamy, Associate Artistic Director - Education. Tickets are FREE however, reservations are required. Reserve online at or call the box office at 651.224.3180.
· Monday, January 21, 7pm to 10pm: The Language You Cry In

1998. Producer/Directors: Alvaro Toepke and Angel Serrano
An amazing detective story reaching across hundreds of years and thousands of miles from 18th century Sierra Leone to 20th century United States - this film is the story of a song with legendary powers to connect those who sang it with their roots. Recounting how African Americans retained links with their African past, the film dramatically demonstrates the contribution of contemporary scholarship to combat the "non-history" imposed on African Americans.

· Monday, May 20, 7pm to 10pm: Killer of Sheep

1977. Producer/Directors: Charles Burnett.
Starring: Henry Gayle Sanders and Kaycee Moore.
This film was declared a National Treasure by the Library of Congress and deemed one of the "100 Essential Films" of all time by the National Society of Film Critics. Killer of Sheep examines Watts in the 1970s - a black ghetto of Los Angeles - through the eyes of Stan, a sensitive dreamer who is growing detached and numb from the psychic toll of working at a slaughterhouse. Frustrated by money problems, he finds solace in moments of simple beauty: the warmth of a teacup against his cheek, slow dancing with his wife, and holding his daughter.

Around the Country

Lou Bellamy will direct Two Trains Running by August Wilson at Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The play runs in repertory from February 23-July 7.

Penumbra Theatre was founded by Lou Bellamy in 1976 as an artistic response to the fight for civil rights and equality. However, to set a theater down inside a black community was an especially courageous act. The theater had to run the risk of its own humanity to find itself. It had to convince itself of its right to exist, and, that art created from the content of black American life could offer sustenance in spite of society's profound denial. For 36 years, Penumbra has undertaken that investigation, thus opening avenues to reconstruct the American narrative to include and celebrate the black experience. The invitation to participate and explore the themes of racism and social justice raised by the art is the core of Penumbra's mission to create lasting social change. This mission is accomplished through stories that are told by, for, and about African Americans-through art that is unapologetic and authentic. Penumbra uses the main stage as the starting place for this important dialogue about race, difference, and acceptance. This authenticity and veracity define the standards of the art it develops and produces, and drives the education programs to support the art with rigorous, cultural and historical scholarship, as well as to create a point of entry for everyone.

The arts culture is an ecosystem whose vibrancy depends on a balance among a diverse range of organizations, artists and disciplines. As the state's only professional African American theater, Penumbra is vital to this mix.

Pictured: Lou Bellamy

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