Penumbra Presents Word(s)PLAY! 2012, 6/16 & 7/28


Penumbra Theatre Company, Minnesota's only African American theatre, proudly announced today the fourth annual Word(s)PLAY!, a forum designed to develop new plays by African American Playwrights. Word(s)PLAY! will introduce two plays to the Twin Cities June 16 & July 28, 2012 at 7:30 PM.

Each event will offer a staged reading of the select play followed by an open talk back with the playwright, director, artists and audience. This year's lineup includes In Search of Assata by Ed Bullins and Holly Down in Heaven by Kara Lee Corthron.

June 16, 7:30 PM: In Search of Assata by Ed Bullins
Directed by Lou Bellamy

In 1973, two State Troopers on the New Jersey Turnpike stopped Assata Shakur (JoAnne Chesimard). At the time, she was an active member of the Black Panther Party under the watch of J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI. Her passengers were also members of the Black Panther Party. In the melee that followed that traffic stop, one of the passengers and one of the officers was killed. Little attention was given the shooting death of the Black Panther, but killing an officer was a capital crime. Ms. Shakur was accused, tried, convicted, and imprisoned for the officer's death. After serving two years in prison, she escaped to Cuba and is in exile today. In Search of Assata looks at Ms. Shakur's life through the imaginative lens of the media and her personal memories.

July 28, 7:30 PM: Holly Down in Heaven by Kara Lee Corthron
Directed by Ching Valdes-Aran

When Holly, a brilliant fifteen-year-old born-again Christian, becomes pregnant, she banishes herself to the basement where she confides only in her dolls. Among them is her favored confidant, a life-size psychiatrist doll that closely resembles Carol Channing. Through the dolls, Holly tries to solve her situation. But, the dolls are absorbed in their own self-preservation. Holly's father, hoping to bring her into the complex light of day, hires a tutor. It is the unique and strangely symbiotic relationship that develops between Holly and the tutor that begins to move her forward. Holly Down in Heaven is a thoughtful and engaging play that shows a young African-American woman that few see and fewer still get to understand.

The plays will be read by a company of professional actors that includes: Traci Allen, Ansa Akyea, Darrien Burks, Christiana Clark, Rex Isom, Jr., Darrick Mosley, Michael Paul Levin, Michelle Perdue, Mo Perry and Paul Reyburn.

Tickets can be purchased through the Penumbra Theatre Box Office: 651-224-3180 or online at

Penumbra Theatre was founded in 1976 by Lou Bellamy to make socially responsible art – art that demanded a response, art with intent, art that could create change. At a time when roles for black artists were limited to stereotypes and comical representations, Penumbra produced theater that roared with authenticity through the unrestrained and rich voice of black artists and playwrights. This respect for cultural authenticity became Penumbra's signature style – and demand for it has reached new heights from theatres around the country fostering collaborations, new productions, tours and awards.

OKRA, the Penumbra Theatre new play program was launched in 2008-- a rigorous culturally specific program where playwrights can develop their plays in a safe, nurturing environment without restriction or reservation. The program has three components dedicated to play development – the expansion of early ideas, the exploration of a play script, and a developmental workshop to share the script with an audience. The ultimate goal of OKRA is to move a new play onto the main stage. Each year, we conduct Word(s)Play!, an intense development workshop for playwrights to refine completed scripts with the help of actors, directors, designers and musicians – readying it for full production. Penumbra has nurtured three plays that have received further production opportunities at New York Theatre Workshop and LAByrinth Theatre Company in New York City; Providence Black Rep in Providence, Rhode Island; and American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, California. Word(s)Play! has quickly gained critical acclaim within the industry for the caliber of the playwrights involved and the complexity of the works selected.

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