Penumbra Theatre Announces MY AMERICA Finalists

Penumbra Theatre Announces MY AMERICA Finalists

Last fall Penumbra Theatre launched a civic engagement campaign called "My America" to imagine a more loving, inclusive America. Sponsored by MPR News, Penumbra's My America initiative invited Minnesotans to submit their stories, poems, plays, personal essays, and other forms of creative writing to describe how they experience our nation and what they dream it can become. In an effort to reach as diverse a group as possible, materials were translated into Hmong, Somali, and Spanish. Over 90 people from across the state-from as far north as Bemidji and as far south as Pine Island-participated in Penumbra's open call for submissions. Participants ranged in age from 14 to 74; 45% identified as Caucasian, 30% as African American, 12% as Mixed Race, 8% as Native American, and 5% as Asian American. Six of the submissions came from men and women in Minnesota's correctional facilities.

Submissions were reviewed by a diverse panel of local artists, activists, and journalists, and evaluated based on strength of idea. After several rounds of review, over 10 finalists were selected. The finalists are: Rui Rui Bleifuss (14, Minneapolis), Rebekah Crisanta de Ybarra (35, Center City), Devery Fairbanks (60, Bemidji), Isabella Star LaBlanc (20, Saint Paul), Julie Landsman (74, Minneapolis), Rosetta Peters (39, Marine on Saint Croix), Angela Richards (26, Minneapolis), Christine Smith (39, Saint Paul), Abby Swafford (31, Bemidji), and Wendy Thompson Taiwo (37, Saint Paul).

Over three weekends in January and February 2018, the finalists will work closely with artist facilitators Erin Sharkey, David Melendez, David Mura, Sarah Myers, and Lisa Marie Brimmer to develop their narratives. Finalists will receive a cash prize and have the opportunity to share their stories at Let's Talk: My America on March 12, 2018, a live event at Penumbra Theatre recorded by MPR News. Penumbra's Let's Talk Series, hosted by Sarah Bellamy, creates space for compassionate and challenging conversations around issues of social justice, equity, and the arts.

Penumbra Theatre's My America is sponsored by MPR News and supported in part by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, as part of its Knight Arts Challenge. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation's Knight Arts Challenge funds ideas that engage and enrich St. Paul through the arts. Additional support provided by the Bush Foundation and the Marbrook Foundation.

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