Penumbra Theatre Presents A Special Mahalia Jackson Tribute 10/21-23


Penumbra Theatre Company and Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church announce a special musical tribute to Mahalia Jackson, the Queen of Gospel, marking the 100th anniversary of her birth. For three performances only, Come On Children, Let's Sing! will be performed Friday, October 21 and Saturday, October 22 at 7:00pm and on Sunday, October 23 at 3:00pm at Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, 3355 North 4th Street, Minneapolis.

Written by Dominic Taylor, Penumbra Associate Artistic Director, and directed by Lou Bellamy, Penumbra Founder and Artistic Director, Come On Children, Let's Sing! features Kennadi Hurst, Tonia Hughes and Jearlyn Steele, each representing a different era in Mahalia's life. Jennifer Whitlock serves as the Narrator.

Under the musical direction of Sanford Moore, the Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church Director of Music, Come On Children, Let's Sing! shares the musical majesty of one of the most influential gospel singers in the world, who was also heralded as a powerful civil rights activist. Over a dozen signature Mahalia Jackson tunes will be performed including the beloved title song, "Come On Children, Let's Sing!" and the popular "Move On Up a Little Higher," which sold eight million copies and was honored with a Grammy Hall of Fame Award. Other songs include "How I Got Over," "I've Been Buked," and "I've Been Scorned" which Mahalia sang in front of 250,000 people at the 1963 March on Washington where the Rev. DR. Martin Luther King, Jr. made his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.

General admission tickets for Come On Children, Let's Sing! are $25 and are available through the Penumbra Theatre Box Office at 651-224-3180 or as of September 28, 2011.

KENNADI HURST (Mahala, 1911-1927) got her start in 2008 singing live for the legendary Smokey Robinson when he launched his Food Brand in Minnesota with SUPERVALU. Hurst has performed with national recording artist James Grear & Company, and was a lead singer in the Deliverance for Youth live recording in 2010. She participated in several plays at her church, High Praise Ministries the Destiny, performed at Love Works Academy, and for Stepping Stone Theatre in For the Sake of the Children. Hurst danced for Dominion Dance Studio in Annie and in a tribute to the late Michael Jackson. She attends the St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Arts.

TONIA HUGHES (Mahalia, 1927-1950) is a national recording artist, songwriter and actress. She has done background vocals for Mary J. Blige and opened for gospel legend Fred Hammond. Her theatrical credits include Caroline or Change at the Guthrie Theater, Black Nativity at Penumbra Theatre, and Encounters at the Southern Theatre. Her current music project, I'm Ready Now, embodies all that she is vocally and spiritually.

JEARLYN STEELE (Mahalia, 1950-1970) is a native of Indiana who relocated to Minnesota singing in churches, community centers and nightclubs. She has performed at Penumbra Theatre, Old Log Theater, Historic State Theater, Ordway Center and the Guthrie Theater. Over a decade ago, Jearlyn, along with her siblings, The Steeles, began a successful run of the pop/gospel musical Gospel At Colonus which went to Carnegie Hall. Jearlyn has done national and local commercials for many companies, and her voice can be heard on various CDs for national artists like George Clinton, Mavis Staples and Prince, with whom she has toured and recorded a duet,"Race." She has been a frequent guest on MPR's A Prairie Home Companion and can be seen in the final Robert Altman film, A Prairie Home Companion. She is a host of CenterStage on WCCO Radio and the entertainment reporter on TPT's Almanac.

JENNIFER WHITLOCK (Narrator) has appeared in the following Penumbra Productions: Black Nativity, Purlie, Tambourines to Glory, Ain't MisBehavin', Selma, Bubbling Brown Sugar, and A Soldiers Play. As a 33-year member of the Grammy Award-winning Sounds of Blackness, her musical/theatrical accomplishments include: Director of multiple years of productions of the Night before Christmas a Musical Fantasy; vocals on all of the Sounds of Blackness recordings including the most recent "The 3rd Gift - Story, Song & Spirit."

Lou Bellamy (Director) is the Founder and Artistic Director of Penumbra Theatre, an OBIE Award-winning stage director, and has taught for 35 years as an associate professor at the University of Minnesota. Select Penumbra credits: Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Two Old Black Guys Just Sitting Around Talking, Black Pearl Sings!, Radio Golf, Fences, The Piano Lesson, A Raisin in the Sun and Gem of the Ocean. Other credits: Two Trains Running at the Signature Theatre Company in New York, Jitney at Kansas City Repertory Theatre and Arizona Theatre Company and Ma Rainey's Black Bottom at The Kennedy Center.

SANFORD MOORE (Music Director) is the Director of Music for Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church. He has served as musical director for many Penumbra Productions including The Piano Lesson, Get Ready, Blue, Black Nativity-A Homecoming, Ain't Misbehavin' and Dinah Was. Other select musical direction credits include Crowns, Dream on Monkey Mountain, Triumph of Love, and As You Like It at the Guthrie Theater, Two Queens, One Castle at Mixed Blood Theatre, and Always and Forever at the Illusion Theatre. He is perhaps most noted as the founder, director and arranger for the award-winning vocal jazz ensemble Moore By Four. Sanford is an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota School of Music, and director of the University Gospel Choir.

Dominic Taylor (Playwright) is the Penumbra Associate Artistic Director - New Play Development and an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota. Select directing credits: Black Nativity: A Season for Change at Penumbra; Fresh Faust at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston; The Negroes Burial Ground at the Kitchen, N.Y.C.; and Uppa Creek at Dixon Place. His published plays include Wedding Dance, Personal History and UpCity Service(s). Other credits: Crossroads Theatre, Rites and Reasons Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre, The Public Theatre, New York Theatre Workshop, Playwrights Horizons and Ensemble Studio Theatre.

FELLOWSHIP MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH was founded in December 1992 in North Minneapolis. Its mission is to "Equip the Saints for Ministry." The diverse congregation has grown to 800 members under the leadership of the Reverend Albert Gallmon, Jr., its first pastor and the current pastor, the Reverend Dwight E. Seawood. Fellowship is affiliated with both the American Baptist and National Baptist Conventions, and offers numerous ministries and activities for youth and adults to develop their spiritual walk. As a Missionary Baptist Church, it is involved in community-as well as national and international-outreach to help minister to those in need.

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 theaters around the country fostering collaborations, new productions, tours and awards.

Come On Children, Let's Sing!
A Tribute to Mahalia Jackson
Written by Dominic Taylor
Directed by Lou Bellamy
Musical direction by Sanford Moore
October 21-23, 2011
+ Friday, October 21 @ 7pm
+ Saturday, October 22 @ 7pm
+ Sunday, October 23 @ 3pm
Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church
3355 N. 4th St., Minneapolis
Tickets: $25
Box office: 651-224-3180 or

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