Nonprofits to Know™: Penumbra Theatre Company


– [H. Adam Harris, Teen Programs Coordinator] To me Penumbra
this incredible place in Saint Paul, in historic
Rondo neighborhood that’s committed to doing authentic work. Work that means something, work that your grandmother could come
see and be proud of. August Wilson once said the contents of my mother’s cabinet are
worthy of the highest art. The content of my mother’s
cabinet are worthy of the highest art! Our
history, our language, our color, our flash is
worthy of the highest art. – “Greenwood,
think we country folk ’cause they work in town, man I can’t
wait to get me some money. – [Sarah Bellamy, Co-Artistic Director] Penumbra’s mission has always been to present the depth and breadth of the African American experience and I think that bears out in
really dynamic ways today. 40 years after the founding
of the company, we see new play development programming,
we see educational programming that brings patrons a deeper understanding and a deeper
experience with the work. And certainly our training
programs for youth, it’s grounded in an African American ethos but our students are very diverse. And what ultimately they
come to study with us is how to be an artist who is talented and passionate but committed to directing that talent and passion towards raising awareness about issues of
social justice and equity. – [Adam] And I think what
Sarah Bellamy’s doing is turning this into a
hub, not only a hub of African American art
but a hub of education about how all these
identities are intersectional. How race is connected to
class which is connected to gender which is connected
to all these things. So now you’ve got this
place that’s this vibrant sort of ground where all
of these people are meeting and coming together to uplift humanity. What? A nonprofit that
is uplifting humanity in the most dynamic and amazing way. [Mansuda Arora, student] – I think from the outside
Summer Institute specifically looks like a theater camp
and that’s not what it is. And it’s hard to explain to people what we’re doing here, but I know for a lot of students it’s life-changing. If you’re going to change a society, you have to change the minds of people; I think art’s a good way of doing that. – [Sarah] We are really
in a space where we could affect the future of American theater and we are raising the leaders
of American theater. Not all of them will be in
theater for their lives, some of them will go into
the realm of politics. I’ve got a couple of kids who are bent on being lawyers, for example, but they will continue to invest positively
in their communities. And so investing in
them now will bring the return that I think we
want to see with regard to a future that looks
more hopeful and equitable.

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