Take a Look Behind the Scenes at St. Paul’s Storied Penumbra Theatre


bjbjLULU MAN: You got — you got props. You
got your coat and everything? MAN: Yes, he got the coat and everything. MAN: OK. All
right. All right. We re in, I think, the middle of the third week of rehearsal. So people
are just getting off book — hopefully, not offline. MAN: What does that mean, you maried?
MAN: Ladies love it. MAN: Oh, you don t think I know how it works with the ladies and money?
MAN: They re starting to create character and put together all the pieces. MAN: You
could send them anything. They just happy something is sent, that s all. You going to
give them something that s cut and dying. That don t make no sense. Man, you could send
a woman a box of pencils, and she d be happy, cause you sent her something. (LAUGHTER) MAN:
The name Penumbra began when we began the company in 1976. I knew that I wanted our
program to be professional. We were a program of the Hallie Q. Brown Community Center. You
got to remember, at this time we weren t able to get state arts board funding because they
said we were doing social service, not art. MAN: See, then, you carry that right off into
flowers. MAN: Right. MAN: Look, they are magical. You — I don’t know, yes, yes. Yes. MAN: Penumbra
is a Latin term that means partial shadow. It s that place that an artist has to go to
create that world that is neither light nor dark. It also sort of symbolized the marginalization
of the culture and all that sort of stuff. These are all afterthoughts. It was fun to
say, “penumbra,” you know. It s a fun word to say, yes. MAN: Hey, there s a card. What
it say? MAN: What it say? MAN: It s from the NAACP, and they say, “Mr. Cole (ph), thank
you for your positive image of Negro America, the National Association for the Advancement
of Colored People.” Whoo! MAN: The project that we re working on right now is a play
called “I Wish You Love.” It s written by Dominic Taylor. MAN: Call down there (inaudible).
Better yet, have one of the NBC execs call down there and tell them that my nephew s
missing. MAN: What Dominic has put together here is not so much about Nat Cole — although
there are 22 songs in the performance. MAN: Five, four, three, two MAN: It happens during
his television show, and you get him doing his show — actually there will be a television
camera in the back of the house, and they ll shoot him doing the show. MAN: (inaudible)
Nat King Cole. MAN (singing): In the evening may I MAN: But when the show goes down, when
they break for a commercial, you ll also see commercials. And then you ll see the actors
and producers interacting about life, about what s going on in the world, because it s
— there are newsclips in there as well. MAN: While he was the governor of South Carolina
during the Second World War, he told Harry Truman, and I quote, “I want to tell you,
ladies and gentlemen, that there s not enough troops in the Army to force the Southern people
to break down segregation MAN: This is 1957. So the Civil Rights Movement is hot and people
are being challenged in all sorts of ways. America is being asked to live up to its promise
and, in many cases, it s beating people down for — and killing them, threatening them,
lynching them, to do it. So all of these things, this suave black male crooner is doing his
stuff, while at the same time, you break and go to a newscast and little children are being
pushed around as they re trying to go to school in first grade. I mean, the comparison is
— well, it s striking. MAN: They needed (inaudible) in office. MAN: Them cops think we should
still be in a field somewhere. MAN: Knocked the hate off my head, then it was on, I guess.
MAN: There s a real social justice, social consciousness, part of the art we do. But
it is always firmly ensconced in the African-American experience. It s ensemble-y oriented, and
it is of the highest quality we can muster. The way we produce this work and cultural
influence on the work is very subtle. MAN: My mama been telling me as far back as I can
remember, “Try. If you try, you d be surprised what you get.” MAN: Cultures manifest themselves
often in shadows and we ll do something that is particularly — or expressed in a particular
afro-centric sort of way. And all the black people in the audience will laugh or they
ll get the joke, or they ll cry. And then others who aren t of that experience will
— you ll see them sort of looking around, going like, well, I ve got to lean into this
a little more. MAN: I need to thank you, all of our fans, for watching us as we ve moved
around the calendar. MAN: This experience that I present when I direct — and I only
direct things out of this genre — it s so specific. But out of that specificity, I guarantee
you you will find yourself. It is impossible not to. And that s the beauty of being human,
is that we can reach across cultures. We can reach across languages, all sorts of barriers.
I ve got you looking up here intellectually processing something. And then you sneak up
and go, ah, gotcha. That s you being human. That s what we live for, pray for, that human
experience. h,!” h,!” h,!” h,!” urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags place urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags
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