By Dwight Hobbes
Elizabeth Dorsey Hatle’s introduction to The Ku Klux Klan in Minnesota (History Press, $19.99) begins, “The overt whiteness of Minnesota in the 1920s makes the Ku Klux Klan finding a home in the state incomprehensible to residents today” — whatever that means. It is clear, however, that while the covert racism that yet prevails in this state might not do the Klan proud, it resolutely upholds its supremacist creed. For instance, there is the constant hue and cry from Black businesses that get shut out of sweet, lucrative contracts to construct sports stadiums. Even the mere existence of Black business in Minnesota is a miniscule percentage. And judging from the behavior of some members of the Minneapolis and St. Paul police departments, it seems they had their training in a Klan camp. Continue Reading →
Austene Van, a brilliant performer, has long been outshone by fellow stars Jevetta Steele and Regina Marie Williams. But not because she’s, per se, a lesser talent. However, Steele saw her profile incredibly heightened by a stint in her autobiographical hit Two Queens, One Castle at Mixed Blood Theatre and Williams saw hers receive a tremendous boost when she performed in Dinah Was…at Penumbra Theatre Company. I’ve written on more than one occasion that Austene Van, —while for years enjoying the enviable success of not needing a day job and being able to make a rock solid living at theatre — sings beautifully, acts her hips off and can trip the proverbial light fantastic hadn’t come across just the right vehicle to distinguish her as a leading lady. Well, she found one in the form of Aida, which had a recent run this past January in downtown Minneapolis at the Hennepin Theater Trust’s Pantages Theatre. It’s fairly understandable why Austene Van — to those for whom the name doesn’t ring quite the same bell as does Steele or Williams — has been a harder fit for the Cinderella slipper, despite the fact that she’s a Penumbra company member and mainstay on the venue’s stage. Continue Reading →
January 7, 2013, St. Paul, MN — Over 1,400 individuals, corporations and foundations donated $359,000 by December 30, 2012 to Penumbra Theatre Company. The Penumbra Summer Institute, a nationally recognized three-year arts education and leadership training program, was not impacted by the fall suspension and continues as scheduled. Due to an income shortfall in August, Penumbra made the critical decisions to suspend its fall programming; to reduce its fiscal year 2013 budget by $800,000 including eliminating six full-time staff positions; and to set a goal to raise $340,000 by calendar year end. Penumbra’s 2013 Spring season includes Spunk, adapted by George C. Wolfe from Three Tales by Zora Neale Hurston, featuring T. Mychael Rambo, Dennis W. Spears, Jevetta Steele, and Austene Van, March 14 — April 7, 2013. Continue Reading →
Financial state result of administration’s failure to watch cash flow
By James L. Stroud, Jr.
Penumbra Theatre Company (PTC), one of the nation’s largest African American theaters, has suspended its programming for the year. This decision is due to a cash-flow challenge, which prompted PTC to lay off six of its 16 full-time employees. In a surprising twist to it all, PTC’s Lou Bellamy, who is known for being the founder, will be replaced as artistic director. However, according to reports, his successor will not be announced until close to the spring of 2013, when the theater will resume production. PTC was founded by Bellamy in 1976. Continue Reading →
Lou Bellamy brilliantly directs James Baldwin’s The Amen Corner at Guthrie Theater for a Penumbra Theatre Company/Guthrie Theater regional premiere. Bellamy, of course, is best known for taking scripts through their paces in St. Paul on Penumbra’s home ground at the Halle Q. Browne Community Center. An ace with ensemble casts, Bellamy has shown his hand to admirable effect with memorable Penumbra productions of August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Seven Guitars and Two Trains Running. Here, Bellamy tackles an unwieldy script to winning effect. Continue Reading →