Penumbra, Children’s Theatre selected as part of five-theater, $1.5M grant partnership

Photo by Allen Weeks Picture: “for colored girls” cast Audrey Park, Am’Ber Montgomery, Ashe Jaafaru, Rajané Brown, Christine Castro, Sun Mee Chomet and Khanisha Foster

Partners will commission and develop 16 new plays for multigenerational audiences by writers of color

Penumbra Theatre in St. Paul, Minnesota’s only professional African American theater company, and the Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis, have been selected as two of five theaters nationwide to receive a $1.5 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

As part of Generation Now, the two Twin Cities-based theaters, along with Ma-Yi Theater Company (New York City, NY), Latino Theater Company (Los Angeles, CA), and Native Voices at the Autry (Los Angeles, CA), will commission and develop 16 new plays by Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and Asian American Pacific Islander writers for multigenerational audiences.

The output of Generation Now aims to radically expand the inclusiveness of each theatre, expand the canon of work produced for multigenerational audiences, and create a model of transformative partnership for the theatre field. These partnerships are expected to bring a richer cultural context to the work and to collectively amplify each communities’ voices.

“Not only is Penumbra excited to work with such esteemed partners, but really hopeful about the collaborative model that we are developing together,” stated Penumbra’s Artistic Director Sarah Bellamy. “For the field to change, the canon must be diversified and young people in particular need to see themselves lovingly and authentically represented onstage. When we imagine the impact of this project, the possibilities are myriad and so vitalizing,” Bellamy said in a statement.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is the nation’s largest supporter of the arts and humanities. Through their grants, they seek to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking.

“Theaters serving multigenerational audiences are often the first places audiences encounter live theater,” stated The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Arts and Culture Program Officer Susan Feder. “Yet despite decades of activity that has resulted in the commissioning of original stories and adaptations of classical and contemporary ones, the field lacks a repertoire that includes a plurality of voices and stories from emerging and established artists of color.

“The Mellon Foundation is delighted to be supporting the 16 artists who will be working with these five eminent theaters to co-develop new plays and musicals serving audiences for whom culturally relevant voices and stories could be formative. We look forward to the development of a significant body of artistically rigorous new work to be produced in multiple venues across the country.”

Playwrights—both established and emerging—will be selected by Latino Theater Company, Ma‐Yi Theater Company, Native Voices at the Autry, and Penumbra, all with expertise in creating artistically excellent, culturally specific theatre, in collaboration with Children’s Theatre Company as the co‐commissioner with expertise in creating dynamic and powerful multigenerational theatre.

“Children’s Theatre Company is grounded in the deep respect we have for our audiences, our partner theatres, and the desire to create powerful new work,” states CTC Artistic Director Peter C. Brosius. “We look forward to continuing to learn from each other with Generation Now. We know that our distinctive work and practices will profoundly inform and inspire us as we move these plays from conception, through commission and development, and into production for our audiences.”

 Due to the scale and ambition of Generation Now, the grant also includes the creation of an annual arts administration fellowship to add support for all the partner theatres in the implementation of Generation Now.

All decisions will be grounded in learning, respect, and celebrating the perspectives of all organizations.