The theme of Penumbra Theatre’s 2014-15 season was “Womensong”: plays by women, illuminating the struggles of women. For 2015-16, “Revolution Love” spotlit love as a force for social justice. For 2016-17 – Penumbra’s 40th anniversary season, and the third and final year when founder Lou Bellamy and his daughter, Sarah Bellamy, will serve as co-artistic directors – the theme is “Still We Rise.”
It’s a powerful statement, one reflected in the plays, discussions, film screenings and special events planned for the year that will end with Sarah Bellamy taking the reins.
First up: performances by the young artists of Penumbra’s Summer Institute, a leadership development program. “Awake” (July 30), directed by Austene Van, is an evening of original ensemble work in which first-year students stand up and speak out about their world. “Authentic” (Aug. 6), directed by Claribel Gross, features monologues written and performed by second-year students about issues that concern them.
The main stage season starts with Pulitzer Prize winner August Wilson’s “Jitney” (Oct. 13-Nov. 6), performed by an all-star cast of Penumbra Theatre company members and directed by Lou Bellamy. Also directed by Lou Bellamy, Langston Hughes’ “Black Nativity” (Dec. 1-23) returns for its joyous annual holiday stay, with music by Sanford Moore and the Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church and choreography by Uri Sands of TU Dance.
Performing artist and company member Daniel Alexander Jones presents a new solo show, “Black Light” (Feb. 2-12, 2017), as part of Penumbra’s Claude Edison Purdy Festival. On Feb. 4 and 7, “Black Light” will be paired with a workshop production of Summer Institute alum BriAnna Daniels’ “Uncomfortable.” May Adrales directs the world premiere “Girl Shakes Loose” (April 20-May 14), a coming-of-age musical by Zakiyyah Alexander and Imani Uzuri.
Several performances will be followed by post-play discussions. Both “Jitney” and “Girl Shakes Loose” will be framed by Bookend classes: one on the script, the other on the issues.
Hosted by Sarah Bellamy, Penumbra’s timely and popular Let’s Talk panel discussions continue with “Voting Rights – Then and Now” (Oct. 24); “Celebrating Rondo” (Dec. 12), about the vibrant St. Paul black neighborhood split by Interstate 94; “Divas” (March 13, 2017), about entertainers from Josephine Baker to Janelle Monae who have raised their voices for civil rights, social justice and equity; and “Sustaining Theaters of Color” (May 15), a discussion with Mu Performing Arts, New Native Theatre, Pangea World Theatre and Teatro del Pueblo.
Four free REEL Talk film screenings include “Eyes on the Prize: Bridge to Freedom” (Sept. 19), an episode from the seminal Civil Rights television series; Marlon Riggs’ exploration of African American identity, “Black Is … Black Ain’t” (Jan. 16); “BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez” (April 3), about the poet, activist and leading figure in the Black Arts Movement; and “Pariah” (May 1), in which a 17-year-old girl discovers her sexuality and challenges her family’s expectations.
Black History Month (February) brings two Sunday Suppers – family events combining communal meals with readings of classic black plays and stories – and a RACE Workshop for ages 14 and up. Starting in February, continuing through July, the Minnesota History Center will host the exhibit “Penumbra Theatre at 40: Art, Race, and a Nation on Stage.”
Subscription packages go on sale Wednesday, June 1. FMI.
Rubber stamp madness
As if we don’t already have more than our share of wonderful things in the cities, the Minnesota Center for Book Arts has announced the creation of the world’s largest working rubber stamp archive, to be housed right here for any artist or researcher to use.
MCBA has received the private collections of visual poet Scott Helmes and artist William “Picasso” Gaglione, the original owner of the rubber stamp store Stamp Francisco, current co-proprietor of Chicago’s Stampland, rubber stamp artist and manufacturer. Together the two collections comprise over 70,000 stamps spanning 120 years, plus hundreds of commercial and one-of-a-kind boxed sets, original stamp art, artists’ books, limited edition publications, journals, catalogs, reference materials, correspondence art, posters and more.
The archive will open to the public in mid-2017 with an exhibition called “The New/Old Multiplicity: Intoducing the S. Helmes and W. Gaglione Rubber Stamp Archive.” Meanwhile, there’s a lot of documenting and cataloging to do. MCBA has launched a Kickstarter for those who want to contribute. From the Kickstarter page: “The primary challenge of this project is also its most exciting strength: it has never been done before.”
Patrick’s Cabaret has found a home
After 16 years at the firehouse on Minnehaha Ave. just south of Lake Street, Patrick’s Cabaret is packing up and moving out. If you’re not busy Saturday between 3 p.m. and 7, you can help. Contact volunteer coordinator Mike Curran at email@example.com. You’ll be repaid with snacks, beverages and warm fuzzies.
Patrick’s new office and home base will be at ArtsHub, Intermedia Arts’ co-working community that also houses the Givens Foundation for African American Literature, Green Card Voices, Line Break Media and other organizations.
So the office space is covered, but what about the performance space? We emailed executive artistic director Scott Artley about that and received this reply: “We are intentionally deciding to be mobile, so we won’t have a permanent performance location of our own, in the short term at least. I am in conversation with some possible venues, both traditional theaters and also non-arts spaces, who are excited to host our artists. I’m honestly excited to curate space, it’s going to be a new way to think about how we make space for artists.”
Patrick’s is taking June off and will resume programming this fall.
Best and newest bookstores
Wild Rumpus was named the best children’s bookstore in the United States by the Women’s National Book Association. If you haven’t yet been to the magical shop in Linden Hills (where kids enter through a child-size door, and cats and chickens act like they own the place), take a child or two and go. We’ve never escaped without buying something. Learn more in this charming article from the Southwest Journal.
Milkweed Editions will open a new bookstore at Open Book in late June or early July, on the ground floor adjacent to the Coffee Gallery café. Milkweed Books will have its own entrance from the street, or you can stroll in from the café.
Milkweed publisher and CEO Daniel Slager told Publishers Weekly that the inventory will be “closely curated very much from our perspective, [with] an indies presses sensibility.” Among their other duties, staff members will schedule consultations with customers to talk about their reading habits and preferences.
Readers love that kind of expert, individualized attention from bookstores. Let’s make sure, once we get it, that we don’t run home and order the books from Amazon.
Opens today (Friday, May 27) at the Lagoon: Hockney. If you missed it at MSPIFF, here’s your chance to see director Randall Wright’s portrait of British painter David Hockney, an icon of the 1960s now nearing his 80s and still working daily in his studio. There are the usual first-person interviews with friends, plus photos and film from Hockney’s personal archives, but what reviewers seem to like best about this documentary is its look at the artist’s creative spirit and Wright’s success at capturing who he is. FMI including times, tickets and trailer. Ends Thursday, June 2.
Tonight at Vieux Carré: Ted Nash and Jeremy Walker. Grammy-nominated jazz saxophonist and composer Nash, a longtime member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, is coming to the cities to visit his good friend Walker, and they’re playing the no-cover Happy Hour gig at VC and it would be silly not to go. 6 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday: Memorial Day weekend with the Minnesota Historical Society. Summer doesn’t officially arrive until June 20, but for many of us, Memorial Day is the real season opener. For the Minnesota Historical Society, it’s the start of the summer sites season, along with being the day set aside for remembering those who have died in service to our country. MNHS has planned a full slate of events at sites across the state: at the James J. Hill House (the 100th anniversary of Hill’s death), at Mille Lacs Indian Museum and Trading Post (a contemporary powwow honoring past and present American Indian veterans), and tons of things at Historic Fort Snelling, where veterans get in free on Memorial Day. Here’s the complete calendar. It’s a good weekend to get historical.
Saturday and Sunday at Nautilus Music-Theater: Hard Times: The Musical. A work-in-progress reading of a new musical with a lot of good people behind it: Daniel Pinkerton (book and lyrics), Gary Rue (music), Charles Dickens (the original book), Ben Krywosz (stage direction), Peter Vitale (music direction), and a cast that includes Gary Briggle, Joey Clark, Bradley Greenwald and Claudia Wilkens. Excerpts have been featured in Nautilus’ Rough Cuts series, but this will be the first public reading of the whole thing, with dialogue and songs. Well worth your time and $5 (or pay-as-able). Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. in the charming Nautilus Music-Theater space on the first floor of the Northern Warehouse on Prince St. in Lowertown. Call 651-298-9913 for reservations or drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Opens Saturday at the Minnesota Zoo: Dinosaurs. Let’s go to the Zoo and see the tigers, bears, monkeys and … dinosaurs? This really big summer exhibit features 20 life-size animatronic dinos including Stegosaurus, Brachiosaurus, Dilophosaurus, Styracosaurus and of course, T. rex, who stands 18 feet tall and weighs 7,000 pounds. They roar, they move, and sometimes they spit, and it’s great fun to see them outdoors. FMI. Tickets $5 ($4 members) with regular zoo admission. Closes Labor Day.