Nonprofit, independent journalism. Supported by readers.


Penumbra to broaden its focus; Mia’s ‘Foot in the Door’ goes virtual

ALSO: Open Eye @ Home: “Kevin Kling’s Greatest Hits & Juicy Bits”; Connie Evingson digs into the Peggy Lee songbook; and more.

Lynnette Freeman and Jay Owen Eisenberg in Claudia Rankine’s “The White Card,” the last play Penumbra presented pre-COVID.
Lynnette Freeman and Jay Owen Eisenberg in Claudia Rankine’s “The White Card,” the last play Penumbra presented pre-COVID.
Photo by Caroline Yang

Over the next three years, Penumbra Theatre will become the Penumbra Center for Racial Healing. An announcement today formalized a change that has been in the works for years under Sarah Bellamy.

She has been artistic director of the legacy Black Arts organization since 2017, when she took over from her father, founder Lou Bellamy. Before then, they served as co-artistic directors for three years starting in January 2014.

Beginning with 2014-15, each new season had a theme – “Womansong,” “Revolution Love,” “Still We Rise,” “State of Emergence” – under which different programs were grouped and tested. “Reel Talk” followed documentary film screenings with discussions. “Let’s Talk” conversations explored social justice, equity and the arts. From its home in St. Paul’s historically black Rondo neighborhood, Penumbra reached out with educational programming and invited people in with community meals.

Article continues after advertisement

The Penumbra Center for Racial Healing will focus on the arts, racial equity and wellness. A theater season will include an annual festival of new work along with main stage shows, panel conversations, and educational programs. Year-round, artist-led racial equity work will include lectures, workshops, seminars, and a leadership training institute. A wellness program will feature culturally specific healing services – meditation, yoga, acupuncture, massage and more – designed to detoxify bodies from the stresses of living in a racially stratified society.

Sarah Bellamy
Photo by Ann Marsden
Sarah Bellamy
“We are uniquely equipped to help Minnesotans acknowledge and address the racial disparities within our state while attending to the trauma sustained from weathering such conditions,” Sarah Bellamy said in a statement. “We will be a center and provide resources for Black people, learn from and support people of color who are not Black, and welcome and support white people interested in building resiliency and competency for racial equity work.”

Artists were already creating programming for the center when George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police. Penumbra company member T. Mychael Rambo said, “I can’t imagine how I would have dealt with the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder on my own. … [To] know there were other people who were doing great work in service of social justice, to know there were other people creating amazing art, all those things made me feel purpose-filled and useful and validated and helped me sort out the chaos that was going on around me.”

Penumbra has begun a multimillion-dollar initiative to fund the program and business development and engage the community.

In March, Penumbra canceled the rest of its 2019-20 season, including its production of playwright Trey Anthony’s “How Black Mothers Say I Love You.”

Mia’s ‘Foot in the Door’ becomes fingers on a keyboard

If you were looking forward to “Foot in the Door 5,” the once-in-a-decade chance to have your art displayed at Minneapolis Institute of Art, we have mixed news.

The show will still go on, but (sigh) it will be virtual. It will also be later than usual. The original plan was to start accepting works in the spring, then open the exhibit July 10 in the Target galleries.

Don’t blame Mia. For the last “Foot in the Door 4,” in 2010, more than 4,800 artists stood in line to submit their work, which was measured, photographed and placed in the galleries by Mia staff. (The show is called “Foot in the Door” because no work can exceed 1 cubic foot in size.) Some 102,000 people attended the exhibition. Long lines and big crowds have been ixnayed by COVID-19.

Article continues after advertisement

“While making the exhibition virtual was a safety necessity, we are excited about the increased accessibility offered by the digital format,” said Nicole Soukup, assistant curator of contemporary art and coordinator for Mia’s MAEP program. “Artists and visitors who may not be able to visit the museum in person will now be able to submit artworks and view the exhibition from their homes.”

Foot in the Door 4
Courtesy of the Minneapolis Institute of Art
For “Foot in the Door 4,” in 2010, more than 4,800 artists submitted their work, which was measured, photographed and placed in the galleries by Mia staff.
Digital submissions to “Foot in the Door 5” will be accepted from Sept. 8-28. Go here for the full submission requirements. The virtual exhibition will run Nov. 1-Jan. 10, 2021.

The show has been a runaway success. The inaugural “Foot in the Door” (1980) drew 740 artists; the second (1990) nearly 900; the third (2000) more than 1,700; the fourth (2010) more than 4,800. For 2020, maximum capacity is 5,000.

More on Northrop’s commissions

There’s something we neglected to include when describing Northrop’s 2020-21 season. In advance of its centennial in 2029, Northrop has launched an ambitious commissioning program. Commissions cost money. Northrop lost a big part of 2019-20 to COVID and faces severely reduced revenues in 2020-21, with fewer live in-person performances and far smaller audiences in its theater.

Kristen Brogdon
Photo by Todd Rosenberg
Kristen Brogdon
We asked Kristen Brogdon, Northrop’s director of programming, where the money came from to support the commissions.

“It’s such a nice story!” Brogdon said. “As we were canceling and postponing the Martha Graham, Paul Taylor, and State Ballet of Georgia engagements, we asked people to consider donating their ticket price back instead of getting a refund. A lot of the seed money for these commissions comes from the Northrop public.

“The other source for the funding is the NEA. They had originally supported a residency of the Graham company. We got back in touch and said we would not be able to reschedule Graham until the following season, but could we use the money to commission new work from Graham and others? They were very flexible.

“Between Northrop audience members and the NEA, that’s how these grants came to be.”

Article continues after advertisement

The picks

Now through the end of August: Open Eye @ Home: “Kevin Kling’s Greatest Hits & Juicy Bits.” From the archives of Open Eye Theatre, an evening of touching tales, poems, humor, songs, and music led by consummate storyteller Kevin Kling, with his longtime collaborators Simone Perrin on accordion and voice, Michelle Kinney and Jacqueline Ultan on cellos, and Eric Jensen on keyboards. Recommended for ages 14 and up. Register here to receive a link. Free, with donations requested.

Thursday (Aug. 6) at 7 p.m.: Jazz Fest Live presents Happy with the Blues: The Peggy Lee Centennial with Connie Evingson. A Twin Cities jazz mainstay and a swinging singer, Evingson has released 10 successful albums on her own label, Minnehaha Music, and toured the world. Stuck here like the rest of us, she’ll dig deep into the Peggy Lee songbook from Crooners’ outdoor stage. The Twin Cities Jazz Festival will stream the performance live. Sign up here to save your spot. If you’d rather be there in person, tickets are still available ($20-30).

A scene from “Out Stealing Horses.”
Courtesy of the MSP Film Society
A scene from “Out Stealing Horses.”
Starts Friday (Aug. 7) at MSP Film Society’s Virtual Cinema: “Out Stealing Horses,” based on the best-selling novel by Norwegian author Per Petterson. The film is followed by a prerecorded discussion between star Stellan Skarsgård and filmmaker Hans Petter Moland. And “A Thousand Cuts,” Romana S. Diaz’s documentary about the increasingly dangerous war between press and government in the Philippines. On Sunday, Aug. 9 at 10:00 a.m., there will be a free online Q&A with Diaz, journalist Maria Ressa (who is featured in the film) and Christiane Amanpour. FMI, times, tickets and trailers at the links.

Friday (Aug. 7) at 8 p.m. CST: Live Streaming at the Vanguard: Bill Frisell Trio featuring Thomas Morgan and Rudy Royston. Guitarist Frisell has a lot of fans in the Twin Cities. (So do Morgan and Royston.) We saw Frisell live in February at the Dakota, one of our last live music events before the COVID ax fell, and will forever be glad we did. You can safely have the highest expectations for this event, presented by and streamed from the storied Village Vanguard jazz club in New York. FMI and tickets ($10). Note: This was originally advertised as two nights, Aug. 7 and 8, but now seems to be just one night.

Friday and Saturday (Aug. 7 and 8) at 7:30 p.m.: Jeffrey Hatcher’s “Riddle Puzzle Plot,” Week 3. Park Square Theatre’s summer play, a serial mystery in four parts, continues. Who will die this week? So far, this has been delightful. Stick around for the live post-show talks. If you can’t watch at 7:30 p.m. either night, you can stream the episode later on demand. FMI and tickets.

Saturday (Aug. 8) at 8 p.m.: Hothouse Film Festival + The Return Premiere. Bring a mask and a folding chair to this outdoor, socially distanced drive-in film screening at the Northrup King Building, organized by Ryan Stopera (“The Return”) and Motionpoems. Come early to find a good spot and hear music by Jarelle Barton and DJ O-D. Stay in your car or sit in a chair. Refreshments will be provided and there will be a bathroom on site. Note: Sunday is a rain-check option.