Penumbra Theatre at 40

Opens February 18, 2017
Closes July 30, 2017
On view at the Minnesota History Center
For hours and directions visit

For 40 years Penumbra Theatre has illuminated the power, potency, and pride of black life and culture. Founded in 1976 by Lou Bellamy, Penumbra activates social change through extraordinary art, education, and community programs authentically grounded in the African American experience. Celebrated both locally and nationally, the theater has launched the careers of many respected playwrights and introduced Minnesota audiences to 34 premier voices, including two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner August Wilson. Penumbra’s role in shaping the ecology of Twin Cities’ arts is immeasurable: in 1976, black artists were relegated to small or stereotypical roles – today, black talent can be seen on professional stages throughout Minnesota.

Opening in February 2017, the Penumbra Theatre at 40 exhibit commemorates Penumbra’s 40th anniversary with a rare, behind- the-scenes look at the tenacity, vision, and talent that made this art come alive. Celebrate the nation’s largest and preeminent African American theater company, right in your backyard. See the original scripts, props, costumes, set pieces, and photographs that document the epic journey of this company and the people who sustain it. Dig deep and join Penumbra Theatre in its unwavering commitment to artistic excellence and social justice.

Penumbra Theatre at 40 is organized by the Minnesota History Center in partnership with Penumbra Theatre Company, the Givens Collection of African American Literature at the University of Minnesota Libraries, and Umbra: Search African American History. Funding for this exhibit is made possible in part by the Legacy Amendment, thanks to the vote of Minnesotans on November 4, 2008, who provided a gift for future generations.