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Penumbra Theatre Company Records

Identifier: GV002

Scope and Content Note

The Penumbra Theatre Company Records contains the administrative records and artistic materials of Penumbra Theatre from the company's founding in 1976 through 2012.

The series titled Production Records contains materials related to Penumbra's annual Black Nativity, productions records from various other plays, set designs, costume designs, oversized production scripts, and programs.

The Publicity series contains press releases, press clippings, and in some cases flyers and posters for Penumbra productions, as well as general publicity about the theater and its members.

The series Events and Programming includes events such as Cornerstone, Jazz Jam, Late Night, Summer Institute, That's Cold, University of Minnesota College Internship Program, Word(s)Play, and various other events and programs involving the Penumbra Theatre Company.

Administrative Records includes Auditions, Board of Directors, Contracts, Correspondence, Facilities, Financials, Fundraising and Development, General Administration, Marketing, and Season Planning records. Subject Files contain research and general records on Lou Bellamy, August Wilson, and other research regarding African American theater in general.

The Scripts series includes solicited and unsolicited scripts that may have been workshopped, but were never fully produced as part of Penumbra's regular season.

Ephemera includes various three-dimensional artifacts, including props, masks, and mounted clippings. The Born-Digital Files in Penumbra's collection are saved to CD, DVD, and floppy disk formats.

The Audio/Visual series contains Photographs, Slides, Digitized Video, and Other Audio/Visual Materials that have not been digitized, such as audio cassettes, VHS tapes, and reels.


  • 1953-2013 (bulk 1980-2000)

Language of Materials


Restrictions on Access

Please contact staff regarding copyright status of these materials. Researchers may quote from the collection under fair use provisions of the copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code).

Restrictions on Use

The collection is open and available for use. Some materials, such as production videos, have restrictions. Please consult with the Givens Collection Curator for additional information concerning these materials.

Historical Note

Penumbra Theatre Company is the largest professional African American theater in the United States. Founded in 1976 by Lou Bellamy, the theater is located in St. Paul, Minnesota, in the Hallie Q. Brown Community Center. Since 2014, Lou Bellamy and Sarah Bellamy have served as Co-Artistic Directors.

Since its inception, Penumbra Theatre has explored and documented African American life and history. Its mission, guided by traditions of the Black Arts Movement, is to present artistically excellent work from an African American perspective. It was the 2000 recipient of the Jujamcyn Award for development of Artistic talent. Penumbra is known nationally for its deep and unique collaboration with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson, and has produced more plays by August Wilson than any other theater in the world. Penumbra is also known for its commitment to social justice through its art and educational programming, including the Summer Institute and the Race Workshop. Notable Penumbra Theatre Company Members include Horace Bond, James Craven, Abdul Salaam El Razzac, Seitu Ken Jones, Marion McClinton, Greta Oglesby, Faye Price, Claude E. Purdy, T. Mychael Rambo, Dennis W. Spears, Thomasina Taylor-Petrus, and Austene Van. In addition to Lou Bellamy, notable directors include Claude Purdy, Marion McClinton, Sanford Moore, and Dominic Taylor.

About Lou Bellamy

Lou Bellamy is the founder and co-artistic director of Penumbra Theatre. During his thirty-eight year tenure, Penumbra has evolved into one of America’s premier theaters dedicated to dramatic exploration of African American life. Under his leadership, Penumbra has grown to be the largest theater of its kind in America and has produced 39 world premieres, including August Wilson’s first professional production. Bellamy is an OBIE Award-winning director, an accomplished actor, and for 38 years was appointed as an Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota in the Department of Theatre Arts and Dance. Select directing credits include plays at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Arizona Theatre Company, Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Penumbra Theatre, Signature Theatre, Cleveland Playhouse, Guthrie Theater, Kennedy Center, Indiana Repertory, Kansas City Repertory, Gem Theater, Round House, and Hartford Stage. In 2006, he was awarded a McKnight Distinguished Artists Award and an Honorary Doctor of Arts degree from Hamline University. He is a member of several professional organizations, including Black Theatre Network, Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers, and the College of Fellows of the American Theatre.


122 Linear Feet (92 boxes)


Collection contains production records, administrative records, and audio/visual material.


The collection is organized into ten series.

  1. Production Records
  2. Publicity
  3. Posters
  4. Events and Programming
  5. Administrative Records
  6. Subject Files
  7. Scripts
  8. Ephemera
  9. Born-Digital Files
  10. Audio/Visual

Physical Location

MLAC, Mezzanine


The records were donated by Penumbra Theatre Company to the Givens Collection in 2006. An additional accrual was received in 2013.

Related Material

A comprehensive repertoire list can be found on the Penumbra Theatre Company website.

Processing Information

The collection was processed and finding aid written by University of Minnesota Archives and Special Collections Staff between 2009 and 2014. The finding aid was revised by Kathryn Hujda in 2014.

Penumbra Theatre Company Records
Kathryn Hujda
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Givens Collection of African American Literature Collecting Area