Penumbra reveals 2014-15 season with focus on women

Penumbra Theatre releases details of its next season today, revealing a focus on the struggles of women. The company is using the title “Womensong”

“Experiences of gender are personal and political, complicated by race, class, sexuality, religion, and place. This season we examine these complex and powerful intersections,” said Co-Artistic Director Sarah Bellamy in a release announcing the season. “Through these stories, we urge our girls on as they struggle to stand up inside their own potential for greatness. We marvel at the balance struck between the ferocity of spirit and the common sense of compromise as women play the long game toward freedom and equality.”

This is the first season where Bellamy has fully shared artistic director duties with her father, Penumbra founder Lou Bellamy.

The season opens with the Claude Edison Purdy Festival, featuring two one woman plays: “On the Way to Timbuktu” (Oct. 16-26) written and performed by Petronia Paley; followed by HappyFlowerNail (Nov. 6-16), written and performed by Radha Blank.

The long time Penumbra holiday favorite “Black Nativity” follows in December. The second half of the season kicks off in February with Lynne Nottage’s “By the Way, Meet Vera Stark,” followed by Dominique Morisseau’s prize-winning drama “Detroit ’67.”

Another Penumbra project returns in full force this summer with Sarah Bellamy’s Theatre for Social Change, built around the company’s Summer Institute. It will present three productions, “Awake,” “Authentic,” and “Aloud” in August.

Tickets are available as of today. Full details on the season as released by Penumbra Theatre:

Claude Edison Purdy Festival

Oct. 16 – 26, 2014

On the Way to Timbuktu

Written and performed by Petronia Paley

Directed by Talvin Wilks

Petronia Paley is a force in this one-woman show tracing the threads of Africa as they coil through her sense of womanhood, haunt clandestine Elizabethan romances, empower the black power beat generation, and  ultimately begin to unravel one woman’s grip on reality. Perceptive, smart, and brave, “On the Way to Timbuktu” is a poetic journey through the life and consciousness of a black intellectual woman as she interrogates race, gender, sexuality and power.

Claude Edison Purdy Festival

Nov. 6 – 16, 2014


Written and performed by Radha Blank

Directed by Liesl Tommy

For years Mrs. Sung, a Korean immigrant, has served the women of Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant area at her nail salon. She is a neighborhood fixture: her multinational staff is an extended family, her walls are plastered with photographs of clients’ children, and while her clients are loyal, they can’t help but be impressed by the amenities of a new rival salon down the street. Radha Blank’s one-woman show is a heartwarming, hilarious, and honest look at how gentrification affects a multicultural neighborhood and the women who hold it together.

Dec. 4 – 21, 2014

Black Nativity

By Langston Hughes

Directed and Narrated by Lou Bellamy

Musical Direction by Sanford Moore

Join us for an evening of your favorite holiday music as we revisit the nativity story in this concert staging, featuring narration by Lou Bellamy, soloists Dennis W. Spears, Latonia Hughes-Kendrick, and Greta Oglesby with the Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church Choir under the musical direction of Sanford Moore.

Feb. 5 – March 1, 2015

By the Way, Meet Vera Stark

By Lynn Nottage

Directed by Lou Bellamy

Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage turns a keen eye toward Hollywood as she tracks the life and career of Vera Stark, a talented black actress who can’t catch a break in the 1930s. Like many of the uncredited black stars of the Golden Era, Vera is relegated to playing the maid to white Southern belles and socialites, but in a world of illusion, nothing is quite what it seems. Evoking Hollywood “firsts,” from Hattie McDaniel to Halle Berry and Lupita Nyong’o, this charming and witty play follows Vera over a lifetime career, only at the end of which is she finally being lauded for her talent.

April 23 – May 17, 2015

Detroit ’67

By Dominique Morisseau

Directed by Shirley Jo Finney

When their parents died, Chelle and Lank inherited their childhood home in Detroit, Michigan. To make ends meet the siblings host “basement parties” spinning the newest records to come out of Motown, a risky business as police crack down on after-hours joints in black neighborhoods. When Lank happens upon a badly beaten white woman stumbling along the avenue, he decides to bring her home to his sister for help. As tensions between police and black residents rise, Chelle and Lank suddenly find themselves in danger. “Detroit ’67” is a tense, entertaining portrayal of the hazards of idealism at the epicenter of a riot.

Theatre for Social Change: Summer Institute 

Aug. 2, 2014

Theatre for Social Change: AWAKE

Directed by H. Adam Harris

Celebrate an evening of original ensemble work written and performed by young adults as they embark upon standing up and speaking out about their world. Witness their bravery and welcome their leadership.

Aug. 9, 2014

Theatre for Social Change: AUTHENTIC

Directed by Ansa Akyea

This evening features a series of original monologues written and performed by young adults who employ the power of art to address issues that concern them. Experience their perspective on important social justice issues and engage in a discussion with them after the show.

Aug. 15-17, 2014

Theatre for Social Change: ALOUD

Directed by Lou Bellamy

This three-day festival features original new work by young artists that will enlighten, challenge and inspire you. Each evening features different artists, all of whom have invested multiple years into refining their voices and power to create change. Join the artists and advocacy experts in discussion after each show. Plan to see them all!