Penumbra Theatre's Sarah Bellamy on motherhood, theater and racial healing

For 40 years, Penumbra Theatre Company in St. Paul has produced plays that speak to Black American life and culture. Normally, the seats would be filled at this time of year for performances of “Black Nativity,” the annual holiday show featuring gospel music, dance and some of the best singing in the Twin Cities. The pandemic has forced the theater to move the annual event to a shortened virtual concert.  

Lou Bellamy started Penumbra Theatre in 1976, and it became one of the largest African American theaters in the country. Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson started his career there. Just before the pandemic, Penumbra staged Claudia Rankine’s “The White Card” — a play about race, power and privilege in the art world.

Now behind its closed doors, this beloved Minnesota institution is embarking on a transformation.

Sarah Bellamy_AKM
Penumbra Theatre’s artistic director Sarah Bellamy
Courtesy photo 2014

Sarah Bellamy, Lou’s daughter, took over as sole artistic director three years ago.

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Under her leadership, the theater recently opened the Penumbra Center for Racial Healing.

This fall, after years of struggling financially, it received $4 million in grant funding, allowing it to dream big. 

Angela Davis spoke with Sarah Bellamy about taking on this broader mission and about her own journey as a producer, writer and mother.


  • Sarah Bellamy is the artistic director at Penumbra Theatre Company in St. Paul.

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This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.