Penumbra Theatre takes on new role as center for racial healing

Three people pose for a portrait
Sarah Bellamy (center), Christine Smith (left) and Camille Cyprian pose for a portrait.
Courtesy of of Caroline Yang Photography and Simone Lueck

Penumbra Theatre has explored and uplifted the experiences of Black America on its stage for almost half a century.  

The small theater was founded in 1976 by Lou Bellamy in the heart of St. Paul’s historic Black neighborhood, but its reach is national. It nurtured the careers of Black artists, including playwright August Wilson, whose play “Fences” was turned into a movie starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis.

Now, Penumbra’s president Sarah Bellamy is expanding on her father’s legacy. Last year the theater received a $5-million grant from MacKenzie Scott to build on its work promoting racial equality. 

MPR News host Angela Davis talks with members of Penumbra’s leadership team about what it means to become a center for racial healing and what racial healing looks like for themselves and the community.  


  • Sarah Bellamy is president of Penumbra Theatre  

  • Camille Cyprian is director of wellness at Penumbra Theatre  

  • Christine Smith is equity director at Penumbra Theatre  

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