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Lou Bellamy

U associate professor Lou Bellamy is the founder and artistic director of Penumbra Theatre Company. Penumbra--Minnesota's sole professional African-American theatre--is one of only three professional African-American theaters in the nation.

U Libraries and Penumbra Theatre celebrate a birthday and recent archive acquisi

Penumbra Theatre and the U celebrate a birthday and recent archive acquisition

May 11, 2007

Since August 2006, Penumbra Theatre Company's institutional archive has been part of the University's Givens Collection of African American Literature. This Wednesday, May 16, Penumbra and the Friends of the University of Minnesota Libraries will present "Backstage with Bellamy," an evening of festivity and performance to mark that historical acquisition and Penumbra's 30th anniversary.

The Givens Collection contains more than 5,000 items from the late 18th century to the present that cover such literary periods as the Harlem Renaissance and the Black Arts Movement. The Penumbra archive, which was a gift from the theatre--Minnesota's only professional African-American theatre--to the University, consists of more than 70 boxes of records and memorabilia chronicling Penumbra's history, including photographs, set and costume designs and sketches, administrative records, and programs.

"Marking the path is important," says Lou Bellamy, Penumbra's founder and artistic director. "So many people have given so much of themselves to build and maintain Penumbra. It is crucial to impart the knowledge we have gained on building community to future generations. This effort must ensure their access to the documentation that shows what we have done, that we were here, that we marked the path. It is our history."

Bellamy, who is also an associate professor in the Department of Theatre Arts and Dance at the University of Minnesota, will share personal and artistic memories at the May 16 event. Penumbra actors Benny Cannon, Shawn Hamilton, T. Mychael Rambo, Dennis Spears, and J.D. Steele will perform live as "The Doves," the smooth crooners of soul from Penumbra's upcoming show "Get Ready." Musician Sanford Moore will accompany on piano.

Lou Bellamyy with fellow actors
Lou Bellamy (center) with fellow actors in the Penumbra production of August Wilson's "The Piano Lesson."

The Penumbra archive is still being catalogued and processed, but once that's complete, the archive will be available for research and study to the general public and University students, faculty, and staff. A special exhibition of materials from the archive will be on display from May 16 through May 25 at Elmer L. Andersen Library on the West Bank.

"The acquisition of Penumbra Theatre's archive into the University Libraries' collection is a major boon for researchers from the university community, the state, and across the globe," says Steven Rosenstone, dean of the University's College of Liberal Arts. "Now everyone from serious scholars of the African-American experience to avocational theatre buffs can experience and learn from this rich trove of primary source material. Something quite extraordinary happens when a library visitor can touch, read, and examine original documents with her or his own eyes."

Penumbra, founded in 1976 by Bellamy, was born of the Civil Rights and Black Arts Movement and the tenet that an artist's ethics and aesthetics must be one. Under Bellamy's leadership, Penumbra has garnered critical acclaim for creating an authentic voice and style for African American theatre and achieved national recognition as a pioneer in cross-cultural dialogue. Penumbra is one of only three professional African-American theaters in the United States to offer a full season of performances.

"Backstage with Bellamy" takes place at 7:30 p.m. in Willey Hall Auditorium on the Twin Cities campus in Minneapolis. The event is free and open to the public.