“By the Way, Meet Vera Stark,” the biting 2011 comedy by Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage, and Dominique Morisseau’s “Detroit ’67,” a riot-themed work that recently won the $100,000 Edward Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by American History, will be among plays presented next season at Penumbra Theatre.
The 2014-15 lineup at the St. Paul company shows the influence of Sarah Bellamy, who was named co-artistic director of the theater in January and who is in a multi-year leadership transition with her father, Lou Bellamy, founder of the nation’s largest and most esteemed African-American company.
“The changeover is moving pretty fast — faster than I expected,” said the Lou Bellamy. “But it’s cool. We have the same concerns, respect and care for black people.”
“The thing I’m really excited about is that we’re beginning to see the shift toward a broader organization, definitely a theater company but one with a robust education program,” said Sarah Bellamy. “Next season we’re celebrating the triumphs and tragedies of women, black women in particular. We’re doing that through education and films, through conversations and community engagement, and through the great work onstage.”
The season kicks off with two one-person shows. Petronia Paley’s “On the Way to Timbuktu” explores a character’s peripatetic life, and is directed by Talvin Wilks (“The Ballad of Emmett Till”) (Oct. 16-26). Radha Blank’s “HappyFlowerNail,” directed by Liesl Tommy, explores the lives of five women who work in a Korean-American-owned salon in the gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford- Stuyvesant (Nov. 6-16).
Lou Bellamy will direct Penumbra’s holiday show, “Black Nativity” (Dec. 1-21), as well as “Vera Stark,” Nottage’s play about a talented black actress trying to break into 1930s Hollywood (Feb. 5-March 1, 2015).
Shirley Jo Finney will direct “Detroit ’67,” about multiracial understanding and human grace in the crucible of a riot (April 23-May 17, 2015).
Penumbra also will have productions of works by its Summer Institute students that are directed by H. Adam Harris (Aug. 2), Ansa Akyea (Aug. 9) and Lou Bellamy (Aug. 15-17).
Penumbra has scheduled documentary film screenings as part of its season. They include “Wild Women Don’t Have the Blues” (Sept. 15), “Rejoice and Shout” (Dec. 8), “Free Angela and All Political Prisoners” (Feb. 9, 2015), “Dark Girls” (March 9, 2015), and “Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story” (April 27, 2015).
Tickets, from free to $40, are discounted until May 31st. Call 651-224-3180 or www.penumbratheatre.org.