What We're Reading: When a regional theater got millions to remake itself, it focused on racial healing

"Recovering from the worst days of the pandemic has been daunting for America's 1,800 regional theaters. But some, thanks to philanthropic help, are using this moment as an opportunity for reinvention," said Neda Ulaby for NPR. "Take, for example, Penumbra Theatre in St. Paul, Minn., which is grounded in a historically African-American neighborhood with aesthetic roots in the Black Arts Movement. Since Penumbra started staging plays in the early 1970s, it's developed a national reputation for growing Black talent that's changed theater worldwide."

"Surviving as a theater isn't just about money. One of the things that helped keep Penumbra alive during its lean years was the Twin Cities' vibrant and diverse arts ecosystem, Sarah Bellamy said. 'There's a lot of sense of scarcity in regional theater,' she said. 'And that competitive mentality will kill everything.'"

"But theaters in the Twin Cities share talent and resources, which allows everyone to grow, Bellamy said. She credits the famous Children's Theatre Company of Minneapolis for nourishing a robust audience that benefits the entire community."

"When Penumbra first started, it offered free childcare — a still-radical idea that more theaters are beginning to experiment with today. Now it's using new resources to develop programming for kids that will complement what their grownups see on stage. Back in the day, Penumbra also allowed anyone in the community to walk into rehearsals. Theater artist Daniel Alexander Jones loved that aspect when he developed new plays with Penumbra in the 1990s."

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