Penumbra launches signature series

Arts / Article

By Susan Schaffhausen, Penumbra Theatre Company

The Signature Series is a new initiative from Penumbra Theatre Company to make its award-winning production style of authentic African American plays available to theaters and presenters around the country. Four award-winning plays, including “A Raisin In the Sun” by Lorraine Hansberry and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” by August Wilson are being made available as cost-effective, pre-packaged productions. Each Signature Series play is offered with Penumbra’s comprehensive education materials with live play discussions and lectures by leading scholars of African American theater to engage learners of all ages.

André Kimo Stone Guess, President and CEO of the August Wilson Center for African American Culture in Pittsburgh, Penn. praises the launch of this important program.

“Penumbra has long served as an authentic and defining force in American theater. I feel it is a fitting and responsible action that will aid the major regional theaters across the nation in their efforts to provide their audiences with culturally sound productions that address the African American experience. We remember with pride our presentation of your production of August Wilson’s “Radio Golf” which was named by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as one of the ten best productions in 2009. Penumbra’s study guides and other extensions of performance make the Signature Series package a veritable ‘brain trust’ which any organization may easily access.”

Over the last five years, Penumbra has tested its value nationally with presentations at regional theaters around the country. National audiences have spoken with surprise and pleasure at the care and complexity with which Penumbra constructs the narrative of African American experience. They have felt the deep voice of history awakened in these works; and Penumbra is asked to return again and again. We are pleased to have received a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation grant to support the development of an outreach and marketing plan to prepare the Signature Series initiative for engagement and bookings in the 2012-2013 theater season.