Lou Bellamy is a prominent member in the local arts community for over four decades as a theater founder, educator, actor, director, and currently as Emeritus of Penumbra Theatre. His work has been a powerful force in bringing voice of the Black experience to the stage.
Born March 10th, 1944 in Chicago, Illinois, Bellamy would move to St. Paul, Minnesota and graduate from Central Highschool in 1962. He then attended University of Minnesota, Mankato, followed by University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, where he would later teach at the theater and dance department from 1979-2011.
In 1976, Bellamy founded The Penumbra Theatre, in the same St. Paul neighborhood in which he grew up. The theater dedicated itself to the dramatic exploration of the African American experience. As artistic director, Bellamy produced 39 world premieres. Penumbra produced August Wilson’s first professional production, and more of Mr. Wilson’s plays than any other theater in the world. Penumbra has been recognized as the largest African American theater in the country.
Along with his leadership role at Penumbra, Bellamy would direct for numerous other organizations, including The Guthrie Theater, Arizona Theatre Company, Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Signature Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, The Cleveland Play House, Indiana Repertory Theatre, The Kennedy Center, and Hartford Stage Company.
Bellamy has won numerous awards for his achievements and stewardship of African American arts in our community and throughout the country.
November 10, 1977 - MPR’s Nancy Fushan reports on new theater opening in St. Paul, called Penumbra. Fushan interviews Lou Bellamy, Penumbra’s company coordinator, about the theater and it’s focus on black talent.
August 2, 1982 - MPR’s Deborah Fisher reports on panel discussions after Penumbra Theatre play "Zooman."
May 27, 1987 - MPR’s Gary Eichten talks with Lou Bellamy, artistic director of The Penumbra Theatre, about August Wilson receiving a Pulitzer Prize Award.
June 28, 1991 - MPR’s Bob Potter interviews Lou Bellamy, artistic director of The Penumbra Theatre, about August Wilson. Bellamy discusses Penumbra’s production of Wilson’s “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone.”
August 7, 1991 - Lou Bellamy, artistic director of Twin Cities Penumbra Theatre, talks about the Black Theater Fest held in Winston-Salem, N.C.
December 24, 1991 - Part 2 of Midday After One - "Stories of the Season," where notable community members and Minnesota Public Radio staff read their favorite holiday tales. Lou Bellamy, of the Penumbra Theatre, reads "The Terrible Twos" by Ishmael Reed. MPR’s Greta Cunningham reads "A Brooklyn Christmas" by Betty Smith Gene Harrington, St. Paul resident, reads "A Cup of Christmas Tea" by Minnesota author Tom Hegg.
May 15, 1992 - MPR’s Bruce MacDonald talks with Lou Bellamy, artistic director at Penumbra Theatre, about productions of "The Mighty Gents" and "Dutchman." Bellamy compares the subject matter of plays to the angry unrest after Rodney King trial acquittals. Bellamy also shares his personal thoughts.
August 13, 1992 - MPR’s Beth Friend talks with playwright Laurie Carlos and director Lou Bellamy on the Penumbra-Walker collaboration of Carlo’s "White Chocolate For My Father."
September 17, 1992 - MPR’s Beth Friend reports on playwright John B. Davidson’s “The Last Minstrel Show,” being performed at The Penumbra Theatre. The play is about the lynching of three African American circus workers in Duluth on June 15th, 1920.
January 27, 1993 - MPR’s Beth Friend reports on Penumbra Theatre play “King of Coons.” The play is a portrayal of Black film comedian Stepin Fetchit.