After a financial scare, Penumbra Theatre returns with as much spunk as ever.

T. Mychael Rambo (left) and J.D. Steele join musical forces again in SPUNK.
Photo By Ann Marsden
Showstoppers — T. Mychael Rambo (left) and J.D. Steele join musical forces again in SPUNK.

Congratulations to Penumbra Theatre artistic director Lou Bellamy and his team for finding a way out of the financial morass that forced the cancellation of Penumbra’s fall season. Bolstered by $359,000 in contributions from 1,400 individuals and corporations, the theater relaunches this month with SPUNK, a play by George C. Wolfe based on Three Tales by Zora Neale Hurston.

“All of our work will continue to have a social justice component,” says Bellamy. “We do good work—acting, production values. But that’s just the opening gambit. There has to be a deeper element. That won’t change.”

SPUNK is set during the Harlem Renaissance, but, he says, “There’s a rural component to it. It’s about the journey that came to be called the Great Migration [1910–1930, when 1.3 million blacks came north]. They changed city life and brought music. They even changed the language.”

Directed by Atlanta-based director/ choreographer Patdro Harris, this mixture of storytelling, dance, and the blues features a roster of Penumbra regulars, including Jevetta Steele, Dennis W. Spears, T. Mychael Rambo, and Austene Van.

“Our work needs to become more multifaceted,” Bellamy says about the challenges going forward. “We need to maintain our honest look at the world. But we have to make it more popular and sell it. That’s the challenge with any social justice theater.” March 14–April 7. Penumbra Theatre, 270 N. Kent St., St. Paul, 651-224-3180,