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MPR’s Deborah Fisher reports on panel discussions after Penumbra Theatre play "Zooman."

Lou Bellamy, the founder and artistic director of the Penumbra Theatre, talks about the play "Zooman" and the community reaction. After most performances, there are panels to help people talk about the play.

This recording was made available through a grant from the National Historical Publications & Records Commission.


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DEBORAH FISHER: Penumbra's artistic director Lou Bellamy says that art should be more than entertaining. It should be a mirror for the community. Because he see answer many of the questions raised in Zooman reflected in the Summit University area where the group performs, he thinks panel discussions following most performances could help identify answers.

LOU BELLAMY: People do what we did on the panel anyway when they come to this theater. They have to. They never leave here. They may leave here not liking it, but they never leave non-committal. So what I did is try to structure that thing and make it a forum rather than them doing it on their own, which I'm sure they do anyway. And it is timely.

If you look at the news, the kind of violence that seems to be coming up, the woman who was killed indiscriminately, people going through a neighborhood. There's another fellow up on Selby that's supposed to be a victim of some gang thing. It's real. It's realer than most of them want to admit because it's so frightening.

DEBORAH FISHER: Bellamy says the panels are chosen in conjunction with the Summit University Crime Prevention Council. The panels consist of community members and actors from the cast of Zooman. And the audience is encouraged to participate. Panelists are asked to give their gut level reactions to the production while discussing whether the play accurately reflects their communities. Lou Bellamy.

LOU BELLAMY: We try to balance them. And some of them have Zooman on them. Some have victims. People like the judge that offers a unique perspective that, see, these people very seldom get a chance to hear. They see that judge when he puts their little boy somewhere or something like that. But they don't get a chance to hear him talking like that. So that's really good.

DEBORAH FISHER: Penumbra's Lou Bellamy. Different panel members are used following each performance. And two recent panelists were Barbara Andrus of the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission and juvenile court Judge George Peterson.

BARBARA ANDRUS: It's pretty hard for a kid who's 18 years old and cannot read to sit in a classroom and say I cannot read. It's much cooler to stand on the corner and be cool. When we see the kids doing those types of things, we've got to begin to understand what is happening with the kid, not just the action of the kid.

GEORGE PETERSON: People we never saw tonight, of course, were those who cared about Zooman. Where was his family that cared about him? Where were the people in the community who cared about people like Zooman in their community? Because if there isn't a family that cares about him, they're better darn well be somebody else in the community that cares about him because he's a person and a member of the community.

DEBORAH FISHER: Juvenile court Judge George Peterson. Zooman will run at the Hallie Q. Brown Theater in St. Paul until the middle of August. Panel discussions follow each performance except the early Saturday show. For Lou Bellamy, Zooman is one of a series.

LOU BELLAMY: All I want to do is make people think about it. That's all. And when I get through grinding this ax, I'm going to go grind another one. So this is one that needs to be thought about now.

DEBORAH FISHER: I'm Deborah Fisher.


Digitization made possible by the National Historical Publications & Records Commission.

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