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Penumbra Suspends Shows, Lays Off Employees

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(credit: Penumbra Theatre)

(credit: Penumbra Theatre)

ST. PAUL (WCCO) — The Penumbra Theatre in St. Paul, the nation’s largest and most esteemed African-American theater, announced it is temporarily halting all shows.

The theater is also laying off six of its full-time employees, including associate artistic director Dominic Taylor.

“All of these decisions are painful. They have a huge impact on everyone -– board, employees, artists, patrons and funders -– individually and collectively,” said artistic director Lou Bellamy.

Theater managers say they need to trim $800,000 from their budget, and are hoping to be able to raise an additional $340,000 by the end of the 2012.

“Individual support has increased eight consecutive years but it has not been able to compensate for the continuing decline in funding for the arts by foundations and corporations,” said managing director Chris Widdess.

If they can fix their money troubles, plays could resume next March with a production of “Spunk,” an adaptation of three Zora Neale Hurston stories.

The Penumbra was founded in 1976.

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