Black History Month onstage: Eight shows to see at Twin Cities theaters


February is Black History Month, and several local theater companies are presenting productions featuring African-American themes. Are any shows missing from this list? Leave a comment and let us know!

History Theatre: Nellie (through February 17). A biographical show about Minnesota labor rights activist Nellie Stone Johnson, a black woman. “Nellie Johnson’s story of personal commitment and personal cost is similar to that of Rosa Parks, a well-known hero of the civil rights movement,” writes Dan Reiva in his Daily Planet review. “Those attending will be rewarded with a compelling political history of Nellie’s unsung heroism.”

Pillsbury House Theatre: Buzzer (through March 3). The Pillsbury House Theatre production of Tracey Scott Wilson’s play about race and gentrification in urban America today moves to the Guthrie Theater after last year’s acclaimed debut at Pillbury House’s own space. “The Pillsbury House production of Buzzer is a superb staging of a penetrating script,” I wrote in my Daily Planet review of that run. “It’s an important and engaging look at the complexities of human relationships in a world where race doesn’t mean what it used to, but where it’s still enormously relevant.”

Old Log Theater: Mahalia (February 15-May 25). The venerable Old Log presents a return engagement of a show about gospel legend Mahalia Jackson; it’s toured to dozens of cities since its Old Log inception.

VocalEssence: WITNESS: Marian Anderson (February 17). In a one-time presentation at the Ordway, VocalEssence pays tribute to the music and life of the great African-American singer.

Penumbra Theatre: Let’s Talk Theatre: The Harlem Renaissance (February 18). Not a show as such, but a discussion—led by Sarah Bellamy—of art, advocacy, and theater during the Harlem Renaissance.

SteppingStone Theatre: Ruby! The Story of Ruby Bridges (through February 24). This world premiere production teaches children about Ruby Bridges, the brave girl who led the desegregation of southern schools during the Civil Rights Movement.

Ten Thousand Things: The Seven (February 15-March 10). Giving a whole new meaning to “black history,” this play by Will Power adapts Aeschylus’s The Seven Against Thebes using the style and language of hip-hop.

Children’s Theatre Company: Jackie and Me (March 12-April 14). Though this family-friendly play about Jackie Robinson (with a sci-fi twist) won’t step to the plate until March, tickets are now available.

Coverage of issues and events affecting Central Corridor communities is funded in part by a grant from the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative.