Hamline News

Students Bring Art to Social Justice


This summer, Hamline partnered with the Penumbra Theatre Summer Institute for a unique internship focused on social change. High school and college students had an opportunity to intern at nonprofits in the Twin Cities and produce their own artistic theatre piece about a social justice issue.

The Penumbra Summer Institute is a three-year leadership development program that trains students ages 13 - 19 in the practice of art for social change to eliminate racism and promote social justice and equity. The first year track introduces students to the concept of art for social change and basic theater craft, history, and literature. The second year track delves deeper into the craft and a particular social justice issue of interest to the students. This year, which is also the first year the institute has collaborated with Hamline, is the third year track that immerses students in frontline advocacy work through partner agencies, while developing social change projects. Students create performance pieces geared toward raising awareness and inspiring action.

“We want to create activist-artists with their interest in art and their social justice passion,” Carolyn Levy, Hamline theatre professor and Penumbra instructor, said. “We also want to show students how to make that passion into art, how to perform that in front of audiences and facilitate a conversation with them.”

The internship lasts for six weeks, and within the first five weeks, students will have performed 90 hours of internship work with a social change agency, including OutFront Minnesota, 180 Degrees, World Without Genocide, SOS, the Ramsey County Rape Crisis Center, Advocates for Human Rights, or the Emily Program Foundation. Students spend half their time working at the agency and the other half preparing a theater piece about the issue for which their agency works to advocate. Writing and design teachers as well as directors are on hand to help students write and design their storyline and stage scenes within their pieces. The pieces are then performed on the last days of the internship at the Penumbra Theatre.

The primary objective of this internship is to construct students’ professionalism and inspire their creativity while they learn how to address social justice issues that people care about.

“They are intelligent, creative, and courageous,” Sarah Bellamy, Penumbra’s associate artistic director, said about the interns. “It’s just amazing to see how a young person decides their path, believes in it, and commits to it.”

More information about the Penumbra Theatre Summer Institute can be found online on the Penumbra Website. Interested students can email H. Adam Harris, Penumbra teen programs coordinator, or call 651-288-6783 for further details.  

(Photo by photographer Allen Weeks ©Penumbra Theatre Company)