Style Profile: Sarah Bellamy of Penumbra Theatre
Sarah Bellamy rises through the ranks at Penumbra in style
Photo by John Christenson
Vince shirt, $158 @ Nordstrom; Clover Canyon pants, $220 @ Arafina; Serena cuff, $128 @ Henri Bendel; Lucky Brand cuff, $45 @ Lucky Brand; Stacey Johnson earrings, $89 @ Statement; necklaces, $39 and $29 @ Len Druskin; shoes and rings, stylist’s own
Growing up in the family business, Sarah Bellamy has played just about every part at Penumbra Theatre: from restroom cleaner to box-office worker to associate producer to writer of the intellectually provocative study guides that contextualize the plays performed by one of the nation’s most prominent African American companies.
Perhaps her effortless role-switching is a result of the years she spent as a teenager performing alongside her father, Lou, who founded Penumbra in 1976. Today, this versatility has helped Bellamy become the theater’s leading lady, working alongside her father, now as co-artistic director. Bellamy transitioned into the job in January as part of a five-year succession plan to pass the torch from dad to daughter.
“It’s gone better than either Lou or I anticipated,” she says. (Yes, she calls him Lou.) “We’ve been working together on and off for the last 20 years, and we just have a rhythm established.”
For Bellamy, Penumbra encompasses both literal and metaphoric bloodlines. “I’ve known the company since I was a baby, so they all feel like my aunties and uncles,” she says.
A homey atmosphere is reflected in her ultra-casual work wardrobe, conducive to pushing around not only paperwork but set pieces as well. Bellamy’s penchant for simple, understated clothing is a sharp departure from her younger years. “In my early 20s, when I saw anything flashy, I was like, I want it; I need it,” she laughs. These days, she favors well-crafted silk blouses and soft knitwear, both at the theater and in her bright blue 1883 Victorian home. “As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten more comfortable wearing clothes that fit me rather than me trying to fit the clothes.”
Vince dress, $425 @ Nordstrom; Lucky Brand cuff, $45 @ Lucky Brand; Stacey Johnson earrings, $79 @ Statement, leggings, her own; belt and jewelry, stylist’s own
Yet her high-level role in the arts community means that workwear can also be black-tie: When the season for premieres and galas rolls around, Bellamy isn’t shy about taking on a more glam persona. “I love doing makeup and hair,” she says. “I remember my mom putting on makeup and thinking she was so beautiful. I bugged all the makeup artists at the theater to fix me up when I was a kid, too.”
Any pro tips she picked up didn’t stop Bellamy from making the inevitable mistakes—she reminisces woefully about eras heavy on bright eye shadow and dark lip liner. She’s since settled on a more minimal, polished beauty routine, always emphasizing her eyebrows, which Bellamy calls her “signature feature.” That and her thick, curly hair, which she occasionally wears straight—a look that shifts not just her appearance, but her identity. “I’m a multiracial person, and different parts of my ethnicity definitely come out depending how I’m wearing my hair,” she explains.
At Penumbra, too, Bellamy projects her own vision while representing a continuity of her father’s work that has made the theater so vital in the community. This year’s season highlights female playwrights, and the theater continues to push education efforts, including workshops that explore racial representation and a summer program to encourage teens interested in activism and the arts. It’s Bellamy’s way of ensuring that Penumbra’s values will continue with the next generation.
“This theater has always been a place where young people can test and learn and grow,” says Bellamy.
Sarah Bellamy’s Style Crib Sheet
- Favorite shops: Nordstrom. Nordstrom Rack. Len Druskin. “And J.Crew—I’m not even going to front: I like linen shirts.”
- Must-have makeup: NARS blush in Torrid, NARS lipsticks, and Sephora lip-gloss.
- What you will never see her in: Sequins.
- Biggest style temptations: Silk blouses and tunics, and anything with a daring cut.