Original play to debut at Normandale Community College

It’s not uncommon to see classics of theater, from timeless tales by Shakespeare to modern musicals, performed on the Normandale Community College stage.

This weekend, however, theater patrons will have a chance to see an original, homegrown production in “Known But to God.”

The play is the brainchild of husband-and-wife team Sean and Anne Byrd, theater instructors at Normandale. The inspiration for the play dates back more than a decade, inspired by an article about aspects of the Civil War. The play began to take shape three years ago when Anne took a one-year sabbatical to research the Civil War and write a draft of the play, Sean explained.

From there the play went through a concert reading – where students read the script in front of an audience – and a staged reading last spring, according to Sean.

Students will present the finished product during the next two weekends.

Normandale is one of three nationally accredited theater programs at Minnesota colleges, according to Sean. The school’s theater department has five full-time instructors providing coursework and theater experience in on- and off-stage studies, he noted, calling the department “the hidden gem in terms of theater education in Minnesota.”

Known But to God has provided students with opportunities to develop a play from its early incarnation rather than simply stage an established product. That type of experience is typically the purview of professional theaters, according to Sean. “Our students have been afforded that opportunity over the last three years.”

The play follows two young soldiers during the Civil War. The soldiers find themselves in a conflict that challenges their deeply held beliefs as well their survival, Sean explained.

The Civil War setting is important to the story, as the story unfolds around a specific population of soldiers. “It’s unique to that historical period,” Sean said.

The setting, however, presented several challenges, including the crafting of historically accurate weapons. In addition to the challenges presented by the time period, music is an important element of the production, and that required original compositions that support the thematic tones of the play, Sean explained.

Known But to God runs for two weekends at Normandale. From there the Byrds may officially publish the play for production by other academic institutions or theater companies. “We definitely want the play to have a life after its life here,” Sean said.

Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for students, faculty and seniors


What: Known But to God

When: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 30, Dec. 1, Dec. 6-8; 2 p.m. Dec. 8

Where: Normandale Community College, 9700 France Ave., Bloomington

Info: normandaletheatre.org