Anne Byrd

Normandale's Production of Known But to God Poster

Normandale Community College’s original production of the play Known But to God was recently presented as part of the District V Kennedy Center American College Theatre Regional Festival (KCACTF). The play was written by Normandale Instructor Anne Byrd. Her play, which was directed by her husband and fellow Normandale Instructor Sean Byrd and performed by Normandale students, was the only production from a two-year college—and the only one from the State of Minnesota—represented in the festival.

Byrd also received a Gold Medallion to recognize theatre educators who have demonstrated excellence in theatre education, production work, academic work, and have demonstrated a strong commitment to the Kennedy Center America College Theatre Festival.

Normandale’s theater department was one of five two-year schools in the nation to perform at a KCACTF regional festival. The college received certificates of merit for playwriting, original music composition, and scenic design and properties for Known But to God.

Normandale student Mathew Foster also won the national award for Allied Crafts for his design and creation of properties for the play.

Normandale Theatre Instructor and Playwrite Anne Byrd

How did you get the idea for Known But to God?

"The origin of the idea was something I encountered about 15 years ago, when I was living in Chicago. I was making a long commute, and looking through a publication about important Illinois history makers on the ride home and encountered a short story about one particularly important Illinois history maker having to do with the Civil War. I was interested in the Civil War, but this was part of that history that I did not know and I thought it was a story that should be told."

Tell us about the process of turning it into a play.

“I never thought of myself as a playwright. I thought my role to bring the story to life would be very different than being the person who actually wrote the play. I knew lots of playwrights who were very good and I would talk to them about the story. It just did not happen.

But the story stuck with me. Years went by and I still remained amazed and interested. About three years ago, it became one of the projects I took on during my sabbatical.

When I got back from sabbatical, we spent two years trying to read it and roughly stage it to see if the dialogue worked. We thought if we could get it to a place where it felt solid enough, then we wanted to get it on stage—fully designed and with costumes, lights, and everything. Although that was a risk, it was a calculated risk and one we were willing to take because our students don’t often get to work with a playwright in the room. We wanted them to have that experience before they graduated.”

How was it to work with your husband as the director?

"It is funny to watch people react to that. We have collaborated in a lot of different ways in the past. We have been in shows together; I have directed him; he has directed me.

So we had done enough collaborations that I knew we would figure out a way to make it work—but this time it had a new wrinkle to it. A the end of the day, it could not have been more rewarding to go through the experience with him. It was everything you would want it to be, because you have this great experience—and you get to share it with someone who means so much to you. It was wonderful."

Kennedy Center Gold Medallion Award

Tell us about the Kennedy Center Gold Medallion award you received.

"The Gold Medallion is recognition that is given to one or possibly two theater educators in the region every year. I was one of two this year to get it. The other person [Patrick Gouran] received it postumously. He was one of my professors as an undergraduate at Iowa State. I have a long history with the organization, and it was a magical combination that it also happened the same year that a show I wrote was invited to the festival. It all felt like perfect timing and was a great honor."

 

More Video Minutes with Anne Byrd

Use the links below to hear more of Anne Byrd's interview about her original production of Known But to God:

Find Out More: For more information about Normandale's theater season offerings, call 952-358-8884.