Northwestern College to present new play with the Unlabeled Theatre Company
Northwestern College’s theatre department will present “Even Though I Know,” featuring stories written with—and acted alongside—students with intellectual or developmental disabilities who are part of the Northwestern NEXT program.
Two performances at 7:30 p.m. are scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 17 and 24, in the England Proscenium Theatre.
Drew Schmidt, associate professor of theatre, is directing the show. The play is part of the college’s Winter Workshop series and was developed in collaboration with the Unlabeled Theatre Company in Minneapolis. Unlabeled Theatre was founded in 2023 by Chris Moquist as a nonprofit theatre for neurodivergent adults. Moquist’s daughter, Ailee, is a student in Northwestern’s NEXT program and was a cast member in the college’s fall production of “Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical.”
As the company’s website explains, people with disabilities live with a lot of labels—labels that often focus on what a person can’t do rather than what they can do. The collaboration between Unlabeled Theatre and Northwestern, Schmidt explains, aligns with one of his goals for the Winter Workshop.
“We like to plan our Winter Workshop show around opportunities to give our voice away,” he says. “So how can we not just entertain but help foster goodness and joy and love in our society and culture?”
Moquist contacted Ann Morrison, a Broadway actress originally from Sioux City who was in the first production of “Merrily We Roll Along” by Stephen Sondheim, the American musical composer and lyricist. Morrison founded Kaleidoscope, a theatre program that serves individuals with special needs in Sarasota, Florida. She worked with Northwestern NEXT students via Zoom for several weeks and then spent three days on campus during the fall semester, helping them learn how to write their stories. She also conducted mock Broadway auditions for the college’s theatre students.
Each of the nine students in Northwestern’s NEXT program wrote a monologue that they finalized and will present with their theatre student acting partner. The monologues are embedded into the script for “Even Though I Know,” which Schmidt wrote with his theatre students. The play tells the story of a young woman recently hired by a company as its diversity officer. “She messes up, however, and unintentionally says something that’s insensitive,” Schmidt says. “The question is, ‘How do you respond when you have caused pain, hurt and exclusion in a way that brings people together rather than causes further division?”
Schmidt says it’s exciting to see students find their voice, including one NEXT student who was told he would never be able to finish high school, much less go to college. “And then to watch him grab the microphone off the stand, walk forward, and say, ‘Look at me now,’” Schmidt recalls. “It’s just really beautiful. They’re proud of the journey and delighted in what the NEXT program is doing to provide them with an experience they thought they would never have.”
Tickets for “Even Though I Know” are $10 for adults and $5 for students and go on sale Feb. 7. They can be reserved at nwciowa.edu/tickets, by calling the box office at 712-707-7098, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.