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Dr Petronilla Whitfield

Associate Professor - Voice & Acting – Acting

Associate Professor, PhD in Arts Education (Warwick University), Senior Fellow of The Higher Education Academy, Supervising Research Degrees (SEDA ) University of the Arts London, Masters Degree in Voice Studies (Royal Central School of Speech & Drama), Drama Diploma (Arts Educational) , Postgraduate Certificate in Education, Certificate for Teaching English to Adults (CELTA)

Petronilla trained as an actress at Arts Educational Schools and was a professional actress for over twenty years. She began her acting career at The Space Theatre in South Africa, and then joined the acting company at the Young Vic Theatre in London.

Petronilla was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, a member of the Peter Hall Company, played in ‘School for Scandal’ at the Theatre Royal Haymarket directed by John Barton. She played Lady Macbeth at the Oxford Arts Centre. Petronilla has also worked at Greenwich Theatre, Bristol Old Vic, Crucible Theatre, York Theatre Royal, Manchester Forum Theatre, Edinburgh’s Lyceum. She toured internationally with Ken Campbell and Brian Aldiss in ‘Science Fiction Blues’ . On television, she played Galina in ‘Grusko’ ( BBC),’ Urban Jungle’ (BBC), ‘Murder Unearthed’ (BBC) ‘Terry and Julian’, (Channel 4) ‘The Harry Enfield Show’, (Hat Trick Productions). In 2001, Petronilla gained a Master’s Degree in Voice Studies at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, and a PhD in Arts Education from Warwick University (2015). She has taught at Mountview Theatre Academy, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and East 15 Acting School, Bath Spa University, Bristol University and University of the West of England.

Petronilla has taught Voice and Acting at the AUB since 2006. Teaching Award: In 2017,Petronilla was awarded the Excellence in Teaching Award for her work in supporting dyslexic acting students. University Orator: Petronilla is the University Orator, delivering the speeches at the Graduation Ceremonies since 2014, and at the Ceremony for the Installation of Professor Sir Christopher Frayling at the Arts University in 2014. Petronilla serves on the editorial board for the Journal of Applied Arts and Health (JAAH) and the AUB Creative Pedagogies on-line journal.

Dr Whitfield is interested in receiving applications from PhD students who wish to explore: the pedagogy of Actor Training and Voice Studies; the reading and acting of Shakespeare’s text; dyslexia and specific learning differences in actor training environments; embodied cognition and the creation of meaning in the text; how we read; multisensory processing in teaching, learning and inhabiting the text; Acting and Voice methods; action research as an emancipatory path for student and teacher; story-telling as performance; multi-cultural voices and authentic expression; the trans-mediation of reading and acting through new technologies, as a pedagogical support or dimensions of live performance.

Having been a professional actress for over twenty years I have a specialism in Acting and Performance. Having completed a PhD on the subjects of actor training in Shakespeare and dyslexia, I have gained extensive knowledge in those areas. I have a particular interest in the scholarship of learning and teaching in actor training, especially in the support of acting students with dyslexia.

I have an expertise in Shakespeare, and the acting and teaching of Shakespeare, which has been built over many years. I was a professional actress with the Royal Shakespeare Company for two years, working with the leading directors, voice coaches and actors, taught by Royal Shakespeare practitioners during my Voice MA at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.

I have a specialism in Voice training, possessing an MA in Voice Studies from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. I teach voice production and development, articulation, phonetics, accent study, communication and presentation technique, and expressive voice.

I have taught audition techniques and acting pieces for several years at the AUB and East 15 and Central School of Speech and Drama I teach the academic writing and research for Professional Contexts unit.

I have also taught Psychological Realism and Contemporary theatre acting units at the Arts University, and at Bath Spa University and The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. I also have the role of university orator and deliver the speeches at Graduation ceremonies and other important events.

  • British Dysleixa Association (2016–2017)
  • Brisitsh Educational Research Association (2016–2019)
  • Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • Member of the International Centre for Voice, a research and knowledge centre based at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (London University)
  • British Shakespeare Association
  • Theatre and Performance Research Association (TaPRA)

  • The Johnny Saldaña Outstanding Professor of Theatre Education Award from The American Alliance for Theatre and Education (2020)
  • The AUBRIETA Award - Recognition for Innovation and Excellence in Teaching Award 2018 (2018)
  • AUB Research Fellowship to write my monograph (2018)
  • Learning and Teaching Award of £3,000 (2009)

  • Learning and Teaching Award. for creating my computer tool 'Sensing Shakespeare'. Awarded a ‘Teaching and Learning Development Award’ of £3,000 from the Arts University College to develop an interactive media tool for dyslexic actors in Shakespearean acting (2009)
  • Award of £4,000 plus financial assistance from the British Actors' Equity Union for my MA in Voice Studies at Central School of Speech and Drama. This grant is only given to those with 10 years experience as a professional actor. (2000)

  • Dyslexia and actor training
  • Scholarship of Learning and Teaching in actor training, drawing from diverse philosophies of education, making strategies explicit
  • Constructivism in teaching, reading and acting
  • Shakespeare and the acting of Shakespeare The technical structure of Shakespeare’s writing, expressed through the voice, body and speech
  • The use of Stanislavski’s Actions, Michael Chekov’s Psychological Gesture
  • Research methodologies such as action research, case study, practice as research
  • Embodied comprehension of the text
  • Making meaning through gesture and drawing, drawing as thinking and as an acting methodology
  • Interpretive mnemonics
  • The transactional construction of meaning between reader, text and author
  • Storytelling – narrative techniques in performance

I am currently supervising a PhD student investigating the pedagogical value of live art in schools