Dr. Petronilla Whitfield’s professional output

Dyspraxia, Dyslexia and Actor-Training – Interacting with Shakespeare’s text through a dyslexic perspective; interpretive mnemonics as a pedagogical strategy for facilitation of dyslexia in actor-training

Symposium – Published 29th Apr 17


How might actor-trainers meet the needs of student-actors with dyslexia, especially when interacting with Shakespeare’s text? As a teacher of Voice and Acting, I regularly encounter acting students with dyslexia who experience difficulties working within the confines of traditional teaching methods when engaging with the written text. For those with dyslexia, Shakespeare’s writing contributes additional challenges, with idiosyncrasies of word-use and mixed significations of meanings.   In this presentation, I will give an overview of my (concluded) PhD research investigation into some dyslexic acting students’ rationale for devising visual constructs as parallel texts. I will offer some ideas for practical teaching strategies, which can by-pass the blocks caused by dyslexia. I will report on some of my case-study/action-research trials with the participants; 12 2nd year Acting degree students assessed as dyslexic, during their work on the Shakespeare Acting unit. I will discuss the challenges caused by dyslexia; how dyslexia can inhibit self-identity, ability and creative contributions, and how teachers might enable the individual through adaptation of teaching practices. The presentation will focus on the participants’ deviation from traditional acting processes wherein the written text is the singular source, into the utilisation of drawing, PowerPoint image-slides and choreographed physical actions, sharing examples, and analysis of their differing functions. Finally, I will question where the educator’s role as the enabler, in promoting a sense of self- autonomy in their students, might diverge from the role of the vocational trainer for the professional world.