Alum spotlight: Virginia Fields (BFA ’11)

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Virginia Fields BFA, Performance 2006

Virginia is one of the current members of the Standardized Patient Program at VCU’s medical campus, which has included numerous other theatre grads. They play patients (often with symptoms) who act in simulated encounters with medical students to help them with their interactions.

acting class at VCU

Virginia applied to Theatre VCU because she heard it was a great theatre program and “I grew up in the country near Charlottesville, so I liked being in the middle of the city and surrounded by bunch of other artists.” About her experience, she muses, “It taught me a lot about connecting to yourself and your emotions and using that to connect to other people. As on only child, I grew up entertaining myself and learning to connect was something I took into the professional world and theatre.”

Virginia at VCU commencement

She followed the food service route of so many actors, specifically at the Tobacco Company, where she started as a hostess and moved into management. Virginia has also worked in local film productions, including featured and background work on the PBS series Mercy Street, AMC’s Turn and the biopic Harriett.

Virginia in Mercy Street

Virginia further explains the SSP, “It gives doctors practice in communicating and involving empathy during their physical exams.” After working in the program for a while, the actors grade the medical students on their effectiveness. “One of the biggest issues is that the students are under so much pressure, and sometimes they’ll focus on technique or a checklist. My job is to bring the human element. One of things that makes me enjoy it is that the students are so receptive. It’s fruitful for them and me.”

Virginia (back left) in Harriet

As for being an actor, Virginia explains, “It’s helpful for the acting aspect that I actually had a collapsed lung, so knew how to portray pain and how to use my body as a tool. As an actor, you hope your performance will affect the audience, but this job is a concrete use of my skills as actor. I see that it can help eliminate awkward encounters in the future.”

Header image (clockwise from left): Virginia’s headshot; promotional image from Dracula at Quill Theatre; Love’s Labors Lost at Quill Theatre; The Ballad Of Ruby Vigorosa

Compiled by Liz Hopper (professor emeritus) and Jerry Williams (BFA ’71) for the January 2022 Theatre Alumni newsletter