Tawnya Pettiford-Wates, Ph.D.

Professor - Graduate Pedagogy, Acting and Directing

Department of Theatre

Tawnya Pettiford-Wates, Ph.D. Professor of Graduate Pedagogy in Acting and Directing at Virginia Commonwealth University, received her education from the Central School of Drama, Speech and Film in London, England, Carnegie-Mellon University and the Union Institute. Prior to joining the faculty at VCU, she taught at Cornish College for the Arts, the University of Washington and was head of the Drama Department at Seattle Central College.

Dr. Pettiford-Wates is the artistic director and founder of The Conciliation Project, a non-profit social justice theatre company whose mission is “To promote through active and challenging dramatic work open and honest dialogue about racism and systems of oppression in America in order to repair its damaging legacy.”  www.theconciliationproject.org .

Dr. T is a playwright, director, actor, poet, writer/scholar-activist and teacher. She has appeared with the Tony Award Winning company of the New York Shakespeare Festival’s Broadway production of “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the rainbow is enuf”​ performing in both the national and international touring companies.  Her television, film, industrial, voice over and commercial credits are extensive. As a performer, her most favorite film and television credits include “Life or SomethingLike It”​ with Angelina Jolie, David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks”​ and “Twice in a Lifetime”​ with Gene Hackman. She was a featured performer in “Under One Roof” ​   ​with James Earl Jones and the ABC television remake of “The Fugitive”​ with Tim Daly. Her voiceover credits include the X-Box video game Halo and the online voice for Duke’s Mayonnaise.

Dr. Pettiford-Wates’ continuing scholarship includes exploration into The Color Line: Race, Color, and Place, an evolving project and community collaboration with Drums No Guns, Inc. and The Conciliation Project. Along with other artists/activists she has traveled to Bahia- Salvador Brazil and South Africa to develop curriculum and applied theatre practices with local artists and educators for the purpose of inspiring community engagement and empowerment using theatre as a tool for social change and social justice initiatives. The Conciliation Project has traveled both nationally and internationally to work with diverse communities in addressing difficult issues of institutional bias and systemic oppression. Pettiford-Wates and members of The Conciliation Project were invited to perform “uncle tom:​  de-constructed”​, the company’s signature play at The International Fringe Festival in Edinburgh. The company and the play received 4 and 5-star reviews and were nominated for the Humanitarian Award by Amnesty International. Dr. Pettiford-Wates was Visiting Professor in the Drama and Performance Studies Department at the University of KwaZulu Natal Howard College in South Africa. Teaching and researching in Durban’s KwaZulu Natal region, Dr.T, and the student/artists collectively collaborated on a new work titled “The Space n’ B’Tween”​​, a ritual play that was performed to critical acclaim at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre in Durban, South Africa.

Selected professional directing credits include “Fences”​ by August Wilson and “A Raisin in the Sun”​ by Lorainne Hansberry produced by the Virginia Rep, “An Octoroon”​ by Branden Jacobs- Jenkins and “Dry Land”​ ​ by Ruby Rae Spiegel at Theatre Lab, “Passing Strange”​ by Stew and Heidi Rodewald at Firehouse Theatre, and “TheTop of Bravery” ​by Jeremy V. Morris produced by Quill Theatre and African American Repertory Theatre. Selected academic directing credits include; ​“Eclipsed” by Danai Gurira, ​“The Colored Museum”​ by George C Wolf, and ​“For Colored Girls…” ​by Ntozake Shange, and ​“Les Liaisons Dangereuses” ​by Christopher Hampton.

Dr. Pettiford-Wates is published in a collection of essays, from a diverse group of scholars, promoting the exploration of new methodologies that embrace and acknowledge the influence of culture and race on learning communities and academic space. ​“Engaging Rites of Passage in Performative Text: Using Ritual Poetic Drama as An Applied Theater Practice”​ is included in ​Multiethnic American Literatures: Essays for Teaching Context and Culture​, edited by Helane Adams Androne published in 2015. ​“Ritual Poetic Drama within the African Continuum: the journey from Shakespeare to Shange” ​is included in an anthology titled ​Black Acting Methods: Critical Approaches​ edited by Sharrell D. Luckett and Tia M. Shaffer published by Routledge, New York and can be purchased on Amazon. And her newest essay titled “The Conciliation Project as a Social Experiment: Behind the Mask of uncle tomism and the Performance of Blackness” ​published in African American Arts:​  Activism, Aesthetics, and Futurity, published in 2019​ by Bucknell University Press. She was awarded The Style Weekly Women in the Arts​ award for 2015 and continues to write a weekly column for Urban Views Weekly and is a featured contributing opinion writer for The Cheats Movement.