VCUarts Theatre

Tawnya Pettiford-Wates, PhD

TCM cast & crew

The cast & crew of the Theatre VCU 2012 production of The Colored Museum directed by Dr. Tawnya Pettiford-Wates

Tawnya Pettiford-Wates received her degrees and certificates from Central School of Drama, Speech and Film in London, England, Carnegie-Mellon University and the Union Institute.

Prior to joining the faculty of Virginia Commonwealth University Theatre Department, she taught at Cornish College for the Arts, the University of Washington and was head of the Drama Department of Seattle Central Community College. Dr. Pettiford-Wates is the artistic director and conceptualist for 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 race, institutional bias and systemic oppression in America in order to repair its damaging legacy.”


Dr. T is a playwright, director, actor, poet, writer and teacher. She has appeared with the Tony Award Winning company of the New York Shakespeare Festival’s 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, directing and performing at most of the major theatres in Seattle where she spent 23 years before accepting a position at VCU. A Street Car Named Desire and The Grapes of Wrath for the Firehouse and the former Barksdale Theatre respectively are the favorite productions Pettiford-Wates has directed in RVA. She includes “Dangerous Liaisons” with several other productions for Theatre/VCU including “For Colored Girls…” and “The Colored Museum” as well.


unctomAs a performer, her most favorite film and television credits include “Life or Something Like It” with Angelina Jolie, David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks”, and “Twice in a Life Time” with Gene Hackman. She was featured performer on “Under One Roof” with James Earl Jones and the ABC television series re-make of “The Fugitive” with Tim Daly. She is featured voice talent on the inaugural X-Box video game HALO as well as several video card games by Hoyle and the voice of Duke’s Mayonnaise. Currently her work focuses on an Applied Theatre model with her Richmond-based theatre company, The Conciliation Project (TCP). Among other projects, the company is engaged in collaborative programing for youth with Richmond-based arts organizations ART 180 and the Firehouse Theatre creating topical performance pieces targeting social justice issues for ART 180 and The ABC -anti-bullying coalition with Firehouse. The Conciliation Project (TCP) has been awarded a substantial grant from the QUEST for Distinction Fund to support its advocacy, community engagement and social justice work. TCP was honored to be nominated for a Social Justice Award by Amnesty International when it performed the company’s seminal work “uncle tom: de-constructed” at The FRINGE in Edinburgh, Scotland in 2011. “uncle tom: de-constructed” was invited to the Washington, D.C. Fringe Arts Festival last year performing to critical acclaim at the Atlas Performing Arts Center. Dr. Pettiford-Wates was honored to receive The Style Weekly 2015 Women in the Arts Award and continues to work as a performing artist touring with her one woman show Nappy Edges: a choreopoem.


Recent publications include her weekly column in Urban Views Weekly and as a contributing author in Multicultural American Literatures: Essays for Teaching Context and Culture, edited by Helane Adams- Androne published by McFarland & Co. 2015. Due out in early next year is “Shakespeare to Shange: The Significance of Culture and Color in the Study of the Dramatic Form”, included in an anthology titled Black Acting Methods being published by Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.

Although she enjoys creating “new works,” her repertoire includes everything from Classical African before the Greeks to the Contemporary Spoken Word. Dr. Tawnya Pettiford-Wates recently returned from a sabbatical where she taught at the University of KwaZulu Natal in Durban South Africa. She continues to work on a book The Spirit of the Process” which interrogates “professional training institutions” for theatre artists and the exploration of new methodologies that embrace the influence of culture and race on the contemporary arts community.