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Dr Kay Hepplewhite

Senior Lecturer in Performance

Department: Arts

Kay is a senior lecturer teaching performance, applied theatre and drama. She is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Research includes investigating the expertise of applied theatre practitioners who work in participatory and community contexts. A participatory research method of reflective dialogues utilises video recordings to support reflective conversation with artists about the detailed in-action decisions made within the practice. In the reflective dialogues, practitioners debate the detail of their work within a context of wider philosophies and aims for the work.

A recent research collaboration involved working with Graeae Theatre Company’s Artistic Director Jenny Sealey on an international collaboration for performance of In Touch at National Theatre's Dorfman venue, 2017. (See chapter in Sealey, J. 2018 Reasons to Be Graeae, London: Oberon Books)

Kay co-convened the industry/research collaboration symposium, Future of Fringe in Newcastle/Gateshead, at Northumbria University, February 2015

Kay has supported student research projects, including Out of Her System, a verbatim performance about girls and education selected for GiFTed (Gateshead International Festival of Theatre). She directed Abraham and Isaac for York Mystery Cycle of plays, which tour the city streets on wagons.

Before joining Northumbria University October 2013, Kay was a Senior Lecturer at York St John University for BA Theatre and MA Applied Theatre. There, she was a CETL Research Fellow with the C4C Collaborating for Creativity project and established Alchemists at Work, a forum for exchange between researchers, artists and scholars in applied theatre.

Kay has directed youth performance commissions for Sage Gateshead, Northern Stage, and Northern TUC Youth Forum. She worked as a performer, devisor and workshop leader in Community Theatre, Theatre in Education and in youth work settings before becoming a lecturer.

Kay is currently co-director of The Guild of Lillians production company.

0191 227 4091


PhD Drama, Manchester University

Higher Education Academy Fellow Reference PR055864

MA Theatre and Performance Practice

Cert. Ed. University of Sunderland

BA Creative Arts Drama with Dance

Research Themes and Scholarly Interests

Applied theatre practice, participatory approaches to drama and theatre, community theatre, youth arts, women’s performance, theatre making and performance skills, theatre in context.

Sponsors and Collaborators

Theatre and Performance Research Association, Applied and Social Theatre Working Group.

Key Publications

Hepplewhite, K. (2013) ‘Here's One I Made Earlier: dialogues on the construction of an applied theatre practitioner’, Theatre, Dance and Performance Training, 4 (1), pp. 52-72.

Hepplewhite, K.  (2014) ‘Here's another nice mess: using video in reflective dialogue research method’, Research in Drama Education: Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, 19 (3) pp. 326-335.

Hepplewhite, K. (2015) 'The applied theatre practitioner as dialogic hero', Research in Drama Education: Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, 20 (2) pp. 182-185.

Hepplewhite, K. (2016) ‘More than a sum of parts?  Responsivity and Respond-ability in Applied Theatre Practitioner Expertise' in Preston, S. (ed.) Applied Theatre: Facilitation. London: Bloomsbury Methuen Drama.

Hepplewhite, K. (2017) ‘Responsivity in Applied Theatre Practitioner Expertise: Introducing Identifying Patterns and Names’, Arts Praxis Journal, 4 (1) pp. 1-13. New York: Steinhart New York University.

Hepplewhite, E. K. (2017) Opening the Space: Investigating responsivity in the expertise of applied theatre practitioners. PhD thesis. University of Manchester. Available at:

Hepplewhite, K. (forthcoming 26/4/18) ‘Acts of Translation—In Touch’ in Sealey, J. (2018) Reasons to be Graeae: A work in progress, London: Oberon Books, pp. 352-356.

Hepplewhite, K. (forthcoming 19/4/18) ‘In their shoes: participation, social change and empathy in Open Clasp’s Key Change’ in C. McAvinchey (ed.) Applied Theatre: Women and the Criminal Justice System. London: Bloomsbury Methuen Drama.

Hepplewhite, K. (2019 forthcoming) ‘Inter-generational practitioners and artist development through empathetic response’, RiDE: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance themed issue on Theatre, Dementia Rationality (24, 1. February 2019)


Conference papers

Quintessence of Dust, Theatre and Performance Research Association (TaPRA), Applied and Social Theatre working group, Queens University Belfast 2018

Re/generation of/through young applied theatre practitioners, TaPRA, University of Salford 2017

Responsivity in applied theatre artists, Forum on Educational Theatre, NYU Steinhardt University New York USA 2016

Reflective Dialogues and the Identity of Applied Theatre and Performance Practitioners, Performance and Identity Research Group, Northumbria University 2015

Interconnectedness and reflective dialogues, TaPRA, Glasgow University 2013

Holding out for a hero, TaPRA Interim, Central School of Speech and Drama London 2013

Constructing an Applied Theatre Practitioner, Psi Performance Studies International conference, University of Leeds 2012

Re-source: The applied theatre practitioner – an update, TaPRA Kingston University 2011

How do they do it? The performance of the ‘—‘ in applied theatre, TaPRA Cardiff University 2010

York Guilds Mystery Play conference 2009

Feminism and Popular Culture conference, University of Newcastle 2007

Women Writing for Performance Symposium, University of Lancaster 2006

Women Playwrights International conference, Manila Philippines 2003


Invited Presentations

Opening the Space: Naming Responsivity in the Expertise of Applied Theatre Practitioners, Art and Social Engagement: Challenges and Opportunities conference, Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre & Lithuanian Theatre and Cinema Information and Education Centre, Vilnius, Lithuania 2017

Creative Feminist Action, Festival of Feminist Ideas and Action, Newcastle 2015

Training for Artists in Participatory Settings, AWNE ArtWorks Initiative Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Sage Gateshead 2014

Perspectives on teaching learning socially engaged practice, Teaching Socially Engaged Practice conference, Central School of Speech and Drama, London 2013

Convener for symposia

Future of Fringe in Newcastle/Gateshead, NPA at Northumbria University, February 2015

Alchemists at Work, York St John University, June 2012


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