Skip navigation

Dr Kay Hepplewhite

Assistant Professor

Department: Arts

Dr Kay Hepplewhite has been a Senior Lecturer at Northumbria University since 2013 and is a Senior Fellow of Higher Education Academy. She teaches in the subject area of theatre and performance at all levels, supervising PhD researchers. She is a co-convenor of the Theatre and Performance Research Association, Applied and Social Theatre Working Group. Her PhD was awarded from University of Manchester in 2017.

Her monograph The Applied Theatre Artist: Responsivity and Expertise in Practice was published by Palgrave 2020.  As a researcher of applied theatre, Hepplewhite makes connections between the contexts of academic research and theatre makers who engage with communities and participatory performance. Publication includes RiDE Journal of Applied Theatre, Theatre, Dance and Performance Training, PRAXIS (NYU) and chapters in the Bloomsbury Applied Theatre edited book series.

She has a background in performing and making theatre that responds to political and social issues. Recent creative collaborations include projects in community, health and education contexts including schools and care homes.

Kay Hepplewhite

My investigations of applied theatre and performance connect academic research with theatre companies and artists who operate in community engaged, participatory practices, seeking to inform understanding and development of socially engaged work. I created a proposal of responsivity as a way to articulate the expertise of applied practitioners, providing a vocabulary for their specialist blend of artistic, social and relational skills and qualities. I designed reflective dialogue research methods for collaborative, participatory analysis, reflecting values and objectives of the work. Current concerns with co-creative collaborative practices are addressed with an investigation of applied theatre methods. My research aims to inform practitioner development and training as well as applied theatre pedagogies.

I have a background in making theatre that responds to political issues and social contexts, as an actor and workshop leader in community and youth theatre and Theatre in Education. I have continued to work with community groups in creative collaborations and performances, including schools and care homes, Hancock Museum, York City Archive and Mystery Plays, and Equal Arts Creative Friends intergenerational exchange. Out of Her System, a verbatim performance about girls and education selected for GiFTed at Gateshead International Festival of Theatre. A project with Graeae Theatre Company’s Artistic Director Jenny Sealey explored UK/Russian co-production with D/deafblind actors In Touch at National Theatre's Dorfman venue (see chapter in Sealey, J. 2018, Reasons to Be Graeae, Oberon Books).

Symposia organisation includes:

Do Young People Really Need Drama?  Northern Stage/Northumbria University 2015,

Future of Fringe in Newcastle/Gateshead, an industry/research collaboration symposium with AHRC funding at Northumbria University 2015

Alchemists at Work conference at York St John University 2012.

Invitations to present include:

The Applied Theatre Artist: Responsivity and Expertise in Practice: research using new framework of responsivity to look at the work of applied theatre practitioners. University of Portsmouth Seminar Series 2021.

Opening the Space: Naming Responsivity in the Expertise of Applied Theatre Practitioners, Art and Social Engagement conference, Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre, Vilnius, Lithuania 2017

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


  • Please visit the Pure Research Information Portal for further information
  • Curious About Theatre: Finding the human connection in a digital learning project collaboration with Curious Monkey Theatre Company for applied theatre university students, Hepplewhite, K. 2022, In: Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance
  • In their shoes: participation, social change and empathy in Open Clasp's Key Change, Hepplewhite, K. 6 Feb 2020, Applied theatre, London, Bloomsbury
  • The Applied Theatre Artist: Responsivity and Expertise in Practice, Hepplewhite, (. 30 Jul 2020
  • Encouraging selfishness in applied theatre students – surprises arising from a community project., Hepplewhite, K. 29 Mar 2019
  • How young artist/facilitators use their unsettled identity to develop creative ageing practice, Hepplewhite, K. Jan 2019, In: Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance
  • ‘Acts of Translation: In Touch’ in Sealey, J. Reasons to Be Graeae London: Oberon Books., Hepplewhite, E. 1 Jan 2018, Reasons to Be Graeae , London, Oberon Books
  • Responsivity in Applied Theatre Practitioner Expertise: Introducing Identifying Patterns and Names, Hepplewhite, K. 1 Mar 2017, In: ARTSPRAXIS
  • More than a Sum of Parts? Responsivity and Respond-ability in Applied Theatre Practitioner Expertise, Hepplewhite, K. 15 Sep 2016, Facilitation, London, Bloomsbury
  • The applied theatre practitioner as dialogic hero, Hepplewhite, K. 3 Apr 2015, In: Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance
  • Here's another nice mess: using video in reflective dialogue research method, Hepplewhite, K. 30 Sep 2014, In: Research in Drama Education: Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance

  • Sarah Kemp Pushing the Boundaries: An exploration of the impact of actor training, based on the practices of Philippe Gaulier and Monika Pagneux, on the creativity, health and wellbeing of older people Start Date: 01/06/2021 End Date: 25/11/2022
  • Sarah Kemp Pushing the Boundaries: An exploration of the impact of actor training, based on the practices of Philippe Gaulier and Monika Pagneux, on the creativity, health and wellbeing of older people Start Date: 01/06/2021 End Date: 01/07/2021
  • Rebecca Mather Singing-Stories of Seeking and Sanctuary: An interdisciplinary artistic investigation into co-creative singing-youth-theatre practice with communities whose membership includes young people seeking asylum, those with lived refugee experience or migration histories as well as their indigenous peers (RMIC). Start Date: 01/10/2019

  • Drama PhD September 01 2017
  • Theatre and Performance Practice MA January 01 2014
  • CertEd June 01 1992
  • Senior Fellow Higher Education Academy SFHEA 2021
  • Higher Education Academy Fellow, Reference PR055864 2013

a sign in front of a crowd

Northumbria Open Days

Open Days are a great way for you to get a feel of the University, the city of Newcastle upon Tyne and the course(s) you are interested in.

Research at Northumbria

Research at Northumbria

Research is the life blood of a University and at Northumbria University we pride ourselves on research that makes a difference; research that has application and affects people's lives.

NU World

Explore NU World

Find out what life here is all about. From studying to socialising, term time to downtime, we’ve got it covered.

Latest News and Features

AHRC banner, showing different people involved doing different activites.
Relief workers walking through rubble in the aftermath of a storm in North Africa.
£1 million funding award supports leading new medical research at Northumbria University
a photo of monsoon rain in a mountainous location
Norman Franklin and Dr Jane Greaves in the OSCE test centre at Northumbria University
Generic Image from Unsplash. Gothic style university library.
More news
More events

Upcoming events

Postgraduate Design Degree Exhibition
Some prickly Predicaments in Sonification
The Quorn Story

Back to top