University of Calgary

Dawn McCaugherty

  • Associate Professor Emerita - School of Creative and Performing Arts

Currently Teaching

Not currently teaching any courses.


Dawn McCaugherty (MFA York University; BEd University of Lethbridge; BFA University of Victoria) is an associate professor of Drama in the School of Creative and Performing Arts. Prior to arriving at the University of Calgary in 2001, she was on faculty at York University and at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

She has worked professionally as an actor and director in productions throughout Canada, the U.S. and Great Britain, and was the founding artistic director of Shakespeare in the Rough (recently reborn as Shakespeare in the Ruff) in Toronto. She has also acted as director, collaborative deviser and dramaturg for several plays in development, including her one-woman show War Brides. She is a member of Canadian Actors’ Equity Association.

In 1986, Dawn began studying voice for the theatre with David Smukler. This remains a primary area of her research and practice. In 2000, she joined the core faculty of Canada’s National Voice Intensive, a research institute dedicated to the examination of the human voice as the primary channel for communication in the performer-audience relationship (not limited solely to theatre). She has participated annually in this five-week intensive, exploring and developing creative and pedagogical skills. In Calgary, she maintains a small private practice coaching voice and dialect for performers and others interested in expanding effectiveness in vocal communication and expression. She is a long time member of VASTA (Voice and Speech Trainers Association), a focus group of ATHE (Association for Theatre in Higher Education).

Since 2004, she has been a member of the Consortium for Peace Studies (CPS) at the University of Calgary. Through CPS she established an annual national playwriting competition, serving as its director. Initially known as the PeacePlay competition, in 2009 she led CPS in forming a successful partnership with Downstage Theatre to offer the winning playwright a two day workshop with professional actors and director/dramaturgs, renaming the competition the Uprising National Playwriting Competition.

Since 2008, Dawn has been the faculty advisor for Sexxxy, a role entrusted to her by colleague Kathleen Foreman. Created by and for students, and presented to freshmen at the beginning of the academic year, this hour long theatrical piece follows the journeys of four first years as they encounter the challenges and joys of academic life, including time management, stress, substance abuse issues, effective communication and on-campus resources.

Dawn currently serves as artistic director for Drama’s mainstage season of plays.


My research lies in the area of creative practice: directing, acting, the performer’s voice and actor coaching in voice, text and acting.

I am endlessly intrigued by the interplay of voice, language, image and imagination and the myriad ways this manifests in communication and performance. As a linguaphile, I am particularly drawn by the challenge and pleasure of text based theatre. I have worked extensively with the classics, particularly Shakespeare and the Greeks, as well as texts across the centuries, new work, performance creation and theatre for young audiences. Every script, and each character, offers unique opportunities to explore the intricacies of the expression of the human experience through rhetoric and argument, with various degrees of precision and effectiveness.

The natural extension of this study is realized in my research through the voice work, as an actor, voice teacher and coach. Annually since 2000, I have participated as a member of the core faculty of the National Voice Intensive. This unique institute is dedicated to exploring the ever-shifting relationship of the body, the voice, the image and the text, and to refining the link between thought, breath, word and intention. Established 30 years ago by David Smukler (York University), the Intensive has provided the core group of senior faculty, most of whom have been involved with the Intensive for all or most of that time, the opportunity to test, evolve and refine creative, teaching and self-development practices and techniques. Each serving as principle investigator, the faculty facilitate explorations by means of a system of principles and practices that have evolved through each individual’s study and experiences. As a consequence, the Intensive serves not only as a research laboratory for all faculty and participants, but also as the means of disseminating the research. Collaboration amongst colleagues to this scale for such a length of time is rare and of inestimable value.

More recently, I have become interested in applying principles of ‘formless form’ and butoh-inspired physical explorations of image in the development of character and relationship following participation in a two-week Butoh workshop with Denise Fujiwara and Gerry Trentham in Toronto during a sabbatical research leave in 2012. Utilizing these approaches during rehearsals of Measure for Measure offered significant and provocative outcomes and I look forward to further investigations in this area. 

Click here for a list of my research.


At the undergraduate level, I teach voice for the theatre to the second, third and fourth year acting classes. I also teach the advanced directing class. In previous years I have taught acting at the first, second and third year level. At the graduate level, I teach directing. I have been supervisor of many MFA Directing students to successful completion. I have also taught a variety of directed studies classes to both graduates and undergraduates. I view teaching as a calling and it brings me great joy and satisfaction, though not necessarily content, as it is at times problematic. I view the seeking of questions as equally if not more important than the discovery of ‘answers’. In the studio, both teacher and students are learners, simply at different points along the journey. The studio and rehearsal hall are our laboratory where, impelled by curiosity and the thrill of discovery, we engage in creative investigation not knowing where we will arrive until we find our way through process. The journey requires courage and commitment, and I believe it is important to engage with rigor in each step of the venture, developing excellence in skill and technique while nurturing the creative spark. My intention is to facilitate so that each student may discover his own creative voice and acquire the tools and experience required to fulfill her individual goals and dreams.


Powered by UNITIS. More features.