Skip to main content

Associate Artistic Director, Conservatory Theatre Company

Sheila McKenna

Contact Information


  • M.F.A., Performance Pedagogy, University of Pittsburgh
  • B.F.A., Acting, Point Park University

Courses Taught

  • Acting
  • Dialects and Accents
  • Directing
  • Improvisation
  • Experimental Theatre
  • Voice and Speech


Sheila McKenna works regularly as an actress and a director. She has played a broad variety of roles, including classical ("Fool" in King Lear, The REP), modern ("May" in Footfalls, BeckettFest), and contemporary ("Vermandero" in Dog Face, Quantum Theatre/Festival D'Otono, Madrid). She has originated roles in plays by Christopher Durang (Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge), Michele Lowe (String of Pearls, Mezzulah, 1946), and Tammy Ryan (In the Shape of a Woman), among others. A frequent collaborator of Ryan's, McKenna has directed the world premieres of her plays Baby's Blues, The Gift of the Pirate Queen and FBI Girl. Her work directing Ryan's Lost Boy Found in Whole Foods was cited by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as one of the 'Best' of Pittsburgh theatre directors in 2011.

McKenna has directed seven productions for Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre (including Synge's Riders to the Sea and Pinter's The Room), several of which have been noted in the Post-Gazette's 'Best of Theatre' annual lists. Her directing work for the Conservatory of Performing Arts includes Top Girls, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, and Cloud 9, and she has directed numerous productions for young audiences with both Playhouse Jr. and City Theatre's Young Playwrights Festival.

McKenna often collaborates with André Koslowski, artistic director of Pennsylvania Dance Theatre, exploring experimental dance-theatre. In 2009 they co-directed The Queens for The REP. As a regular guest artist with PDT, McKenna most recently performed in Koslowski's por la blanda arena at ArtsFest in State College, Pa., and the New Moves dance festival at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theatre in Pittsburgh.

Among memorable collaborations, she has played opposite Fred Rogers (Mr. Roger's Neighborhood), Tyne Daly (Stuck With Each Other) and a mailbox (Kimberly Akimbo). She is half of a drag music-comedy act, The Muthers Brothers (with writer Elena Passarello), and her film work includes Homemakers, Alone in the Neon Jungle and Achilles' Love. She has written two short plays, Wanted and Hum, both produced by the Women's Work Festival.

Professional Memberships

  • Actor's Equity Association
  • American Federation of Television and Radio Artists
  • Screen Actor's Guild

Selected Performances

  • Midnight Radio, Bricolage Theatre Company
  • 'por la blanda arena,' Pennsylvania Dance Theatre
  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, City Theatre
  • Murderers, City Theatre
  • The Underpants, City Theatre
  • Twelfth Night, Quantum Theatre Company
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream, Quantum Theatre Company
  • Dog Face, Quantum Theatre Company/Festival D'Otono, Madrid
  • Henry IV, Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre
  • Travesties, Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre
  • Footfalls, Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre
  • King Lear, The REP
  • The Vertical Hour, The REP
  • Kimberly Akimbo, The REP
  • The Third Lie, The REP

Selected Artistic Works

  • Lost Boy Found at Whole Foods, Director, The REP
  • South Side Stories, Dialect Coach, City Theatre
  • Pig, Director, The REP
  • Anton in Show Business, Director, The REP
  • El Paso Blue, Director, Quantum Theatre
  • The Room, Director, Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre, Pinter Celebration
  • Riders to the Sea, The Shadow of the Glen, Director, Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre
  • Wilde Tales (world premiere), Director, Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre
  • Pinocchio, Director, Playhouse Jr.
  • Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp, Director, Playhouse Jr.
  • Come and Go, What Where, and the staged reading of Happy Days, Director, BeckettFest
  • Top Girls, Director, Conservatory Theatre Company
  • Warrior, Director, Conservatory Theatre Company
  • The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Director, Conservatory Theatre Company
  • Cloud Nine, Director, Conservatory Theatre Company
  • The Lonesome West, Dialect coach, The REP

Research Interests

  • Shakespeare: the canon, history, language/poetry, verse, physical acting approaches.
  • Dialects, accents and speech, including a specialty in the dialect 'Pittsburghese.'
  • Academic structures and tools for optimal student learning, including creating assessment tools for theatre techniques studies.
  • Directing for the theatre, including experimental and devised work.
  • Dance theatre in the European tradition.

Selected Awards

  • Outstanding Alumni Award, Point Park University, 2007
  • Performer of the Year, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2005