Sheila McKenna

  • Chair of Theatre Department, Associate Professor

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.

Education & Training

  • MFA - University of Pittsburgh, 2002
  • BFA - Point Park University, 1984