Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts



First Advisor

Karen Kopryanski

Second Advisor

Dr. Keith Byron Kirk

Third Advisor

Dr. Jesse Njus


Speech training for actors in the United States has a history deeply rooted in prescriptive practices. Many speech trainers have and still do teach from a model that they consider to be the “correct” way to speak. These practices have proven to be quite damaging to students’ emotional and cultural identities, as speech is an inherent part of who we are as individuals. This thesis first examines such speech training pedagogies of the past, specifically the progression of William Tilly’s World English to Edith Skinner’s Good American Speech. Doing so establishes the necessary contextual understanding required to provide an alternative method for actor speech training. I compare the aforementioned pedagogies to Knight-Thompson Speechwork, an organization whose training methodology is focused on exploring the physical actions of speech while honoring each student’s individual identity. After outlining the progression of work that Knight-Thompson Speechwork offers, I provide an example of how I would apply it to a specific coaching session. Lastly, I broaden my scope and explore potential applications of Knight-Thompson Speechwork’s pedagogical practices to issues within professional settings outside of the realm of theatre.


© Harrison Gray Runion

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission


Available for download on Wednesday, May 08, 2024