Dr Catherine McNamara, BA, MA, PGCE, PGCert LTHE, PhD, PFHEA | The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama

Dr Catherine McNamara, BA, MA, PGCE, PGCert LTHE, PhD, PFHEA

Job title

Pro-Dean and Director of Learning, Teaching and Student Experience


An academic from a professional background in Applied Theatre and Drama Education, I am part of Central’s senior leadership team. As Pro-Dean and Director of Learning, Teaching and Student Experience I have academic management oversight of Central’s taught degree programmes. I have a key role in ensuring that students have a high quality experience at the institution, being challenged and thriving as they move towards careers in the creative and cultural sector.

After graduation, I did an MA in Drama and Theatre at Royal Holloway, University of London and a PGCE Drama here at Central. After several years teaching A Level and BTEC theatre and performance courses in Further Education and doing some teaching at Royal Holloway, I joined Central in 2003 as a Lecturer on the PGCE Drama programme. I later became Course Leader of the MA Applied Theatre (Drama in the Community & Drama Education).

A Reader in Applied Theatre, my pedagogic practice and research focuses on gender, particularly trans and/ or non-binary gender identities. In 2006 I was Principal Investigator on the Sci:dentity project, funded by the Wellcome Trust (www.scidentity.com). This was an interdisciplinary initiative drawing from endocrinology (Prof Andrew Levy, Bristol) and sociology (Dr Allison Rooke, Goldsmiths) alongside performance.  It worked with a group of young trans people to investigate the role of scientific discourse in constructing self-image and modes of self-presentation in society.  

My work has included practical research into the benefits of voice workshops for transgender communities, a collaborative play-writing project run in conjunction with Fringe Benefits Theatre Company (Los Angeles, US), which led to a performance and workshop being delivered nationally (2008-2011),  INTERarts, an intergenerational arts project with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer identified people (www.interartsproject.wordpress.com) and more recently the TransActing project, a collaboration between Central, My Genderation and Gendered Intelligence.

I co-founded the Community Interest Company Gendered Intelligence, an organisation that delivers arts programmes and creative workshops with trans and queer-identified people from across the UK as well as running workshops with young people and professionals within schools, colleges, voluntary sector organisations and other settings to generate discussion and debate around gender and the ways in which it presents challenges in everyday life. I am currently Chair of the Board of Directors. 


Research Degrees (MPhil/PhD)

Drama, Applied Theatre and Education, BA

Teaching Areas

  • Gender and queer identities in performance
  • Trans performance practices
  • Theatre and performance practice with young people
  • Using arts practices with LGBTQ community groups
  • Research methods in Practice-Research
  • Documenting queer performance practices

Research Areas

The intersections between queer, (trans)gender, applied theatre and performance. 

PhD Supervision

  • Trans studies and performance
  • LGBTQ identities and arts practices
  • Applied theatre and drama education with young people
  • Performance, identity and risk

Key Publications

Forthcoming 2017. ‘A complex matrix of identities: working intergenerationally with LGBTQ people’ in Minding the Knowledge Gap, edited by Sue Westwood and Andrew King (London: Routledge)

Forthcoming 2017. ‘Methods and approaches for working with trans and/ or non-binary young people in the UK’ in The Handbook of Youth Work Practice edited by Pam Alldred, Fiona Cullen et al (London: SAGE)

2014. C. McNamara and J. Stewart ‘One person’s journey at one school: preventing transgender discrimination’ in Race Equality Teaching: Public Sector Equality Duty Special Issue, Part One, (London: Institute of Education)

2013. S. Busby and C. McNamara, ‘International collaborations: A Theatre for Social Justice project in the UK’, in Staging Social Justice: Collaborating to Create Activist Theatre, eds. N. Bowles and D. Nadon (Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press), pp. 174-185.

2013. Research in Drama Education: the Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance (themed issue): Gender and Sexuality, 18.2, co-edited with Stephen Farrier, (introduction to the issue pp. 111-119)

2011. ‘Using Men’s Changing Rooms When You Haven’t Got a Penis: The constitutive potential of performing transgendered masculinities’, Performing Ethos: International Journal of Ethics in Theatre and Performance, 2.2, pp. 95-107

2011. ‘Applied Theatre: Fleshing out/ bringing into touch the practice of research and research of practice’, in Research Methods in Theatre and Performance, edited by B. Kershaw and H. Nicholson (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press) (co-authored with Jenny Hughes and Jenny Kidd), pp. 186-20


A summary of the impact of my research on understanding transgender identities, one of Central’s impact case studies for the Research Excellence Framework 2014, can be found here: http://www.cssd.ac.uk/content/making-impact

Recent projects include:

2015. Project Director, TransActing, funding from BFI Flare, Scottish Queer International Film Festival, The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (http://www.cssd.ac.uk/content/transacting-project)

2013. Co-Applicant, Drawing Sex, Drawing Gender, Drawing Bodies: GI's Anatomy, funded by the Wellcome Trust: a life drawing project with exhibition, show case events, print publication and online dissemination (www.gianatomy.tumblr.com)

2010 Project Lead Facilitator, INTERarts project, funded by Vinspired and Pfizer: an intergenerational, LGBTQ project including exhibition (www.interartsproject.wordpress.com)

Recent public engagement includes:

In 2015 I was a conference contributor for The Culture Capital Exchange Annual Conference ‘Culture, Creativity and the Academy: Exploring the New Normal’. I spoke on a panel exploring the notion of the social contract in Higher Education.  In 2014 I was the Lead Academic on a collaborative project with SME, Theatre Peckham. The research project led to the publication What’s it Worth? Evidencing the Value of Participation at Theatre Peckham. The project was funded by Creativeworks London. I also published online pieces related to this project in Arts Professional (http://www.artsprofessional.co.uk/magazine/282/feature/young-perceptions) and the Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/catherine-mcnamara)

Recent advisory work includes:

Peer review for Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance

And Intellect Books

Advisory Board Member, None of Us Is Yet a Robot (Performance Company)

Register of Interest

Gendered Intelligence (Community Interest Company) - Co-founder and Chair of the Board of Directors