Melissa Tonning-Kollwitz

Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts

Melissa is an Assistant Professor of Theatre at Marymount Manhattan College where she teaches Voice & Speech for the Actor, Vocal Characterization, runs an American Accent Acquisition Lab for non-native speakers, and coaches productions. Her students call her “PK” – short for Professor Kollwitz. She received an MFA in Voice Studies from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London, and BA in Theatre Performance from Marymount Manhattan College (MMC). She is an Associate Teacher of Fitzmaurice Voicework (FV). She is an active member of ATHE and VASTA. Her teaching objective is to inspire students, through rigorous and diverse training methods, to find the most efficient and economical way to use their voices and bodies expressively for performing dramatic text, poetry, and song in a connected, truthful, and grounded way. She is passionate about teaching students self-regulation strategies to cope with performance anxiety, and also promote autonomy and resilience in their practice.


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Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts


Theatre Arts




Recent Work

Melissa is an advocate for service and professional development. Sheis currently chair of the Faculty Development Committee and has served as a Board member for the Center for Teaching Innovation and Excellence at MMC. She mentors students/aspiring voice teachers in independent studies about Voice & Speech Pedagogy and as an academic discipline, offers free FV sessions available to all MMC students during midterm and finals time as a tool for release and relaxation, and coaches students in preparation for graduate school auditions. She created a new course entitled Vocal Characterization exploring vocal tract manipulation for creating characters and expanding vocal expressivity. She also created an American Accent Acquisition Lab for theatre students who are non-native speakers.


Her most recent publication in the Voice & Speech Review is entitled “The Current Use of Standard Dialects in Speech Practice and Pedagogy: A Mixed Method Study Examining the VASTA Community in the United States” and is co-authored by MMC alum Joe Hetterly. Melissa received an Andrew W. Mellon Grant for Immersive and Integrative Pedagogies to study the history and context of Standard Stage Dialect. Her research-based MFA dissertation was on the effects of Destructuring in reducing performance anxiety in undergraduate actors, which she presented in its early stages at the 2015 VASTA Conference in Montreal, and recently published in the Voice & Speech Review: “Breath, tremoring, and performance anxiety: How can Fitzmaurice Voicework’s Destructuring address performance anxiety in undergraduate acting training?” for which she received the 2016 Rocco dal Vera Graduate Research Award. She has also written about the relationship between Destructuring and text exploration for her MA dissertation, which was accepted for presentation for the 2009 International Song, Stage, and Screen Conference at the University of Winchester in England. She created a theatre collective in June 2018 called Project: Human Better whose vision statement is: To “human better” by developing more empathetic, supportive, and empowered humans through education, mentorship, and devised theatre in order to create dynamic and provocative new works that give voice to topics affecting womxn and minorities in the performance industry and beyond.


She has held faculty positions at New York Conservatory for the Dramatic Arts, New York Film Academy, and New World School of the Arts (Miami, FL), and completed a one-year internship at the Yale School of Drama, working with Pamela Prather and the MFA Acting students in their Speech class. In addition to providing vocal and accent design for productions at MMC, she coaches both privately and for theatre companies in NYC. She has coached for the Young Vic (Off West End) in London, and in Miami.


Carson Hall 106