Melissa is an Assistant Professor of Theatre at Marymount Manhattan College where she teaches Voice & Speech for the Actor. Her students call her "PK" -- short for Professor Kollwitz. She received her 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). 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.

Teaching Experience

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.


Recently 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 VASTA’s Voice & Speech Review (VSR) for which she received the 2016 VSR 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.


Melissa is an advocate for service and professional development. She serves as a Board member for the Center for Teaching Innovation and Excellence at MMC, and is a member of the Faculty Development Committee. She mentors students/aspiring voice teachers in independent studies about Voice & Speech 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 an American Accent Acquisition Lab for theatre students who are non-native speakers.

Melissa Tonning-Kollwitz

Prof. Melissa Tonning-Kollwitz

Assistant Professor of Theatre
at Marymount Manhattan College


My transition to college was not an easy one for me. Even when I first attended MMC, I felt as though my connections with professors were limited due to being a transfer student. As a student passionate about learning, I was searching for a professor who would take an interest in not only my abilities but in my interests and growth. It wasn’t until I was in Professor Kollwitz's class that I found that connection with a professor.

From the first day I had Professor Kollwitz, the goals and intentions of her class were clear. There was never any confusion about what was expected of us. Professor Kollwitz’s class became a safe haven to experiment with our craft, without judgment but with encouragement and compassion. This environment made it possible for her students to discover new capabilities and grow not only as actors but also as people.

Gabrielle Rechler
MMC Class of 2017

In every environment in which I have known her, Ms. Tonning-Kollwitz is a delight to work with. She is an incredibly hard worker, a wonderful team player, and able to easily speak across disciplinary boundaries. She is deeply invested in the art of teaching and is passionate about innovation both pedagogically and in her field.

At MMC, Ms. Tonning-Kollwitz and I served on the Faculty Development Committee (FDC) together during the 16/17 academic year. During this year, Melissa spearheaded a way to digitally document faculty scholarship. She interviewed faculty on video and then edited together the clips to make a remarkably diverse and cohesive portrait of MMC faculty scholarship.

Catherine Cabeen
Assistant Professor of Dance, MMC

Professor Kollwitz encourages a joyful and playful atmosphere in her class as to push the students to create their best work possible. In her class, I learned not only how to use my voice in an effective manner while on stage but also what physically is happening inside my body. PK’s teaching style is hands-on and she connects with her students on a much more personal level than any other professor I have met. She understands how our minds work and how we process information and uses that to cultivate an environment of shared growth as well as positive reinforcement. Not only was I excited to learn, but I was excited to see my classmates learn. PK begins and ends each class as a group she encourages pride in not only ourselves but in each other.

Ben Hull
MMC Class of 2018

Professor Kollwitz has fostered in me an appreciation for vocal technique that I never knew was there. Her classes are filled with passionate lectures that guide students through the art of Fitzmaurice Voicework. Every time I walked into her class I felt inspired and motivated to bring my best work to the table. I have not only found a mentor but a friend who I hope to know for the rest of my professional career. Don't get me wrong, her class is not easy — you need to bring every ounce of passion and drive to the classroom or she will see right through it. Her coaching only furthered my career and I am thankful to have experienced her expertise.

Mitchell Lippitt
MMC Class of 2018

PK's passion and connection towards her work that becomes contagious in a classroom. She finds the relevance in every topic she teaches and enables a greater meaning and deeper understanding of the concepts for students who are new to the world of Voice and Speech. In doing so, PK makes IPA and tremoring feel less foreign, allowing students to quickly build the foundation needed to flourish.

Grant Hale
MMC Class of 2017

Professor Kollwitz's approach to teaching kept me focused and inspired to not just meet standards, but to exceed them in Voice and Speech work. Through journal assignments and independent projects I was regularly challenged to take information and techniques learned in the classroom and apply them to my work in other classes and in my own daily activity. Her hands-on approach allowed for complex topics like IPA and text analysis to be understood clearly in a succinct time frame, and to have a lasting impression on my work. Professor Kollwitz goes above and beyond in her teaching to create a safe learning space for her students where concepts are explained thoroughly through various activities tending to the learning styles of each of her students.

Brian Lundy
MMC Class of 2018