In her own professional theatre work, which she creates and performs under the name Triangle Theatre, she draws heavily on her own memories and experiences as well as myths, legends, rituals and symbols, transforming the personal into a universal experience.
These techniques, which can be seen in her My Sister, My Angel, on tour this autumn to schools and small arts and community venues, have proved immensely stimulating for young people.
Bare Essentials Youth Theatre, which developed from her work as a drama teacher, and which she still leads, will be touring its latest devised show, Monsters, to primary and lower secondary classes in Coventry this term. One of the company, Kerry O'Keefe, explains: "Working with Karen is great, but very hard work. It's a very informal relationship but she's quite strict and we have a lot of respect for her. She lets us devise things from our own ideas, lets us see what we can do, then helps to steer us towards a professional finish. "
More recently, Waterfield has turned her attention to helping teachers and trainees to "release their own creativity", in workshops with her.
Jo Trousdale, lecturer in drama at Warwick University's Institute of Education, where Triangle has been given a residency, says: "Her work with our graduate trainees crosses the boundary between teacher and artist, because she is both.
"In her own work she presents the challenge of the professional artist, the daring and discipline that go into public performance, combined with the more familiar, role of the teacher. It's good for our students to get used to crossing this boundary."
Boundaries are just what Karen Waterfield aims to erase. She encourages student and in-service teachers to see young people on the same level as themselves, with everyone joining in, drawing on their own experiences, discussing technical difficulties and sharing problems.
Trousdale believes this kind of collaborative approach is of immense value to teachers in shifting their ways of viewing young people and how they learn. In experiencing for themselves the creative, collaborative approach to teaching she believes they will take it with them into the classroom and that it will affect their approach right across the curriculum.
* Karen Waterfield is leading in-service workshops at the Teachers' Centre, Northampton on September 29; workshops for BTEC Performing Arts students and their teachers at Loughborough on October 2, Stoke on Trent October 27, 28, 29, and leading a Youth Theatre project at Lancaster on November 3. Further details from Triangle Theatre TelFax 01203 362210