Katharine Cognard-Black

Fulbright-University of Birmingham Award

After seeing her first performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at age five, Katharine Cognard-Black fostered her love of Shakespeare by acting in productions of his work, becoming a Folger Shakespeare Fellow, and pursuing undergraduate majors in theater and creative writing at Bucknell University. Through her studies, she came to see that while Shakespeare’s plays feature misogyny and imperialism, they’re also cautionary tales against greed, hatred, and power. 

For her honors thesis, Cognard-Black wrote and directed an original adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew, called “Taming of the Shrew(s).” In “Shrew(s),” she distilled Shakespeare’s original text to portray three distinct interpretations—a comedy, a tragedy, and a love story—while asking how Taming might be produced in the #MeToo era. This past summer, “Shrew(s)” was performed at a women’s prison in Missouri, an experience that transformed how Cognard-Black imagines herself as a future director and educator. 

Cognard-Black’s Fulbright award to pursue a master’s degree in Shakespeare and Creativity at the University of Birmingham will support her efforts to use theatre to advocate for social change. Cognard-Black intends to become a theatre professor and director, remaking Shakespearean productions into ones that empower both actors and audiences to confront injustice.