Kathy A. Perkins is Professor Emerita (1989-2011) in lighting design and Africa and African Diaspora theatre. She joined the department to reinstate the MFA lighting design program, which she headed for twenty years. She also developed new courses in African and African Diaspora theatre in addition to non-Western theatre courses.
In addition to productions at UIUC, Perkins has designed lighting throughout the U.S. at such regional theatres as American Conservatory Theatre (ACT), Arena Stage, Berkeley Repertory, Seattle Repertory, St. Louis Black Repertory, The Alliance, Goodman, Steppenwolf, Congo Square, Manhattan Theatre Club, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), New Federal Theatre, eta Creative Arts, Mark Taper, Indiana Repertory, Court Theatre, Writers Theatre, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Los Angeles Theatre Center, Two Rivers Theatre, Playmakers Repertory Company, and Victory Gardens. She is the recipient of such design awards as NAACP Image Award, National Black Theatre Festival Award, and was a nominee for the L.A. Ovation Award and New York’s Audelco. Internationally, she has designed in Switzerland, Austria and South Africa.
While at UIUC Perkins edited Black Female Playwrights: An Anthology of Plays before 1950, Black South African Women: An Anthology of Plays, African Women Playwrights, and Alice Childress: Selected Plays. She co-edited Contemporary Plays by Women of Color (ATHE 1996 Outstanding Theatre Book Award) and Strange Fruit: Plays on Lynching by American Women. She is currently serving as a senior editor for the forthcoming Routledge Companion to African American Theatre and Performance.
In 1995 Perkins co-curated ONSTAGE: A Century of African American Stage Design at New York’s Lincoln Center. In 2016 she served as theatre consultant for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) inaugural exhibition Taking the Stage. She is the recipient of numerous research awards, including the Ford Foundation, Fulbright, United States Information Agency (USIA), New York Times Company, National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), Money for Women Fund, United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) and various University of Illinois awards, including University Scholar.
Perkins has traveled to over forty countries as both designer and lecturer. She has served as board member /advisory member for USITT, URTA, New World Theatre, Congo Square, Definition Theatre, and The History Makers. In 2007 she was inducted into the College of Fellows of the American Theatre. She received her BFA in Drama from Howard University and her M.F.A. in Lighting Design from the University of Michigan. Perkins is currently Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.