The University of Kentucky College of Fine Arts distinguished alumni award has gone to such artists as sculptor John Henry, tenor Gregory Turay and Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche.
This year, it went to — I love this — a critic.
F. Kathleen Foley was a theater student at UK in the 1970s and has gone on to a career as a theater critic for the Los Angeles Times and several other publications in Southern California. Foley’s original intention was to act, which she did in New York, Kentucky and L.A.
“I became a critic by default,” Foley says from her home in Los Angeles. “I wanted the free tickets, so after acting didn’t work out, I kind of segued into this career.”
That’s one of two careers Foley has. By day, she works for Breakdown Services, a Los Angeles firm that reads scripts and disseminates information about the available roles to actors, directors, agents and other interested parties in the film trade. Foley and her colleagues read scripts, then distill them into quick information about the plots and characters to distribute to clients. For instance, a script might call for a 23-year-old blonde bimbo who roller skates, so when the information goes out, agents can send all of their clients who match that description.
“It’s really leveled the playing field,” Foley says.
And she and her colleagues have a lot of fun, including reading egregiously bad scripts out loud to one another.
“After Pulp Fiction came out, everything we got was really raw and awful,” Foley says. “But I read good scripts, too. I read The Departed,” which won the 2007 Oscar for best-picture.
By night, Foley loves to see good theater, filing an average of two reviews a week.
Above: F. Kathleen Foley accepts her distinguished alumni award at UK, May 4, 2008. Photo courtesy of F. Kathleen Foley.
“There are about 3,000 professional productions a year in Los Angeles,” she says of theater in the city best known for film. “Among those, there are a lot of fun, indigenous productions, but there are also great things that start here and go on to Broadway or regional theaters around the country. Like, The Drowsy Chaperone got its start here,” she says, referring to the Broadway show that won five Tony Awards in 2006.
In Los Angeles, Foley says, she can always count on great productions, although the scripts can be problematic.
“The really great new playwrights are few and far between,” she says. Foley said Donald Margulies and Jane Anderson are some of her favorite contemporary playwrights.
With many playwrights trying to experiment with narrative structure and the like, she says, she can be gratified sometimes just by seeing a well-written story.
“You’re uplifted or horrified,” she says, “but you’re not grasping around saying, ‘What was that?’”
Last weekend, Foley enjoyed a trip to Actors Guild of Lexington to see Moonlight and Magnolias, starring old school chums Walter May and Charles Edward Pogue.
“I just saw a production of Moonlight and
Magnolias here, in Los Angeles, a few months ago, and I really liked
the cast here (in Lexington) better,” she said. “And I thought the
direction was top-notch.”
Overall, the Henry Clay High School graduate described her visit as “wonderful,” seeing old theater department friends and taking in a Kentucky spring.
“It was gorgeous,” she says.
Foley and her husband, Mark Herder, have two teenage sons. Once the boys are out of school, she says, coming home to Kentucky is “a real possibility.”
She says, “Sometimes my sons will tease me about being from Kentucky. But I never met as gifted, talented and amusing a group of friends as I had when I was at UK.”