For anyone who knew actress Susan Kingsley, worked with her or saw her perform. her death in an automobile accident at age 37 on Feb. 6 will not be easily accepted. Her unaffected manner, her inner resolve, her ability to display anger and tenderness and humor on stage made her an unforgettable actress.
More than for any other role, Kingsley will be remembered as Arlene, the troubled, defiant ex-convict in Marsha Norman’s Getting Out, which she played first in Louisville and then in New York. New York audiences also had an opportunity to see her in Beth Henley’s The Wake of Jamey Foster, which began life at the Hartford Stage Company. Kingsley epitomized the actress n mows who preferred working in resident theatre. She committed herself to acting in a wide range of roles at Actors Theatre of Louisville and chose to work primarily with one director whom she respected, Jon Jory.
Interviewed a week before her untimely death for an American Theatre article about resident actors. Kingsley spoke about why she preferred living on her working farm in Frankfort, Ky., away from the city lights and agents’ offices of New York and Los Angeles.
“I have a family life, home and a beautiful place. I prefer that my kids be raised here. At times I’ve been jealous, felt sorry that I missed out on certain parts—but the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.”
Despite her commitment to living in her native Kentucky, Kingsley did manage to act in such films as Coal Miner’s Daughter, Popeye and the upcoming television film The Dollmaker, with Jane Fonda. But at the Actors Theatre of Louisville, she “never felt locked into one place.”
Her optimistic attitude toward life is revealed in her own declaration: “I don’t have any particular place I want to end up. I’m just so excited about all that I’m learning.”
The loss of a woman in the prime of her life, with, to quote Langston Hughes, her “future bright before us like a flame,” saddens us all. Susan Kingsley will be missed by all who were touched by her.
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