Today we’re kicking off our interview series with narrators from my Time is a Fine White Lie audiobook. Call it serendipity or kismet, I connected with Kathleen France via the voices.com website in early spring. Soon after, she applied her copious magical vibe to the short story “Orange Light”. A native of the New York theater and cabaret scenes, Kathleen is also the voice of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.
WS: Are you an audiobook listener? A reader of books in general?
KF: YES!!! When you’re a voiceover artist, it is important to listen to genres that you are interested in doing. It not only helps you stylistically, but also in learning what you like/don’t like, so you can modify your own reading style in connecting with the material. PLUS – it is SO ENTERTAINING!!!!! When I was growing up, my Mother always made me nap during Days Of Our Lives – it was her little break of “me time.” When I got upset that none of the other kids had to take naps, she said, “Ok, you can either nap, or read a book.” I read the entire LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE series when I was 7. It developed my love for reading, and has stuck with me throughout my life – I also think it makes your kids smarter, but that’s just me.
WS: You come from a theater background- and have even been nominated for an Emmy in the New York chapter! Do you find these experiences inform you when you’re doing voiceover work?
KF: I’ve been nominated for 2 Emmys. 🙂 The Emmy is just an amazing way to be recognized in your profession. There is so much rejection in any artistic profession, that it feels good that people acknowledge that they enjoyed your work. In terms of what influences my voiceover work – voiceover is acting behind a mic. The erroneous thing people think about voiceover is that if people tell you you have a good voice, you can just sit behind a microphone and read the page and it is that easy. It is NOT. The most successful voiceover artists come from a theatre background because it is identifying with a character. Reading, telling the story, with that empathy of knowing how that character feels at that moment. I was also a singer – they say- I don’t know if it is a proven fact, but “they” say, that singers are very good at voiceover. All language has a musicality to it that singers can identify easily with. Both of those things heavily influence my reads.
WS: The story “Orange Light” is the shortest in the collection, but covers a lot of ground as far as an evolutionary journey. Did the writing strike a chord with you in any way personally?
KF: YES! I had a great acting teacher tell all of her students to “Find the Joy.” Even the saddest, most challenged character in life, is working toward something – happiness, whatever. They have something that they fight for. So, even if something seems to be so sad and unattainable, they will always be fighting FOR something. That’s how I viewed this piece. The Orange Light for me was hope, happiness, fulfillment, joy, eternity, heaven, paradise, nirvana, etc. I had to empathize with the character, to go on the journey where life is at times experiencing so much sadness, loss, how sometimes you look for something and it isn’t there, or you pray for something and it is continuously unanswered – that even though at times you can’t find the Orange Light – it is always there. You just haven’t looked hard enough. But then one day, it is there! How exhilarating, that going through the ups and downs and constant changes in life that we all face, that hopefully one day all of those sacrifices were worth it, that we find in our last hours, the meaning of life, we learn what it was all for – what is really important. That’s what this piece meant to me.
WS: You did a wonderful job voicing this story, Kathleen. When I heard you read it for the first time, it actually made me cry! How were you able to bring so much emotion to the words?
KF: Oh William…isn’t it funny, you never know what people draw upon? You don’t know this at all, but when I auditioned for you, I was going through one of the most difficult points in my life. My Father had passed away unexpectedly and he was my Mother’s caregiver, so then I became my Mother’s caregiver. I was flying back and forth once a month from New York to Colorado, where I grew up, to help my Mother. The social worker called one day and told me it was unsafe for her to live alone, so I moved her to New York to live with me. She passed away a week before Thanksgiving. She was a massage therapist in life and was always very spiritual, and I joked that she was into, “freaky joojoo stuff.” The last day she was alive, I was with her during the day and she pointed to the corner of the room and asked, “Who’s that?” There was no one there – I said, “No one.” She shook her head that yes there was. I asked if it was Dad, she shook her head no. I asked her if it was a spirit, and she shook her head yes. She seemed what I would describe as calmly upset. She didn’t want to die, she wanted to get better, but she also didn’t want me to have to take care of her, and I think was coming to the realization that her time was coming. I spent the day with her, stayed through her dinner, shortly before I left she had a cardiac episode where they ran into the room and shot something into her IV to calm her heart down. I stayed until we all thought that everything was ok. She said she didn’t even feel anything was happening. She felt normal. Ten minutes after I left, she passed. I spoke with one of her friends after that, who said, “It makes me so happy that her Spirit Guide was there to help her transition.” Spirit Guide, Guardian Angel, whatever you believe in, it made me believe that there is something after life here as we know it. That’s what I drew upon. I thought of her.
WS: You seem to be keeping very active in the New York scene! Can you tell us about what you’re working on during Covid, or any other projects you’ve got on the horizon?
KF: Well, everything is moving virtually these days, so after I built my home studio and took a bunch of sound engineering classes so I could make myself sound good enough to get jobs like yours – 🙂 -after that, I just keep auditioning all the time! I’ve done some Covid PSAs, I’ve done some VOs for Veterans and for Substance Abuse, some for Homelessness – issues in life that I care about and think it is important to call attention to. Also, some colleagues of mine reached out to me and are putting together a video to bring attention to Artists and how all of us are out of work for who knows how long. We’re singing “HEAR MY SONG” from SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD by Jason Robert Brown and they will be posting it everywhere to let everyone know how important this business, not only for New York’s (and LA’s) economy, but to bring joy to others – I mean, how many shows have we all binge-watched on Netflix during quarantine? I’m also in the Guinness Book of World Records, along with many other Cabaret Singers in New York for performing in the longest, non-stop Cabaret show ever performed – well, guess what? Now we’re all doing the longest VIRTUAL Cabaret Show ever to get in the book a second time. So, those are the cool things I can talk about for now.