GREGORY A. FALLS, 1922-1997
The Gregory Awards are named in honor of Gregory A. Falls, a former chair of the UW School of Drama, who is credited with creating Seattle’s vibrant theater scene. Falls died unexpectedly of pneumonia at age 75 on April 3, 1997.
More than any other individual, Falls was “most responsible for the theater boom in this town,” said Arne Zaslove, former artistic director of the Bathhouse Theatre at Green Lake. “He was the impresario of bringing it all together.”
Falls founded one of Seattle’s mainstays, ACT — A Contemporary Theatre, more than three decades ago. He was ACT’s artistic director for 23 years until his retirement in 1987 due to early indications of Alzheimer’s disease.
Falls, who founded theatres wherever he went–he started Ohio’s Mad Anthony Players and ran theUniversity of Vermont’s drama program and Champlain Shakespeare Festival before coming to Seattle in 1961–decided to create ACT in 1965 because he saw that the two-year-old Seattle Repertory Theater as mostly committed to classics. He wanted ACT to produce plays that then were revitalizing the American theater. And he didn’t stop there. He was instrumental in helping other theaters get their start, including the Empty Space and Intiman. “He was a gentle gentleman, a gifted theatre man and a theatre teacher,” said the late Peter Donnelly, former president of the Corporate Council of the Arts.
A native of Russellville, Arkansas, Falls was always interested in theatre. He was active in high school plays, and his mother was known to complain about him loaning out their furniture for theatre productions. A Fulbright scholar, Falls came to Seattle in 1961 to head up the UW School of Drama. He founded the highly acclaimed Professional Actor Training Program and the school’s doctoral program. In addition, he actively engaged as a playwright and play director in the UW comprehensive child drama/theatre program. Under his leadership, the UW drama school became one of the best in the nation. Among the students to come through the Professional Actor Training Program are Patrick Duffy, ’71; Jean Smart, ’74; Pamela Reed, ’75; Kyle MacLachlan, ’82; and Richard Karn, ’79.
Falls left the UW in 1971 to devote more time to ACT, though he stayed on as a part-time faculty member until 1976. He earned a long list of awards for his work in the theatre. A former president of the National Theater Conference and Washington Association of Theater Artists, Falls was inducted into the prestigiousCollege of Fellows of the American Theatre in 1994.