Rex Carleton – Falls Sustained Achievement Award
Rex Carleton has been announced the recipient of the Gregory A. Falls Sustained Achievement Award, presented by Theatre Puget Sound (TPS). This award honors an individual who has devoted time, energy and talent to Seattle’s theatre community, and who has had an influence on theatre locally and beyond.
This will be the sixth annual Gregory A. Falls Sustained Achievement Award. The award was initiated in 1997 through a generous donation by Jean Falls to honor the memory of Seattle theatre visionary Gregory Falls. TPS honored Carleton at a gala event on Monday, December 8, from 5:30 – 10:30pm with ceremony at 8:30pm in the Center House Theatre at Seattle Center.
Rex Carleton is a unique presence on the Seattle theater scene. Most know him as the genial long-time technical and production director for the late, great Group Theatre, the seminal multicultural firebrand that operated locally from 1978 -1998, and whose influence is reflected in theaters locally and nationally. There, Rex collaborated with founder Rubén Sierra and with hundreds of artists and technicians whose careers have been enhanced and advanced through their association with Mr. Carleton. But his career in the Pacific Northwest didn’t start with The Group.
Rex earned his Master of Arts degree from the University of Washington in 1975 with a major in directing. He immediately landed a job stage-managing a touring production directed by Bathhouse Theatre founder Arne Zaslov as part of the Rep’s Mobile Outreach program, touring for nine months to high schools in four states. Upon his return he was hired as Artistic Director of Theatre East in Kirkland, where he directed and led the artistic development of the company until, at Rex’s urging, it moved to Capitol Hill in Seattle and was re-christened as the Conservatory Theatre Company (CTC). In between his many directing assignments there, Rex found time to design and manage the conversion of a turn-of-the-century mortuary into a theatre complex with main stage performance space, rehearsal hall, lobby, and administrative and technical support spaces. He was also instrumental is facilitating the private investment/donor arrangement that ultimately granted full ownership of the property to the Conservatory Theatre Company. In 1982 Rex left CTC to accept his new post with The Group, while the CTC board hired John Kazanjian to assume the artistic leadership of the company. Renamed the New City Theatre, the company enjoyed a long and productive tenure in the building. The facility is now owned and managed as The Richard Hugo House – as a resource center for all aspects of the literary arts. The original theatre space, remodeled during the New City years, continues to be used as a performance facility.
From 1982 through 1998 Rex Carleton served in a leadership position with the Group Theatre, as technical director, and resident scenic and lighting designer. From 1992-1995, he also served as the construction manager for The Group’s ambitious relocation project, spearheading the design and construction of a 15000 sq. ft. theatre facility at Seattle Center. Although an architectural design firm was engaged for the project, in the end Rex designed virtually all aspects of the space. Rex served as the Group’s primary representative in all construction project related discussions, negotiations, and coordination with Seattle Center staff. In addition, he supervised the work of all sub-contractors and work crews. In 1993, the Group Theatre honored him at the opening of the new theatre by officially naming the facility “The Carleton Playhouse”. A short list of Rex’s achievements as an artist at the Group include scenic designs for: Never Whistle While You’re Pissing, Harvest Moon, Buffalo Soldier, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill, Meetings, Fraternity, Latins Anonymous, Real Women Have Curves, Yankee Dawg You Die, T Bone N Weasel, The Meeting, Changing Faces, Kiss of the Spiderwoman, and lighting designs for Falsettos, A Language of Their Own, Extremities, Tracers, Changing Faces, Kiss of the Spiderwoman, Rap Master Ronnie, My Name is Alice, Two Can Play, Orphans, Jacques Brel, Fifth Sun,Sizwe Bansi is Dead, Orinoco, I Am Celso, Desert Fire, Division Street, and Talking With. Close to Rex’s heart is The Group’s multicultural holiday show, Voices of Christmas. Rex contributed lighting and/or scenic designs to many editions of Voices at The Group between 1982 and 1998. Rex played an essential role in resurrectingVoices after The Group closed in 1998, by carefully saving all the sets, props, costumes, research documents and production books – and by collaborating with Michael Harris in relocating Voices to ArtsWest Playhouse in West Seattle in 2001. This year , with Rex as lighting designer, Voices will celebrate its 20th production at ArtsWest.
Born in Massachusetts in 1948, Rex grew up in New England, and attended St. Lawrence University where he majored in Comparative Religion and began his theatrical career. His first professional experience came with The Fisherman’s Players, a social issues-oriented touring company based on Cape Cod. He moved to Seattle in September of 1973, and lived in Kirkland for 10 years, later moving to Woodinville in 1983. He’s is a family man, having married Mary Hannigan in 1984. They live in on a small farm in Woodinville with their son Sean Carleton (now 18 yrs), 5 dogs, two horses and one very old cat named Iris (who, once upon a time, was one of the two shop cats at the Group Theatre scene shop). Daughter Cathy (Mary’s first marriage) now lives in Colorado and has two beautiful children (that’s right…Rex’s grandchildren) Callie and Eleanor. Reflecting on his accomplishments and the honor of receiving the Falls Award, Rex says, “If I’ve done anything in my career to deserve this award, I’d like to think it’s because I’ve had a positive impact on the people I’ve had the good fortune to work with – people who came with open arms and went away richer for the experience, and who in turn have enriched me by sharing their energy, skill, and enthusiasm. It’s the ‘give and take’ of working with dedicated people that I value the most. And I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with so many remarkable artists, technicians and administrators during my career. I am also grateful to have had the chance to develop two performance spaces that remain in service to the arts today – the spaces now known as Richard Hugo House, on Capitol Hill – and the Center House Theater at Seattle Center. It is my sincere hope that they will continue to afford artists and audience alike the intimate performance experience for which they were designed in the years to come.”