Jean Burch Falls, Theatre Originator

Jean Falls, 2016

Jean Burch Falls worked with her husband Gregory Falls (1922-1997) in the origination of ACTA Contemporary Theatre — in 1965.  ACT produced notable performances in the historic Redding Building, also known as Queen Anne Hall & more recently Behnke Center and home to On the Boards, at 100 West Roy.  Later ACT restored Eagles Auditorium, relocating to downtown Seattle in 1996.  ACT introduced to Seattle works by such contemporary playwrights as David Mamet, Sam Shepard, and Tom Stoppard, and cultivated a community of actors and theatre workers.

Born and raised in New York City, Jean Burch graduated from Manhattan’s Brearley School in 1942 after attending boarding schools in Virginia and Lausanne, Switzerland.  Despite her family’s objections, she studied drama in college, first at Bryn Mawr and then at Neighborhood Playhouse in New York.  In 1943, she started to fly planes, hoping to join the WASPs – Women’s Auxiliary Service Patrol.  However, the war in Europe ended before she reached the age when she could serve.  After a first marriage and the birth of two sons, she began pre-med studies at the University of Vermont – while also directing and acting in community theatre.  There she met and married Greg Falls, Director of the University of Vermont Drama Department, and her dramatic activities intensified.

In 1961, the University of Washington appointed Greg Falls as Executive Director of the School of Drama, and the Falls family – now including two daughters — moved to Seattle.  Jean performed in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Green Lake Aqua Theatre.  After a couple of years, Jean and Greg began to look for a space to open a contemporary summer theatre, to complement the two-year-old Seattle Repertory Theatre that staged classic plays during the winter. This led to the 1965 opening of ACT at its original Queen Anne location on West Roy.  Jean notes that Jim Whittaker the first American to summit Mt. Everest and an originator of REI – had used the Redding Building as a staging area.

In 1974, Jean began to write lyrics, often in collaboration with composer Rob Duisberg. Her work has included lyrics for performances at ACT, Empty Space, and Issaquah’s Village Theatre.  In 1999, she performed her final stage role in a production of Margaret Edson’s WIT at Seattle Repertory Theatre.  She also travelled with the show to theatres in Houston, Phoenix, and Tucson.

Stewart Ballinger, Greg and Jean Falls at ACT’s 20th anniversary celebration in the Rainier Tower, May 1, 1984 (courtesy ACT)

Jean’s civic roles have included activism in the late-1960s fight to save the Pike Place Market, culminating in her service on the first Pike Place Market Preservation and Development Authority/PDA.  There she played an instrumental role in establishing the Pike Place Market Foundation, originated in 1981-82. In 1975-81, she served on the Seattle Center Advisory Commission.

Jean has resided on Queen Anne since 2007.

Virginia Anderson: Shaping Seattle

In a career spanning public and private development, long-time Queen Anne resident Virginia Anderson has contributed broadly to the creation of distinctive places well loved by Seattle residents and visitors, including Seattle Center where she served as Director from 1988-2006.

Ms. Anderson – known to many as “Ginny” – first came to Seattle in 1972 to pursue graduate studies in public administration at the University of Washington.  With her husband Rick she lived first on Dexter Avenue, then in an Anhalt apartment on Queen Anne.  She has since lived in several places on the hill, along with daughter Maile.

Beginning in 1974, she took employment in the City of Seattle Budget Office, working closely with Mayor Wes Uhlman.  In 1979 she began working with Paul Schell at Cornerstone Development – a Weyerhauser subsidiary — managing development activities throughout the Northwest.  She worked briefly in Seattle’s Community Development office, and in 1981 she joined others in the founding of Plymouth Housing Group and Bellwether Housing, developing affordable housing. …Continue reading “Virginia Anderson: Shaping Seattle”

Two new landmarks: Bressi Garage and the Coliseum

Castle at Tarascon; among France’s first landmarks; designated in 1840.

Introduction

Visiting the south of France on a lazy day in August, I rode my bike past the Tarascon Castle on my way to the European festival of basket weaving. Occupied for the first time in 1435, the castle is one of the best preserved in Europe. In 1840, it was among the first buildings in France to be designated a landmark. In 177 years of landmark protection, only its use by the German army during WWII ever put it at risk of demolition. In fact, precision bombing of the bridges on the Rhone River by American pilots in June 12, 1944, purposefully dodged French landmarks like this one. Now, thanks to the recent landmark designation of the Bressi Garage and the Seattle Coliseum, they will share a long life with the castle at Tarascon.

Bressi Garage

Known to us as Pottery Northwest, this wonderful survivor of Queen Anne’s early automobile age is now protected. The Landmarks Preservation Board identified both the exterior and the truss system supporting the roof, effectively an interior feature, as protected elements. The nomination prepared by Artifacts, a Tacoma preservation firm, did not dwell on the significance of Pottery Northwest tenancy. It also minimalized the importance of the successful suit filed by community activists at Sacred Heart Church, which lies between Bressi and the Century 21 World’s Fair site, stopped the fair’s ‘taking’ of all the land from Second to First avenues for the 1962 event. …Continue reading “Two new landmarks: Bressi Garage and the Coliseum”