Queen Anne residents Arne and Claire Zaslove have made significant contributions to Seattle’s cultural and theatrical vitality.
Born and raised in Cleveland and Akron, Ohio, Arne Zaslove studied at Carnegie Tech in Pittsburgh beginning in 1957, and received a Fulbright scholarship to support his theatrical studies in Paris, France 1964-66 — the first American ever to study at Ecole Jacques Lecoq.
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.
Jean Falls and Bayne Ellis in ACT’s production of A Lion in Winter, July 1968 (courtesy ACT)
Redding Building c. 2016, the original home of ACT 1965-1996
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 noted 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 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 traveled with the show to theatres in Houston, Phoenix, and Tucson.