Gregory Falls, Act Founder, Dies At 75

Gregory A. Falls, the influential founder and longtime artistic director of Seattle's A Contemporary Theatre (ACT), died yesterday from pneumonia.

He had battled Alzheimer's disease for many years.

Mr. Falls, 75, was an important figure in the regional theater renaissance in Seattle during the 1960s, '70s and '80s. As executive director of the drama department at the University of Washington in the '60s, he taught and was mentor to many young actors and directors who later performed at theaters in Seattle and across the country.

He founded a professional actor's training program, as well as the drama school's master's and doctorate programs.

With his wife, Jean Burch Falls, he made the bold move of forming ACT in 1965; he served as its artistic director until he retired in 1987.

While the Seattle Repertory Theatre concentrated on the classics, ACT introduced to Seattle works by such contemporary playwrights as Tom Stoppard, David Mamet and Sam Shepard.

He also founded Young ACT in 1966 to present children's drama. He wrote many scripts for Young Act himself. His adaptation of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" is still presented yearly.

Mr. Falls was known regionally as someone who encouraged and stimulated other theaters.

"Theater is like grapes; it grows best in bunches," he was fond of saying, recalled ACT's current managing director, Susan Trapnell.

Mr. Falls began showing early signs of Alzheimer's in 1987 and retired.

ACT has recently relocated to a downtown complex, Kreielsheimer Place; one of the theaters is named in Mr. Falls' honor.

ACT will hold services at 3 p.m. May 5 at Kreielsheimer Place. Mr. Falls is survived by his wife, two sons and two daughters.