Bill Forrester, 2011 Gregory Falls Sustained Achievement Recipient

Theatre Puget Sound Announces Bill Forrester to Receive the 14th Annual Gregory A. Falls Sustained Achievement Award.
Award to be presented at the 3rd Annual Gregory Awards Ceremony,
ACT Theatre, October 17, 2011.

 Seattle, WA – The first professional gig on Bill Forrester’s resume is Assistant Scenic Designer for a 1959 NY summer stock production starring Gloria Swanson & Groucho Marx.  Not a bad start.  Fifty two years later, Theatre Puget Sound is thrilled to announce that Bill Forrester will become the 14th individual to receive the illustrious Gregory A. Falls Sustained Achievement Award. The award will be presented at the 3rdAnnual Gregory Awards Ceremony being held at ACT Theatre on October 17, 2011 as part of ARTS CRUSH month.

The Gregory A. Falls Sustained Achievement Award honors individuals in the Puget Sound theatrical community who have given their time, energy and talents over a number of years. In particular, this award honors people who have had a widespread positive effect on the community. The recipient is determined by a committee consisting of previous award recipients (artistic directors Kurt Beattie, Linda Hartzell; photographer Chris Bennion, director M. Burke Walker and a dozen other theater professionals) as well as Gregory A. Falls’ widow, Jean Falls.

Bill Forrester is known nationwide for his design talents. Before coming to the University of Washington in 1972, he was the art director for several television shows including The Red Skelton ShowLet’s Make a Deal, The Lawrence Welk Show, The Bing Crosby Special, and the first-ever-televised 1971 Grammy Awards. Besides designing at every professional theatre in Seattle, Bill’s regional credits include the Arizona Theatre Company, Colorado Shakespeare Festival and Honolulu Theatre for Youth.

University of Washington costume shop manager Josie Gardner remarks: “If you ever need a friend in the theater business in Seattle, Bill Forrester is the best. He has mentored many a young designer or technician with his imaginative problem solving skills, humble quietness, and wacky sense of humor. Bill would come to dress rehearsal, sit in the back, and every once in a while mumble something profound. If you were sitting close enough to hear, you would know he was a true theatre master. His wit and sarcasm is unmatched.”

Tickets to the 3rd Annual Gregory Awards Ceremony are on sale now through the ACT box office. General Admission is $25 and Tickets purchased at the door are $35. TPS has received generous support for this event from Actor’s Equity Association, ACT and a consortium of other theatres.

 About Bill Forrester

Bill Forrester spent the first five years of his life in a small town in the Ozarks, moving with his parents to Eugene Oregon in the way that many families went west in those days:  in a 1939 Chevy with a mattress on top.    He attended public schools in Eugene and was an indifferent student, largely ignoring schoolwork and devoting his time and energy to school plays and fiddling with old cars. At the University of Oregon he continued his unfortunate tendency to spend most of his time on scenery and lighting for various plays and events.  During the summer of 1959 he got his first professional job: Assistant Scenic Designer at the Spa Summer Theatre in Saratoga Springs N.Y. where the guest stars includedGloria Swanson and Groucho Marx.  In 1961, having grown tired of being a student, he dropped all his classes and ran off to New York, where he found work as the house electrician at an off-Broadway theatre where Hedda Gabler starring Anne Meacham was playing.

After receiving his BA from U of O he served for three years in the US Navy and then, after bumming around Europe for a while, attended the Yale School of Drama, studying under Donald Oenslager and George Izenour. While at Yale he designed the original production of Story Theatre, written and directed by Paul Sills.  After receiving his MFA (1969) and not wanting to live in a walk up apartment in an East Village tenement, he headed for the sunshine and palm trees of Los Angeles.  He found work first as an Assistant Scenic Artist at ABC, working on shows like Let’s Make A Deal and The Lawrence Welk Show, and later as an Assistant Art Director on television specials featuring such stars as Bing Crosby, Carol Burnett, Dean Martin, and Bernadette Peters. He also was the Assistant Art Director for the last season of the Red Skelton Show, and for the 1971 Grammy Awards.

Having decided he didn’t want to spend the rest of his life in Los Angeles, he accepted a position on the faculty of the University of Washington and headed north to Seattle where he has remained, more or less happily, for the last 40 years.  He taught at the University of Washington for over 30 years, influencing innumerable students including current design nominees Andrea Bush, Andrew Smith and Matthew Smucker. In the 1970s and 1980s he designed frequently for ACT, The Empty Space, Seattle Children’s Theatre, and Tacoma Actors Guild.  Over the years, he has designed over 100 productions locally. In the 1990s he began to be offered projects outside Seattle, at such theatres as Arizona Theatre Company, Colorado Shakespeare Festival, Honolulu Theatre for Youth, Utah Festival Opera, and The Village Theatre. In the first decade of the new century, he has found new opportunities at the Alabama and Utah Shakespeare Festivals, The Alliance Theatre, The Denver Center Theatre Company, The Florida Stage, Geva Theatre, Indiana University School of Music, and the Kansas City Rep. In 2010, he was invited to American University of Cairo to design Three Sisters.

In 2010 he began work on a production of Der Rosenkavalier for the Indiana University School of Music, and continues his long association with the Village Theatre for their upcoming production of Annie Get Your Gun.

About The Gregory Awards

The Gregory Awards is a Theatre Puget Sound program that celebrates the achievements of the Washington State theatre community. The program and ceremony are an opportunity to celebrate theatre, honor the outstanding achievements of local artists, and to raise the visibility of the local theatre scene as a whole. Opening up nominations to the TPS membership and the general public ensures that the final list of nominees on the ballot is truly reflective of the outstanding work taking place throughout the region.  The Gregory Awards began in 1998 as the Gregory A. Falls Sustained Achievement Award. Over the following 11 years, it honored individuals who spent much of their careers strengthening theatre in our region. In 2009, while continuing this tradition, six, and now ten, annual categories have been incorporated into the awards program.
The Gregory Awards are named in honor of Gregory A. Falls (1922- 1997), a former chair of the UW School of Drama, who is often credited with creating Seattle’s vibrant theater scene. Falls left the UW in 1971 to devote more time at ACT Theatre, though he stayed on as a part-time UW faculty member until 1976. He served as president of the National Theater Conference and Washington Association of Theater Artists. In 1994 Falls was inducted into the prestigious College of Fellows of the American Theatre.

About Theatre Puget Sound

THEATRE PUGET SOUND (TPS) is a leadership and service organization founded in 1997 to advocate for the region’s growing theatre community’s causes and administer much-needed services. TPS is now the Northwest’s premiere arts advocacy and leadership organization. TPS has a two-fold mission: To promote the spiritual and economic necessity of theatre to the public, and to unify and strengthen the theatre community through programs, resources, and services.  TPS serves more than 1,700 theatre practitioners and 130 organizations within our region. In addition to ARTS CRUSH, TPS sponsors workshops and seminars, regional auditions, manages affordable rehearsal and performance space in the Seattle Center House, produces the annual Gregory Awards, and coordinates and promotes other events which strengthen and celebrate our local community.

About ARTS CRUSH

ARTS CRUSH is a month-long festival connecting artists and audiences with invigorating new experiences at hundreds of events across the Puget Sound region. Spotlighting a different discipline each week, the festival features opportunities to participate in theatre, music, literature, dance, visual arts and more. It reaches people in unique ways; through hands-on participation, once-a-year glimpses behind the scenes, and surprise arts experiences in unexpected places. In addition, ARTS CRUSH extends an open invitation to sample the abundance of arts and culture in our region by adopting creative pay-what-you will or discounted fee structures for traditional arts experiences. The ARTS CRUSH goals are to:

  • Engage community
  • Create access
  • Inspire creativity
  • Build audiences

ARTS CRUSH is made possible by generous support from Amazon.com, Seattle’s Convention and Visitors Bureau, Seattle Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs, and 4Culture.  The ARTS CRUSH Kick-Off Fair is co-sponsored by Seattle Center.

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