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Richard G. Fallon Passes

Published May 24, 2013

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We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of Richard G. Fallon. Even though he is no longer with us, his legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of all those who knew him. 

There will be a memorial service for Richard G. Fallon on Wednesday, May 29th, from 4pm to 6pm in the Richard G. Fallon Theatre located in the Fine Arts Building on the Florida State University campus.  There will be a reception to follow in the lobby.  The Fine Arts Building is located on the corner of Call and Copeland Streets.  Parking for the Fallon Theatre is located in the Parking Garage on the corner of Call and Macomb Streets.

Because Dean Fallon’s influence was so far-reaching, on November 9, 2013, there will be an event celebrating the life of Richard G. Fallon in the theatre named after him.  Everyone will be invited and more details will be available soon.

The family has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Richard G. Fallon Scholarship Fund.  To make a donation to the Richard G. Fallon Scholarship Fund, please make checks payable to FSU Foundation and mail to the following address:

Fred Salancy
Attn:  Fallon Scholarship Fund
FSU Foundation
3100A University Center
Florida State University

[quote]“I would like to inspire the young to dare to dream and to understand the tremendous dedication, hard and frustrating work and, most important, the love necessary to come close to achieving that dream.” ~ Richard G. Fallon[/quote]

 

A Great Man Has Passed Away

 

That phrase is so theatrical, so commanding, and so meaningful that it seems perfect to describe one of the pillars of stage such as Richard G. Fallon.  It seems so appropriate.  And yet, it is wrong.  Rather, it is inadequate.

 The accomplishments of Dean Fallon are many and a simple search of his name will reveal achievements that, one after another, make one’s eyes open in amazement.  When he came to Florida State University in 1957, it was a fledgling department, a new experiment.  But it was his darling.  It was his seedling and he put as much love into its care as he could.  By the mid 1970’s, that small office had blossomed into one of the highest ranked Theatre Schools in the entire nation with a talented and dedicated faculty, still guided and nurtured by his gentle hand.

Are those accomplishments the source of his greatness?  For many, it would be enough for one lifetime.  But one lifetime is just too limiting for someone such as Richard Fallon.

Which brings us to the second inadequacy in the phrase.  Richard G. Fallon has not passed away.   Every person who came in contact with him could not help but be affected by his presence.  Not just in the classroom, but by his very being, his love for Theatre, his dedication toward his craft, his devotion to his students.  Even if you had never met the man personally, you have been affected by him.

That’s a rather grandiose statement, right?  Not when you consider the thousands of students and faculty he touched just at Florida State University alone.  When you consider how many of those people then touched the lives of those around them and, more, that many went on to successful careers in Stage, Film and Television, affecting millions and millions more around the world.

That’s a chain of energy that cannot be destroyed, it still exists.   Richard G. Fallon still lives, there is no way he can ever leave us.  Only his physical self has “shuffled off this mortal coil” (yes, at least one Shakespearean phrase must appear here, as the Dean would appreciate)

But for all the accomplishments, for all the greatness, for all the energy, for all the people affected, Dean Fallon would probably most want to be remembered not as a Great Man, but as someone who had dreams and just followed his heart.  That heart led him to a wonderful woman named Suzanne, created a loving family, a career he adored, and the ability to give so much more back than anyone ever demanded of him. 

When you think about it, how many of us are brave enough to follow our dreams?  How many have the heart to do so?  And, how many of us have done so because this man touched our lives?

That, my friends, is the source of Richard G. Fallon’s greatness.

 

– Steven L. Sears

 

 

Richard G. Fallon lived a full life as a teacher, administrator, an actor of radio and stage, and the Dean emeritus and founder of the Florida State University School of Theatre. Born in White Plains, New York, in 1923, Fallon was exposed to Theatre at a young age thanks to the influence of his Irish father. After graduating high school, he moved to New York City to learn the craft of radio drama in the 1930s. Some of his work includes radio dramas like “Mr. District Attorney” and “Ma Perkins”. He is best known for portraying the radio drama character, “Jack Armstrong, the All American Boy” and his face was featured on boxes of Wheaties cereal. He was also working in theatre at the time and met a large network of actors, producers, directors, and playwrights including life-long friends Helen Hays and Eddie Dowling.

He studied for a year at Brown University before enlisting in the Army. While stationed in London he met Suzanne Bowkett Fallon, the daughter of a Major in the British army. She has since passed away after 57 years of marriage. They have two children and five grandchildren. After returning to New York, he resumed his acting career and was inspired by the words of Harold Clurman, American theatre director and drama critic and co-founder of New York City’s Group Theatre, “The theatre is a temple, its function was not merely entertainment, or a path to fame or fortune. The theatre was a window through which an audience could glimpse the beauty and wonder of man. Don’t confuse making art with making a living”. Fallon questioned his commitment to theatre and wondered is it to make a living or make a difference? He enrolled at Columbia University at the advice of his friend, Milton Smith who suggested teaching and bringing the worlds of university theatre and professional theatre would be an excellent path to making a difference. After graduating he took a job teaching theater in a small Lutheran school in upstate New York, called Hartwick. He worked there for four years, while completing his masters and beginning his doctorate.

Fallon and his family moved to the University of Maryland at Towson, a suburb of Baltimore, where he stayed for three and a half years. He then moved to Jacksonville Community Theater in Florida, and after two years accepted a position in Florida State University’s speech department. Fallon requested to start a theatre based on performance, and FSU responded favorably to this. His aim was to combine academic training with the aid of professional actors, playwrights, and producers from New York. Fallon invited his good friend, Eddie Dowling to workshop his new play, and thus began the Eddie Dowling New Play series. FSU received statewide and national attention, as a reputable university for studying theatre and in 1973; Fallon became Dean of the newly created School of Theatre.

The Ringling Museum in Sarasota, FL invited FSU to perform at the Asolo Theatre. Fallon saw the beautiful theatre as an underused venue and approached the director about presenting a series of plays during the
summer. Educational programs and school tours at the Asolo garnered national attention and Fallon started a dual program bringing the MFA acting students for conservatory style training from FSU to the Asolo Theatre. Bringing to life Richard Fallon’s dream of “students working with professionals working with students”.

            In his time at FSU, Fallon was a founder and director of the Asolo State Theater in Sarasota. Through a partnership with Burt Reynolds, a million dollar chair was established at FSU and a theatre would be built and handed over to the university. To complete the project, Fallon had to retire his Deanship to devote all of his time to the project knowing it would bring great esteem and prestige to the university. His sacrifice gave FSU its Chair, the FSU Performing Arts Center in Sarasota, and the Asolo Theatre Company now had a permanent home.

Fallon co-founded the Southern Shakespeare Festival as well as contributing to the establishment and growth of other state theaters in Florida at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Boca Raton, and Miami. He founded the state theatre board and FSU theater outreach programs such as Asolo Conservatory, Jekyll Island Music Theatre, and the Burt Reynolds Institute for Theatre Training in Jupiter. He served as president of the American Theatre Association and was a co-founder of the University/Resident Theatre Association (URTA).

            He was instrumental in building a theatre in the Fine Arts Building on the Florida State University Campus and is dedicated to and named after Fallon. The opening was a star-studded event with guests such as Helen Hays, Tony Randall, and Tennessee Williams who became a good friend of Dean Fallon.

            The list of luminaries who worked with Fallon and his staff and students reads like a Who’s Who of the American Theater. His legacy will no doubt live on through the success of FSU School of Theatre and it’s graduates. In 1975 he was awarded the Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor Award. The Danforth Foundation honored him as one of ten professors nationwide with their Gifted Teaching Award.  He was elected to the Fellows of the American Theatre and The National Theatre Conference. He has won awards from the Governor of Florida and Secretary of State, among many others.