The Remarkable Ken Fallin

Creator of Arbus Cover Art

Ken Fallin, Hamilton

Does the style of the artwork gracing the cover of this issue of Arbus look familiar? No surprise: This image of Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the best-selling Eat, Pray, Love, who will be appearing at a benefit for Theatre Jacksonville on April 25, was created by internationally renowned illustrator and caricaturist Ken Fallin, whose work regularly appears in many major publications. Fallin is originally from Jacksonville, as Sarah Boone, executive director of Theatre Jacksonville, discovered during a chance meeting in New York. A meeting that led to the collaboration for this cover.

“I’m thrilled to be the conduit in this process of partnering with Elizabeth Gilbert and Ken Fallin,” says Boone. “Ken’s involvement with Theatre Jack­son­ville goes back to the ’60s. He lives in New York, but he keeps Jacksonville close to his heart. For almost a hundred years, Theatre Jacksonville has touched thousands of people who are now our surrogates, carrying the message of Jacksonville and the magic of community theater all over the world.

When I read Liz Gilbert’s latest book, Big Magic, I thought, ‘That’s what we do – create magic, a safe space for people to experiment, to grow, to choose joy in every aspect of their lives.’ Having Ken reconnect with us, and with his hometown, is a big part of our joy as we prepare to celebrate Big Magic with Liz Gilbert. I thank him for his generosity, and Cinda Sherman at Arbus for her enthusiasm for promoting the oldest continuously-running community theatre in Florida.”

Ken Fallin: From J’ville to International Success

Ken Fallin with his “Faces By Ken Fallin” Exhibition at Atlier on September 22, 2016 in New York City.

“I always tell people I was born on the banks of the St. Johns – we couldn’t afford a real hospital,” quips Ken Fallin. “Actually, it was at St. Vincent’s, so the banks part is true. I went to Hogan Spring Glen Elementary; then my family moved to Murray Hill. I went all the way through school in Jackson­ville – John Gorrie Junior High and then Lee High School.

I don’t get back to Jacksonville often, but I did attend the Lee 50th Reunion and had a blast. It brought back fabulous memories, and I was thrilled to see how beautiful the restored building is. I am relieved that it was never torn down like so many grand buildings of that era.

While I was a student at Lee, I had fun writing comedy sketches about teachers, students, and everyday events around school. One of the guidance counselors saw a few of them and said, ‘Ken, this would make a great show! Why not put it on?’ So I set it all to show tunes, changing the lyrics to fit, and called it The Mad, Mad World of Lee. Our principal wasn’t too thrilled at the idea, so I rented the little side theater at what was then the Jacksonville Civic Auditorium. They gave it to us for only a hundred dollars a day, and it was a hit. At the reunion, I was surprised and flattered that everyone in my class remembered the show.

During my high school years, I enjoyed being involved with The Little Theatre, now Theatre Jacksonville. I was bitten by the bug! Right after graduation, like so many aspiring actors, I left for New York and began my rounds of auditions, trying to break into the business, but I wasn’t finding my niche. I decided to try college.

After Emerson College in Boston and Parsons School of Design in New York, I was tremendously inspired by Al Hirschfeld’s caricatures and realized that’s what I wanted to do.

My first big break came in 1983.­ Forbidden Broadway opened, a hilarious spoof on everything in theater. I submitted a few sketches, and they had me take over their entire ad campaign. What an opportunity! I drew all their posters and other promotional materials and really got my name out there.

Read MoreBy Carol Grimes

Author: Arbus

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