Jeannine Early, B.F.A. in Performance 1987

While Jeannine was at VCU, one of her most memorable experiences was working at Arena Stage. When writer Harvey Pekar (best known for “American Splendor”) was working on a play there, Jeannine took notes as a directorial intern. She jotted quotes from him and one of them ended up in Artistic Director Zelda Fichandler’s opening night note to the cast.

Jeannine Early in Lady Bracknell

Back at school, one of the shows she worked on was James Baldwin’s Sonny’s Blues. Renowned pianist Ellis Marsalis, Jr. was a visiting professor who contributed to the show. Jeannine saw him years later in New Orleans “and he remembered me and he talked about working on the show.”

Jeannine in a highschool production of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

Jeannine took some time off from VCU to have her daughter, Madeleine. After she finished her degree, she and her previous husband drove their ‘69 VW bug to Seattle, “because it had a flourishing theatre scene and my husband was a chef and it looked like an opportunity to us.” While there, Jeannine did some one-act play festivals for directing, where she won 1st place the first year and 2nd place the following year. However, “It became apparent that I couldn’t balance a life in theater and raise Madeleine.”

Jeannine’s grandchildren, Elias and Elena, with daughter Madeleine and their dog Ruby

She applied for a clerical position for an insurance company on 29th floor looking overlooking Puget Sound and has spent the last 30 years in the industry, specializing in professional liability or commercial casualty. Her husband Scott Fankhauser is in the same business for a different company.

Jeannine and her husband Scott in Venice in 2023
Jeannine Early in King Lear

Jeannine reflects, “It was hard to see a play and not miss it, so just before I turned 50 I took some acting classes for several years.” She’s been back on stage for the last eight years, having just played Mother Superior in Agnes of God for the Heart Repertory Theatre. An earlier production was Calendar Girls, where they created a calendar of the cast. She’s Miss October.

At this point, Jeannine comments, “I’m grateful and blessed to be back at it. I feel like I’m in the right place.”

An image of Chuckanut Bay near Jeannine’s home in Skagit Valley, Washington