Jerry Watson (back row, top hat) as heavy Uncle Henri in “My Three Angels” by Bella and Sam Spewack, Key City Players 1993


Another good friend from community theater days has passed on. The once-upon-a-time group that was extremely active in the Port Townsend theater scene in the 1990s has suffered many losses recently. Lawrie Driscoll. Catherine McNabb. Charles Duncan. The roll call continues with Jerry Watson: actor, director and perfectionist in the realm of set design and construction.


He sounds like a very talented individual.


He certainly was, Lily, and a hard worker, too. We first crossed paths in the early 1990s when I’d moved back to Port Townsend- –


Wait! We moved away from Port Townsend?


More than once, 9. We’d been living in Seattle for about 10 years, finishing college and getting started in an accounting career. My husband and I both got heavily involved in the Key City Players- –


Wait! We got married?


More than once, 9. We’ll talk about that later. Now it’s time to talk about Jerry Watson.


Jerry was part of the board then, and continued in that capacity for many years. He was in his 50s, the elder statesman in our group of mostly thirty-somethings. His approach to theater was old school in the best sense of the term. He had a booming, resonant voice that could rock that little theater to the rafters, moved with ease and authority, and was a good-looking chap. Jerry was also a dedicated runner, part of his secret to looking decades younger than his actual age.


He died June 2nd at the age of 83. Jerry was born and raised in California, studied theater in college and served in the army sometime between Korea and Vietnam. Eventually whatever leads people to Port Townsend led Jerry there, too. Never married, no kids, but he definitely perked up whenever a single woman who was new to the theater community came to auditions or volunteered to help with production.


Oh, and cats. He always had a cat or three at home, and hosted the strays that used the playhouse for home base. It became quite a herd. He named them all and made it his personal business to keep them fed.


Through his heavy involvement at the playhouse and his incredible depth of knowledge Jerry taught lots of people lots of things. For years he was part of the core group that kept the Key City Players going. Here are some recollections from working with Jerry in the 1990s.


Early in 1993 Jerry and I were both directing one-act plays for KCP’s February production. His was a reader’s theater adaptation of Steinbeck’s “The Frog Hunt”; mine was a play by Michael Frayn, “Audience.” I’d cast Jerry as Merrill, a geriatric Ugly American who is attending a play with his wife, Bobbie. Days before opening the woman playing Bobbie was hospitalized with high blood pressure. Her doctor insisted she drop out of the play. I took the role at the last minute, playing the character as a gold digger instead of a family friend who was nursing him through decrepitude. Here’s the result:


With Jerry Watson as Ugly American newlyweds in “Audience” by Michael Frayn, Key City Playhouse, 1994


Jerry loved this photo so much he framed it and put it on his mantle! He called it our Cary Grant and Dyan Cannon picture.


A few years later I was cast in “Dearly Departed,” a funeral comedy, Jerry as director. The characters were quirky southerners and very over-the-top. Mine, Suzanne, was a complete bitch to her husband- –


I can’t believe you used the B-word in the blog!


In this case it cuts to the point, Lily. Suzanne attends her father-in-law’s funeral with her husband, Junior. She knows Junior is having an affair because she found another woman’s earring in his parking lot sweeper. A woman with a single earring that’s a match for it shows up at the funeral and Suzanne goes bananas! Jerry directed me to really go for it, to fall to my knees and pound the floor with my hands as I raged about my humiliation and agony, costumed in a tawdry black fake leather mini-dress. Jerry laughed uproariously every time we did the scene (which also featured the brilliant Catherine McNabb as Bible-thumping Aunt Marguerite) and paid me the ultimate compliment of calling me his Little Carol Burnett.


“Suzanne” backstage in Jerry Watson-directed “Dearly Departed” by David Bottrell and Jessie Jones, Key City Players c. 1995.



Jerry was a meticulous set-builder. The first KCP show after we took the lease on the Washington Street playhouse in 1992 was “Dial M for Murder.” The set was the elegant apartment of a wealthy British couple. Jerry was a fanatic about detail. I remember the director’s frustration when a scheduled rehearsal was delayed because Jerry was painting the underside of the trim on the wall-hung bookcases, even though the audience wouldn’t be able to see it. Jerry would see it, and that’s what mattered.


Jerry was far from all work and no play. If you happened to think of something you needed to do at the playhouse late at night you might find him down there in the near-dark, playing harmonica and sipping a bottle of Tequila.


Sometimes the Key City Players were asked to perform for other organizations. One year the Wooden Boat Festival wanted a few people to be pirates as part of a treasure hunt for kids. Jerry, Dave Carruthers and I volunteered. Dave had the frock coat and played the pirate captain. I borrowed the curly blonde wig again from friend and KCP hair maven Sarah Smith and, in knee-high boots and hot pants, played Goldie, the gold digging pirate. Jerry chose to be a surly crewman, decked out in a Navajo shirt of his own from the 60s, a bandana around his head, and a stuffed weasel named Francis pinned on his shoulder. Yes, he talked to Francis. . .And the kids- -once they found us, they were brutal! They poked us with rubber swords and would have pushed us off the dock if grownups hadn’t intervened.


Life in the theater with Jerry could be exciting, frustrating, and, at times, downright dangerous. He was an energetic person who loved life and lived it fully. I think he’d be pleased that so many people remember him, respect him and will miss him deeply.


One last photo (and I wish I had more): Jerry, dancing up a storm at the Key City Players Dubious Awards Banquet.


Jerry Watson partying down at the KCP Dubious Awards Banquet, c. 1996.



Rock on, Jerry!









Pin It on Pinterest