Joe Watts
The Grandfather of Gay Theatre in Houston

2/21/42 to 3/12/18

photo by Todd Speere, 2015

Joe Watts
by Andrew Edmonson

See His Obituary

Dubbed "the grandfather of gay theater" in Houston, Joe Watts began directing and acting in Houston queer
theater productions in the early 1980s. One of the first productions he appeared in was an all male production
of Noel Coward's comedic classic Private Lives, staged at the Pink Elephant bar downtown, one of Texas's
oldest gay bars. In 1985, he founded The Group Theater, one of the city's first gay theater companies.
In the mid 1990s, he went on to found another queer theater company, Theatre New West, in Montrose.

He was a pioneer in staging one of the first plays about AIDS in Houston. In 1985, he directed One for
The Group Theater featuring the actor Kent Johnson as a benefit for the AIDS Foundation Houston. The
production was selected by Houston Post theater critic William Albright as one of the best productions of 1985.

In 2006, Watts realized a dream that he had held for two decades: staging Larry Kramer's seminal AIDS drama
The Normal Heart at the Bering and James Art Gallery in Montrose. In observance of World AIDS Day in 2010
and 2011, he directed staged readings of The Normal Heart at Stages Repertory Theatre to raise funds for
LGBT non profits.

He was drawn to directing searing plays examining the homophobia of the larger society in such plays as
Bent, 2004, and The Laramie Project, 2010, both staged by Theatre New West at the Holocaust Museum Houston.

He also was gifted at directing comedy. The Houston Press declared his 2001 production of Paul Rudnick's
The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told as "Absolutely Fabulous," observing, "Joe Watts of Theatre New West
brings this charming script to Houston with timing that couldn't be better. His production is the best dramatic
bonbon of the holiday season -- thanks in no small part to his pretty and enthusiastic young cast, whose
collective chemistry bubbles over with the indulgent joy that can make live theater so much fun."

Watts acted in over 75 productions, directed over 60 productions, and also worked as a producer, teacher of
acting, and theater critic.
Joe Watts was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma on February 21, 1942. He died on
March 12, 2018 after a battle with Stage 4 cancer.

Clippings and Playbills

1980s Productions  This Page
1990s Productions
2000s Productions
2010s Productions

This is by no means complete coverage, so if you can send
me scans of his other shows I would be glad to add them

Boys in the Band (1983, 1984)

Love Letters (1983) Eureka Springs, Arkansas
directing and acting

Private Lives (1983)


One (1985)
a one-man show starring Kent Johnson
and the first play in Houston about AIDS


Here's a Very rare clip....a reading by Kent Johnson from the show One,
as heard on the KPFT radio show Wilde-N-Stein, with comments by
the late Mike Miesch, 9/13/85, 4 minutes     Listen

Franny, The Queen of Provincetown (1986)


8 X 10 Glossy (1986)

Dutchman (1987)


also for the Kuumba House, Boesman & Lena
year unknown, description of SF production in 1983

Gulp (1987)


Info on the NYC Production of Gulp

Life of the Party (1987)


Pursuit of Happiness (1988)

Soul Survivor (1988)
Revival production in 1995


Lazarus and His Beloved (1989)

Layman's Guide to Safe Sex (1989)

1990s Productions