Singer, Actor, Board President and Inspiration
Henry Lee Woods Jr. worked in Washington, D.C for more than 20 years and served on the staffs of U.S. Rep Bill Alexander and Sens. David Pryor, Dale Bumpers and Blanche Lincoln. He also worked on campaigns of Bill and Hillary Clinton.
He loved the theater … he was part of it in school, and then performed with the Alexandria Little Theater while working as a congressional aide. When he came to Key West, he naturally gravitated to the Waterfront Playhouse.
Henry Woods made his Waterfront Playhouse debut in Urinetown, the Musical as the conniving Senator Fipp. He also appeared in the Waterfront’s opening concerts Encore! and Broadway With A Twist. He served as president of the board of directors of the Waterfront for four years. He was also onstage for the Island Opera production of The Most Happy Fella and sang several times in Pride Follies. Prior to retiring to Key West, Henry spent twenty-six years on Capitol Hill in Washington working for Arkansas senators and helping in two presidential campaigns for fellow Hot Springs High School graduate Bill Clinton. One of his proudest moments as president of the Playhouse was seeing the realization of the Anne and Ross McKee Lobby.
Sadly, Henry passed away on December 25, 2009. Here are brief remembrances from Danny Weathers and Bob Frechette:
“It was impossible to say ‘no’ to Henry. It’s one of the reasons why he was such an effective leader. His knack for getting people to join him in his multiple activities was amazing. It allowed him to accomplish things with ease, efficiency and grace. He made you want to be better. When Henry asked if I would consider being the artistic director of the Waterfront Playhouse, I wasn’t sure I was up to the challenge. But his excitement, positive attitude and energy convinced me. Henry never let me down. The recent growth of the Waterfront would never have been possible without Henry: he revitalized the board; brought business practices and policies into the 21st century; he was responsible for bringing Mike Boyer in as tech director and scenic designer; he increased our donor base; he made certain that we operated in the black; and so much more. He referred to our success as a “renaissance” – he was the leader who made it happen. I always trusted Henry’s judgment. He was my barometer for choosing shows in our season line-up. If he didn’t like a particular play or musical, I would usually set it aside. The reverse was also true. For instance, I felt “Urinetown” was beyond our abilities, but he pushed so hard that I decided to give it a go. It turned out to be one of the most successful shows ever at the WFPH. And he gave a wonderful performance as the scheming Senator in the show! He also performed in several of our concerts – he had a lovely tenor voice that was not heard nearly enough. Recently he was the hilarious ‘straight’ man to John Wells’ Lola (in drag – scary!) singing “Whatever Lola Wants.” The number brought down the house. I think Henry would say that one of his proudest achievements in Key West was the restoration of the Ross and Anne McKee lobby at the Waterfront. He was the driving force as he charmed, convinced and begged for the finances to make his dream project happen. Amazingly, he got it all done in less than 2 years! Henry was always ready to lend a hand – from helping to find housing for our out of town actors to the wonderful cast parties he and Skilly would throw. Skilly would make a fabulous spread and Henry would host and the cast and crew members were totally pampered. This week I’ve had the sad task of contacting many of our out of town actors to relay the news. Each of them had the highest praise for Henry. I can’t get used to thinking of him in the past tense. I already miss his wicked sense of humor, his ability to effortlessly solve problems, our like-minded political rants and our mutual love of live theater. However, I know his spirit and many contributions will endure. My thoughts are with Skilly and Henry’s family. I thank them for allowing us to share some of Henry’s time. He was an essential part of so many organizations in our community, but I’m eternally grateful for his passion, support and leadership in creating such a rich legacy for the Waterfront Playhouse. I have this feeling that he’s convinced a group of angels to ‘put on a show!'”
Danny Weathers Artistic Director Waterfront Playhouse/Key West Players, Inc.
“My friend Henry Woods joined the Key West Players/Waterfront Board in 2000 as a grant writer. In 2003 he began his first of four terms as board president. Under his thoughtful leadership, the theater began a renaissance that continues to this day.He revitalized and expanded the theater’s board membership and updated and refined the policy and procedures that are still in place today. Henry had a multitude of personal attributes but one of his best is seeking out people to work with him in the development of his goals. He was the guy who went after and hired Danny Weathers, our Artistic Director, along with Michael Boyer, our Technical Director and scenic designer. He brought financial discipline to the Playhouse, expanded our donor base and put together a management team that went after funding to completely remodel our current lobby which was finished in 2007.Henry’s contributions are too numerous to cover in one article, but in short, he helped guide the Waterfront Playhouse to what it is today, a financially healthy non-profit that provides this amazing city with vital, entertaining, live professional theater at the highest level. I will miss him terribly but his legacy will continue and I will do my small part to make sure that what he started will continue on, he would expect nothing less from all of us at the Waterfront Playhouse and we are proud to be a part of that history.”
Bob Frechette, Past Board President