‘Stand in your truth’: Emerson unveils the Judee Wales Watson Theater



Judee Wales Watson standing before The Judee Wales Watson Theater.

By Adri Pray, Editor-at-large

Emerson honored actress and alumna Judee Wales Watson ’10 last week by naming the Student Performance Center in the basement of the Little Building after her.

The ceremony, held on April 4 outside the newly-dubbed Judee Wales Watson Theater, featured several performances alongside speeches given by campus dignitaries. Noteworthy, a campus a cappella group, performed “Easy to Love” by Couch, while senior musical theater major Lauren Dodds soloed “Cabaret,” and senior musical theater majors Naja Brown and Morgan McMillin dueted “The Colors of Paradise.”

“This is your new student performance arts space theater that you can bring everything to—your courage to, your passion to, your truth,” Watson said, addressing the crowd. “Stand in your truth. Promise me you will stand in your truth whenever you are in this space.”

Watson first enrolled as an acting major at Emerson in 1968 but left in 1971 with just five remaining credits for her degree. After she left, she co-founded the Boston Repertory Theater on Cape Cod, where she worked with actors such as David Morse and Tom Bower. She continued her career in the arts, acting in over 40 plays, films, and television productions, and later produced an album named “Love Life!” in 2012.

Watson and her husband co-founded film production company Two Bare Arms Productions, which later produced “Mixed Signals,” a 2001 short film starring Watson. He introduced her to then-Emerson President Jacqueline Liebergott, who helped Watson complete her acting degree at the college in 2010.

“You have made a difference in the lives of our students, and your commitment to Emerson ensures that our students will continue to benefit from fantastic, life-changing opportunities for years to come,” Gilligan said to those gathered.

The New York actor’s self-described mission is to “shed light in dark places through art,” a feat accomplished with help from her life experiences. Notable inspiration came from her brief stint as a Playboy Bunny in her home state of New Jersey, which was the basis for the role of Bunny Betts in her one-woman show “Can A Playboy Bunny Have A Dream?”

She also created and starred in “Don’t Fret Honee… You’re Just Payin’ Your Dues,” another one-woman show that played Dangerfield, among other clubs.

Beyond the mansion, her artistic resume extends to multiple Broadway roles, including Fanny Brice in Ann Corio’s “This Was Burlesque” and Sally Cato in Edie Adam’s “Mame.” At Playwrights Horizons, she originated eight roles in eight plays and appeared with a Broadway ensemble in Katherine Paulsen’s “The Season.”

Her television credentials extend beyond “Mixed Signal” as well. Watson was featured in the independent film “Satellite,” directed by Jeff Winner, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. She was a principal character in Sylvester Stallone’s “Nighthawks” and was featured in several of Woody Allen’s films, namely “Annie Hall,” “Manhattan,” and “Star Dust Memories.”

Her contributions to Emerson’s campus broaden her alumna status, as Watson funds the Judee Truncer Wales Watson Actor Scholarship and the Judee Wales Watson Artist-in-Residence Program, which began in 2021.

“We all need a creative home,” Watson said at the ceremony. “While you’re here, make [this theater] your creative home, and when you come back, visit it, and remember what it was you learned here.”