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Nick Garrison, 1974—2022: A remembrance by a few of his friends & collaborators

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Nick Garrison at Village Theatre — Photo by Victoria Lahti
Nick Garrison at Village Theatre — Photo by Victoria Lahti

Actor, singer, director, and writer Nick Garrison passed away unexpectedly while walking a favorite scenic trail in Bothell, shortly before being discovered on the morning of Tuesday, July 26, 2022.

A tremendous talent, Nick embraced Seattle as his creative community, and in turn, his community dearly embraced him back. His work was seen in Seattle's largest professional theatres, such as the 5th Avenue, Seattle Rep, and ACT, but also in more intimate venues like Empty Space, Re-bar, and Annex. Nick garnered national and international acclaim for his portrayal of Hedwig in Hedwig in the Angry Inch, which he played in Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco, and throughout the UK.

Nick's creative life was varied and prolific. But rather than list his many accomplishments, we've gathered reflections from a few of his creative collaborators about what made him such a remarkable person and artist.

Allison Narver
Director/AD emeritus, Empty Space Theatre, Annex Theatre

"Some of the most golden moments of my life were spent making theater with Nick. He knew the deep truth in contradiction. Be it ecstasy in sorrow or the deadly serious act of comedy, he understood that being alive is a kind of exquisite torture far too important to be taken seriously. Nothing was off limits — he was a whirling dervish of creativity, fearlessness, and passion. He expected the same from his collaborators. He made me feel braver and smarter than I am. He made it easy to do, because I knew he was holding my hand the whole way."

Nick Garrison in Ian Bell's Brown Derby Series — Carrie — Photo by Doug McLaughlin  

Ian Bell
Director, Ian Bell's Brown Derby Series

"Rightly, there's a high premium on laughter. Genuine laughter is rare and special, and feels as wonderful to elicit as it is to experience. The sheer volume of this kind of laughter that Nick put into the world could only be measured in cubic tons. Nick could always find honesty in his comedy — fully committing to his character's objective while simultaneously revealing its complete folly. As an early member of the Brown Derby Series, performing in over 29 shows I directed, Nick contributed to the legacy of the series, and the laughter he brought lives on in my heart."

Andrew Tasakos (aka Bitsy Bates)
Fellow performer and friend

"We met in the cast of Dirty Little Showtunes (Re-bar, 1997). I remember hearing him sing and I was like, 'Who the hell is this kid? I MUST BE HIS FRIEND!' And it was so. We worked on many shows together, mainly in the Brown Derby Series, and he helped take my drag technique to new levels. We talked recently about 'our style of drag' and that neither of us would last 10 seconds on RuPaul's Drag Race. We were actors first, who happened to excel at dress and wig-wearing. I often fantasized about doing another show with him. I'm heartbroken that possibility is gone."

Imogen Love
Director, actor, collaborator

"Nick's uncanny ability to channel women made him an unsung standard bearer for true gender fluidity. Kevin Mesher, Nicole Sarrocco, and I wrote the role 'Momma' in Deflowered in the Attic (Re-bar, 1999) specifically for Nick, because no other actor of any gender could so fully capture her. His appreciation of, and empathy with, women was rare and beautiful among men of his generation; his Hedwig, while presenting as female, was laced with glamorous masculinity as part of his many-layered (and deeply sweaty) performance."

Nick Garrison as Hedwig — Photo by Howard Petrella  

Sarah Rudinoff
Collaborator, co-star

"Nick was like my artistic husband. In fact, when we first worked together on Hedwig and the Angry Inch, I was playing his husband, Yitzhak. I watched him transform not only himself but the audience each night. It felt more like a religious experience than a play. And isn't that what everyone is looking for in art and spiritual practices, to be so emotionally inspired that it shifts them inside? Nick had the craft, the sensitivity, the talent, and the ineffable power to do that, and that is why he is and will always be beloved."

Ross Whippo
Former technical director, Re-bar

"Nick opened up my world. I was a young, inexperienced theatre technician looking for my next gig, and Nick grabbed me by the hand and pulled me through the seedy back-alley entrance of Re-bar. He introduced me to a marvelous collection of weirdos who quickly became the family I hadn't realized I needed. He took a chance on me, saw something I didn't, and generously made me a part of the magic. I spent the next four months (during the Hedwig and the Angry Inch 2004 remount) trussing him up in a corset over the bar toilet, and I wouldn't trade a minute of it."

Nick Garrison in The Love Markets — Photo courtesy of Von Piglet Productions  

Angie Louise
Singer-songwriter, actor, bandleader, The Love Markets

"Nick inspired me to dig deeper. With him as my muse, anything seemed possible — why not create a show for the two of us that never had to close? His generosity of spirit and boundless capacity for intimacy, his commitment to each moment, his sheer brilliance — he was the singing partner and bandmate of my dreams, whether we were playing a packed house or my empty living room. Nick empowered me to find my voice as a songwriter. By believing in me and by simply being who he was, this dearest of friends changed my life."

Chris Jeffries
Composer, writer, pianist

"I'm dwelling on the little, hilarious things: How shocked my dad was that the mother in Deflowered in the Attic was actually a man. The way he said, 'I have an excellent memory, and I love sherry' in Valley of the Dolls. Hours planning improbable productions of weird late Tennessee Williams plays. Watching Three Sisters and counting the times Sandy Dennis touched her face. Just spending time with Nick was gold. Thoreau said: 'To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.'"


Nick will be deeply missed by the many people he touched and inspired with his talent, passion, and love.

He is survived by his mother, Mary; his siblings Lisa, Laura, and Jeff; and his beloved nieces and nephews.