Richard ‘Rick’ Waites, founder of Olympic Theater Arts, has died
Known for his sense of humor, love of theater, family and the outdoors, Richard “Rick” Waites, founder of Olympic Theater Arts (OTA), died in August, officials confirmed last week family and theatre.
Local theater flourished after its three performances of Samuel Beckett’s “Krapp’s Last Tape” in March 1980 at Dungeness Schoolhouse.
Waites, who played with the Port Angeles Community Players, asked the public if he would be willing to start a Sequim band. A few were, and the theater community in Sequim grew.
His wife at the time, Wendy Waites, said they discussed how he could do more of his own theater in the area, and OTA started with a three-person team.
“It was really fun,” Wendy said. “We made lights out of coffee cans because that’s what you do on a budget.”
Waites helped/performed in a few other school plays, Wendy Waites said, and they held fundraisers before building a theater (then called Howard Wood Memorial Theater) in 1983 above Cole’s Jewelers , now Calvary Chapel Sequim.
“We’ve had so much support from the community and people established in the community,” she said.
Olivia Shea, one of the founding members, fondly remembers Waites and the early days of OTA.
“It was one of the most fun parts of my life,” she said. “Everything was so new and you could do anything (on stage).”
OTA grew again in 2003 following the efforts of Elaine and Bob Caldwell to rally support for the purchase of the former Boys & Girls Club at 414 N. Sequim Ave.
Within 10 years it was renovated and eventually became the Olympic Center for the Theater Arts, with plays, events and meetings all year round.
In an interview, Waites said he views OTA as an educational experience.
“His goal was to bring an alternative type of theater to the community, and where actors could stretch out,” said Wendy Waites.
He and Wendy moved from Sequim to Edmonds in 1989 to raise their two children Ian and Jaclyn. Waites sought to connect with repertory theater in Seattle while working in marketing and sales.
“His real love was performing,” said Wendy Waites. “That’s where he was most comfortable.”
Waites, born and raised in Southern California, caught the acting bug while in college at Golden West College where “it just kicked in with him,” she said.
He had leading roles in “The Crucible” and “Black Comedy”, a play where light and dark are transposed.
“It was a fun piece for him and he talked about it a lot,” Wendy Waites said.
Waites graduated with the intention of becoming an actor and joined a troupe of actors traveling the area to re-enact the gunfights of the old west.
After college, he was drafted into the United States Army to fight in the Vietnam War in a special forces division of the Army’s 25th Infantry Division on reconnaissance. Wendy Waites said he would help rescue soldiers, recover items from downed planes and gather intelligence. He received many accolades for his service, including Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, and more. He was injured while on duty and completed his service in the United States in 1973.
Wendy Waites said he helped a friend move to Sequim in 1975, so he decided to stay here too.
Waites had many interests besides acting. He was a good musician and could play flute, harmonica and saxophone, Wendy Waites said.
He also loved baseball and briefly played in a San Diego farm league as a pitcher and center fielder. In his 50s, he played a year in the Senior League World Series in Arizona where he was nicknamed “Wheels” because he was so fast.
Waites had a great sense of humor, Wendy Waites said, as he took tumbles, ran into traffic, and always made people laugh.
“Even until the day before he died, he was joking, making others laugh,” she said.
“Both kids have his sense of humor, quick wits too.”
Waites returned to the Sequim area in 2009 and left a few years later to live in Kingston. He was born on July 24, 1947 and died on August 9, 2022.
In lieu of flowers, family members request that donations be made in her name to Olympic Theater Arts; see olympictheatrearts.org.