Describing the backstories of interesting local residents is always a priority at Canyon Country Magazine. And when it comes to the life of Sand Canyon resident Barry Agin, you could say it’s taken some dramatic turns.
He began acting at about 8 years old when his mother, a former actress, got him involved in theatre to help counteract shyness. He continued with it, but slowed down through college and didn’t pick it up again until his daughter was about 5 or 6 years old.
“She wanted to get in some local plays. They needed adults and found out I had a background in it,” said Agin, a 35-year Canyon Country resident.
He has appeared in some commercials and has an agent, but still considers acting an avocation. “It gives me a lot of creative pleasure,” he said.
His “day job” is in advertising, but about 10 years ago, Agin started appearing on the local stage in his free time.
“Canyon Theatre Guild is such a welcoming place,” Agin said. “So many times, half the cast has never done a show before. They’re extremely open to anybody – new people are welcome to audition.”
His favorite role so far at the CTG earned Agin a Goldie Award for “Best Leading Man,” and ironically, it was for his portrayal of a woman. In “Hairspray” he played “Edna Turnblad,” which was John Travolta’s character in the movie version.
He is currently appearing in Canyon Theatre Guild’s “Moonlight & Magnolias” as “Ben Hecht,” the screenwriter tasked with improving the “Gone with the Wind” script.
“I love getting back onstage,” Agin said. “The biggest challenge with ‘Moonlight & Magnolias’ is the physical requirements of it. It’s a physical comedy show and the director saw this at an extremely fast pace, a frantic pace – and the three of us are onstage almost the entire time.”
There’s another challenge to doing live theatre as well: making sure you’re keeping it fresh every single night.
“It’s very interesting because, especially with comedy shows, you find something new every time,” Agin said. “The first night the suspenders I had on got caught in the chair. Everyone thought it was planned. … Doing a live show, the thrill of it is anything can happen.”
Agin is one actor who never needs to say, “What I really want to do is direct.” He’s already there.
He directed Canyon Theatre Guild’s “Steel Magnolias” this year and last year he ended up replacing the original director of “Rex’s Exes.”
Strangely, Agin’s first order of business when he took over as director was to replace himself in a leading role. And he got another curve ball when “The Buddy Holly Story,” which preceded “Rex’s Exes,” was held over, truncating his time to get sets and everything together.
But it wasn’t too daunting for Agin, thanks to his theatre experience.
“I’ve been in shows where you practice in an abandoned liquor store and in two days get on the stage,” he said. “We are so lucky to have such a great facility here.”
And it helps that Agin has a broad skill set.
“As a director you’re pretty much responsible for everything,” he explained. “You need time for a stage manager, lighting – you’re recruiting people for all of that … setting the rehearsal schedule. The most challenging part is keeping all the balls in the air.”
He appreciates the high bar for both acting and directing. “When you challenge yourself and get it done it’s a really great feeling of accomplishment,” he said. “You get out of your comfort zone with a lot of these things. … But it’s worth it – everyone seems to enjoy it.”
Agin is impressed by the talent and tone of theatre participation in Santa Clarita.
“There’s a tremendous number of people that volunteer,” he said. “The endless hours people put into it – and the shows come out very professional.”
He also loves the camaraderie. “The adults and kids are equals,” he said. “It’s one of my favorite things about theatre – it brings people together.”
If Agin sounds calm in the midst of a storm, perhaps it’s his experience in the circus. But that’s a backstory that will have to wait for next time.