Backstage Lake County: Meet Tim Barnes

I’m happy to report that there is another new drama teacher in town!  If you are a theatre goer, you may recognize him as Curly from Oklahoma!, as a member of the Lakeport City Council, as the former Mayor of Lakeport, as the former owner of Cheese’s Mainstreet Pizza, as a former Mr. Lake County, or as a DJ you’ve seen around the lake.  No matter where you’ve seen him, Tim Barnes is always looking for new challenges.

His latest undertaking as the CTE Drama Teacher (Career Technical Education) for grades 7 through 12 at Clearlake High school and Terrace Middle School was the next logical step after years of involvement in the theatre community.

Born in Anchorage Alaska, Barnes grew up in Barstow.  He first got into theatre in elementary school where he would perform in talent shows or band performances as the ‘“filler in between acts.”  He continued his involvement with theatre in Middle School and High School and, at one point, found himself in two plays at the same time.  One with the highschool and one with the local college.  But the high point was an opportunity to spend a semester at the Las Vegas Academy for Visual Performing Arts.  Barnes recalls that “It was amazing!  I got to spend three periods a day in Theatre, Technical Arts (Lighting Design & Set Building), and Dance.”

Tim Barnes

After high school, though, he drifted away from theatre and in 2006 he came up to Lake County to visit a friend. He ended up liking the area and the people (he met his future wife here) and stayed.  Within 6 months of moving here he found the Lake County Repertory Theatre and that was all it took to get him back into theatre.

It was with this group, and with Norman Winkler and Mill Garret in particular, that he really furthered his education building sets and learning lighting and sound.  Barnes jokes that even though the sets were temporary, “Wink’s were always structurally sound enough for someone to live in.” 

While Barnes was doing a lot of what he calls skits with story lines, what he really wanted to do was something edgier.  Specifically, The Rocky Horror Picture Show.  He kept being told that Lake County was “not ready for this” and the area wasn’t really the “right demographics” for that kind of show.   The board finally gave in with the stipulation that he also direct. 

Barnes had previously helped Pam Bradley at Clearlake High School as the character coach for Grease.  He turned, once again, to Bradley who let him assistant direct The Bad Seed in preparation for Rocky Horror.  In 2010, Barnes made his directorial debut with The Rocky Horror Picture Show and it was the highest grossing show to date at that time for the theatre company.  It was standing room only and sold out 7 of 9 shows.  In addition to directing, Barnes also played Eddie. 

Of the numerous shows that he’s directed since then, one show in particular stands out,  Animal Farm, by George Orwell.  Barnes directed the show in 2018, which, given the political scene at the time, was topical.  Barnes staged it in a barn at the Lake County Fairgrounds using live animals as part of the stage dressing alongside the actors who were playing animals. The set pieces and costumes were all repurposed or found items.  The show was socially and environmentally conscious.  A neighboring theatre group produced 1984 that same year (also by George Orwell) and the two groups came to see each other’s productions.

Over the decade plus since his directorial debut, Barnes has become very well rounded at directing, designing and building sets, doing lighting and sound design, and acting regularly with the group which eventually merged with the Lakeport Community Players to become the Lake County Theatre Company. He also served on the theatre board for about 10 years, even becoming president at one point.

Some of his notable roles include Curly from Oklahoma!, Kronos Liskin from The Producers, Charlie Gordon from Flowers for Algernon, RP Mc Murphy from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Eddie from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Lancelot from Spamalot, Jitter from The Musical of Musicals, The Musical!, and Bottom in A MidSummer Night’s Dream.  He also appeared in the Tuna Series with Rod Rehe each playing 11 parts. 

His wife, Laura, a teacher at Kelseyville Elementary is also very much involved in theatre.  Together they created several fundraisers for the Lake County Theatre Company including the Mr. Lake County Pageant, the Art of Magic, and Adult Prom.  Barnes also served as the third Mr. Lake County following Brian Martin and Larry Richardson. 

I asked him what made him decide to get into teaching. He said he’d always toyed with teaching drama and two years ago a position came up at Terrace Middle School.  He missed that opportunity, but he and his wife decided he should really go for it and so he enrolled in a credentialing program.   As part of his training he went to Lower Lake Middle School and taught English and History to seventh graders.  The last two years he spent teaching at Lower Lake Elementary.

At the end of the last school year he interviewed for the Drama position at Middletown High and then got the call that they had gone another route.  He found out later that another one of the members of the theatre got it.  And, while he was disappointed that he didn’t get the job, he was “super happy that somebody local” he knew got it.

Shortly after that he saw a listing for CTE Drama Teacher.  He interviewed and got the job.  He thinks it probably helped that he dj’d prom there last year and he’s thinking they’ll probably utilize his skill set for that again.  What started out as disappointment at missing out on the Middletown opportunity turned into absolutely the best case scenario.  Because he works in Lakeport, he now gets to ride his bike to work.  He’s home with the kids a lot sooner than he would have been had he landed the job in Middletown.  And, he’s teaching in his same community.

Barnes is currently half way through a multiple subject credential.   He had enough practical experience coupled with his AA in Theatre and bachelors in Business Management to secure his position.  And, he’s got big plans for his students going forward.  He wants to bring back the countywide drama competition for high school kids including monologues, duets, and short one act plays.  He’d like to take his kids to the Linea Festival (a larger competition) at Sac State.  And, he plans on starting a Lakeport chapter of the International Thespian Society, an honor society for highschool and middle school theatre students.  He also wants to do two shows a year with his students.  His hope is a Spring Musical and a drama in the fall.  Rehearsals for the fall show started last week.

For theatre fans out there, just because he’s teaching doesn’t mean he’s giving up theatre.  He’s still very much interested in directing shows (he doesn’t alway feel the need to be on stage), and continuing to act.  He says the title character from Sweeney Todd and the Dentist from Little Shop of Horrors are on his bucket list.  And, based on his tenacity, I think he’ll eventually get his wish.  Welcome Tim Barnes!  You’re students are lucky to have you.

Charise Reynolds

CHARISE REYNOLDS HAS OVER 30 YEARS EXPERIENCE PERFORMING IN MUSICAL THEATER IN SAN DIEGO, LOS ANGELES, AND LAKE COUNTY. SHE’S A FORMER BOARD MEMBER OF THE LAKE COUNTY THEATRE COMPANY AND MOST RECENTLY HAS TURNED HER ENDEAVORS TOWARD PRODUCING. SHE IS CURRENTLY WORKING ON HER ONE-WOMAN SHOW TITLED “LOVE, LOSS, AND LESSONS LEARNED” SET TO BE PERFORMED IN JANUARY 2022.

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