Most teenagers spend their high school years as far away from their parents as possible. Not so for the Bagin family.
Eight years ago, John and Kirsten Bagin enrolled their children Jack and Anna in a summer art camp. Both of the children took to performing, and soon the whole family was reeled in.
Jack, 16, joined the community theater — the White Pine Players in Rockford — and his dad, John, would sit through the practices. After a couple weeks of the director asking for more adult males to be in the production, John gave in.
“I didn’t really have a desire to be in the theater at that point, but I was more just going to be helping out because I was going to be there,” John said. “However, once I started doing it, I realized this is a lot of fun.”
Soon, Anna was auditioning for shows. And then the next spring, so was Kirsten.
“With the theater, all four of us could be together,” John said. “There were even scenes that we would be in together.”
John said he loves being able to have such a close relationship with his family, kept alive through theater. He and Kirsten will celebrate 25 years of marriage in April.
“It’s fantastic,” John said. “My kids and my wife and I are very involved together and so we’re a very close-knit family.”
One of his favorite memories, John said, is playing a nerdy father and son in “A House Divided” with his son, Jack.
“We were father and son in real life and father and son in the play together,” John said. “And we were both playing nerds, which wasn’t much of a stretch for us.”
A close friendship with Jack is what brought Anna into theater initially.
“My brother’s always been my best friend,” Anna said. “So I kind of wanted to do everything he was doing.”
Anna said she ended up enjoying it so much herself, that she continued on. She said although she has friends who also do theater, there’s something special about having your family there.
“If I forget a line and I’m feeling bad, they’ll cheer me up backstage and help me regain my confidence,” Anna said.
For Jack, acting has forced him out of his comfort zone, he said, and he’s more than OK with that.
“Learning how to adapt to different situations and think from somebody else’s perspective is nice,” he said.
John said he and Kirsten both have a sense of adventure as well, which led them to build a log cabin — their home — together in 2006.
“We jump in with both feet,” John said, adding that when they joined theater, not only did they act but they helped with props, sets and volunteering.
Kirsten said that while she enjoys acting, she really likes to express her creative side in designing sets and creating props for shows. Her favorite sets to design were for Tiny Tim and MASH.
“I actually prefer the artwork and the craftiness and the cleverness that you have to have to put a theater set together,” she said.
Today, John is on the board for the White Pine Players. The whole family continues to do shows, some even outside of their community theater. Jack is also in the marching band at Rockford High School, while Anna is in crew rowing. Both siblings participate in a gaming club.
At the end of this month, Jack and Anna will perform in Cats, the musical, with the Sparta Community Theater. John and Kirsten plan to be involved with the White Pine Players’ production of Death by Chocolate, either cast in the show or helping with stage crew.
John encourages families with an interest in theater to get involved, especially if they want to not just bond, but have fun doing it.
“It’s one of those rare things where families as a whole can all do it together,” John said.