Guy Wagner, popular Buffalo actor, dies at 56 - The Buffalo News

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Guy Wagner, popular Buffalo actor, dies at 56

Jan. 10, 1960 - Oct. 28, 2016

Guy Scott Wagner, a Buffalo actor and stagehand known for his onstage intensity and dedication to the craft, died Thursday in Buffalo General Hospital after suffering complications from a recent surgery. He was 56.

Mr. Wagner, a onetime bartender and bodybuilder known for playing toughs, was a fixture on local stages through much of the 1990s and into the 2000s. He appeared most recently in the Irish Classical Theatre Company's production of "Outside Mullingar" in 2015.

His fellow actors and directors remembered Mr. Wagner as a committed performer with a knack for slipping easily into the skin of any character -- especially the darker ones.

Longtime friend and cast-mate Caitlin Coleman recalled Mr. Wagner's performance in a Buffalo United Artists production of "Unidentified Human Remains," in which he played a serial killer.

"It’s a role that could have been one-sided, but it was so authentic and real," Ms. Coleman said. "As he’s discovered and ends his life, you actually feel sad for this completely despicable guy. It wasn’t one-sided, it was very layered and interesting and human."

The same went for many of Mr. Wagner's well-remembered roles, including Caliban in Shakespeare in Delaware Park's 1998 production of "The Tempest," an addled drug dealer in a 1997 Kavinoky Theatre production of Herb Gardner's "I'm Not Rappaport" and a murderer in Ujima Theatre production Sam Shepard's "A Lie of the Mind." The Ujima performance led critic Terry Doran to declare Mr. Wagner and his cast-mate Meghan Rose Krank "the most intense actors currently around."

Guy Wagner stands between Melvin P. Huffnagle, left, and Manny Fried during a workplace diversity demonstration on May 20, 1999.

Guy Wagner stands between Melvin P. Huffnagle, left, and Manny Fried during a workplace diversity demonstration on May 20, 1999.

Vincent O'Neill, who appeared with Mr. Wagner in productions of "King Lear" and "Outside Mullingar," said Wagner was "a joy to work with."

"He had a real gift for characterization," O'Neill said. "He was actor who could look you in the eye and gaze back."

Guy Scott Wagner was born on Jan. 10, 1960 in Huntington, on Long Island. He attended Walt Whitman High School in nearby Huntington Station and went on to earn his bachelor's degree from the University at Buffalo and his master of fine arts from Temple University in Philadelphia.

After moving to Buffalo in the 1980s, Mr. Wagner worked as a bartender at the Central Park Grill, the mental health facility Renaissance House and as a longtime company member of Theatre for Change, an improvisational theater company that conducts skill-building workshops for businesses.

Shakespeare in the Park actors (left) Guy Wagner and Peter D'Angelo study their lines for "Henry IV." Buffalo News file photo)

Shakespeare in the Park actors (left) Guy Wagner and Peter D'Angelo study their lines for "Henry IV." Buffalo News file photo)

In a 1997 story about Theatre for Change in The Buffalo News, Wagner told reporter Anthony Cardinale about a performance for a group of Ford plant workers in Detroit, when a client mistook his improvisation for reality.

"They believe that we are these people. I had one guy who wanted to take me outside and fight," Wagner said. "A guy got up and said, 'Would you talk to your sister that way?' I said she wasn't my sister. The guy's like, 'Somebody should teach you a lesson.' I'm like, 'You gonna teach me a lesson?' 'Oh, yeah, here, come on,' he says, 'let's go outside!' The facilitators had to jump in."

Mr. Wagner is survived by a brother, Bruce Wagner and a sister, Jeanette Bortnick. Services will be held Friday morning in Huntington Rural Cemetery. A memorial service for Mr. Wagner's Buffalo fans and colleagues will be held on a date to be announced in the Central Park Grill, 2519 Main St.

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