Wagner is the 2002 recipient of the Hassam Purchase Award.
Born in Chicago, he grew up in Los Angeles, and after having earned a B.A. from Trinity College in Hartford, CT in 1968, William Bartman immediately became involved in stage and film productions throughout the 1970s and early 80s. At the West Coast Theatre Company in LA, he produced and directed several plays. Around the same time, he founded an artists-in-the-schools program, in addition to a theatre program at the federal penitentiary in Lompoc, CA, which included the staging of an all-inmate production of One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, as well as his work as director and co-writer of the 82 movie OHaras Wifea comedy-drama starring Jodie Foster, Ed Asner, and Mariette Hartley.