Over his theatrical career, Gaines has been an actor, director, and teacher. His most recent assignment was a 30-year stint as department chair and/or director of theatre at a branch of Auburn University in Montgomery, Ala. He has directed more than 100 shows, including Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus and Equus, Bernard Shaw’s Heartbreak House and John Bull’s Other Island, Tennessee Williams’ Camino Real and Night of the Iguana, a production of Harley Granville-Barker’s seldom-produced The Secret Life, and a show by Stephen MacDonald called Not About Heroes that won a state-level award in Alabama with the Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Festival. The show advanced on to regional competition with KC/ACTF.
Gaines has acted off and on since kindergarten, including a five-year stint in summer stock during college, where he appeared in both Paul Green’s The Founders (a story of the founding of Jamestown, Va.) and The Common Glory (a story of the American Revolutionary War).
During a faculty recital, he played George in a full-length production of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and to celebrate his retirement from Auburn Montgomery in 2007, he played Shakespeare in Timothy Findley’s Elizabeth Rex. During his career there at one time or another he taught every course in the catalogue except costuming.
During his time at Auburn Montgomery, Gaines spent 1986 in residence with the Stratford Shakespearean Company in Stratford, Ontario, Canada, considered to be the "class act" of Shakespeare companies on the North American continent. He formed many friendships with actors, directors, and designers and out of that experience came a book called John Neville Takes Command, which explains in detail how that professional company approaches play production – primarily Shakespearean. Gaines returns to Canada every year to renew friendships and engage in debate about the work, which he has seen each season since 1982.
Because classical theatrical production forms the bases of both his scholarly and artistic endeavors, Gaines also visits annually the Shaw Festival, celebrating the works of Bernard Shaw in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. As a member of the International Shaw Society, he presents papers frequently for that organization, including his latest, "The Politics of Economics Amid the Seeds of War: the Plays of Bernard Shaw in the 1930s." He also has written other materials on classical theatre, including an article of Canadian actor Bill Hutt’s four productions as King Lear.
While Gaines currently is writing a biography of classical Canadian actor Douglass Campbell, recently deceased, he returns to teaching at Winthrop.