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Maine theatre icon George Vafiadis dies at 88

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The Maine theatre community – and the theatre world writ large – has lost a legend.

George Vafiadis, whose decades-spanning theatrical career included the founding of three seminal Maine companies – all of which are still in operation today – passed away on March 9 in Bradenton, Florida from complications caused by his ongoing battle with Parkinson’s disease.

Vafiadis did scores of stage shows as an actor and director, having worked with regional companies and colleges all over the country. He also did extensive television, film and voiceover work over the course of his illustrious career.

But one could argue that he was more impactful here in Maine than anywhere else.

Back in 1973, Vafiadis teamed up with Louis Collier to form the Acadia Repertory Theatre, a summer stock company based in the Masonic Hall of Somesville on Mount Desert Island. This company would become an integral part of the state’s theatrical scene, providing a wealth of opportunities for actors near and far to hone their craft. With the exception of a COVID-related hiatus in 2020, ART has been active every summer since its founding.

Vafiadis would also set his sights on Bangor, producing shows here throughout the 1970s and early 1980s before the Penobscot Theatre Company was born as a permanent offshoot of ART. Vafiadis would serve as the producing director alongside artistic director Ken Stack. The theatre’s first home was located at 183 Main Street before officially moving to the Bangor Opera House in the late ‘90s, where it remains to this day, having become a pivotal part of the city’s cultural fabric along the way.

And as if that wasn’t enough, Vafiadis would play a pivotal role in founding the L/A Public Theatre in 1990, another company that remains a vital player in the Maine theatre scene 30 years after its establishment.

Vafiadis is survived by his loving wife Katherine, sister-in-law Elaine Vafiadis and by the countless artists and audiences who have benefitted from George’s passionate commitment to the world of live theatre. 

It’s that latter sentiment that I’d like to address from a personal place. I am one of those countless artists who benefitted from that commitment. I never knew George Vafiadis – he was a little before my time. But he is responsible for creating the place that I have called my artistic home for more than half my life; I regret not being able to express to him my sheer, unadulterated gratitude for that.

One of the purest reflections of a life well-lived comes from the memories left behind. Even though I never met the man, I knew him through the stories shared by those who did. When I first started working at PTC back in 1997, George’s presence was still very much felt. It was felt in anecdotes and inside jokes and a general joie de vivre and esprit de corps that, I’d argue, remains to this day. And it all came about because of him.

George Vafiadis’s legacy is one of artistic expression and creative opportunity. So many people have experienced the theatre, be it from the stage or from the audience, because of the work that he did. I, like so many others, will be forever grateful for the gift that he has given us.

A memorial service will be held later this spring at the Acadia Repertory Theatre in Somesville. In lieu of flowers it is requested that donations be made to the George Vafiadis Society fund hosted by the Penobscot Theatre Company at or by contributing to the Acadia Repertory Theatre at P.O. Box 106 Mt. Desert ME 04660

Last modified on Wednesday, 16 March 2022 06:48


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