Freeport Players director looks forward to the next stage

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FREEPORT — If there was a job description for the Freeport Players managing and artistic director, it could simply say “Elizabeth Guffrey.”

The position was created for her, and, after eight seasons of overseeing every aspect of the organization as its only employee, Guffrey has resigned to make time for her own writing, acting and music. 

Guffrey’s resignation isn’t effective until December 2018, giving the organization ample time to decide what it wants in a replacement.

Each season, the volunteer-based organization produces at least three shows; the most recent was the July production of “Seussical,” with rehearsal for September’s production of “The Servant of Two Masters” well underway. 

“(Managing and artistic director) is a combination of being responsible for day-to-day business operations in the organization, that’s the managing piece, and the artistic piece is being responsible for translating the overall mission of the group into what we put on the stage,” Guffrey said.

From choosing which productions to put on, to recruiting artistic teams, and “picking up whatever slack is left,” Guffrey has her fingers in many pies. 

Although the position was created in January 2010, Guffrey had been involved with the Freeport Players for much longer. 

Her first association with the group was as a member of the cast of “Oliver!” in 1997. She joined the board of directors in 1999, served as vice president in 2003 and 2004, and was elected president in 2005.

In 2008, Guffrey stepped out of the organization for about a year before being asked to come back as the organization’s first full-time employee. 

“We were kind of going through a period of challenges in the organization. We’d gone through a really strong growth phase and our core volunteers were having trouble managing everything,” Guffrey said. “And we were seeing, in a good way, and explosion of theater around southern Maine in general.” 

With the help of a few other volunteers, Guffrey came up with a job proposal to present to the board for approval, and that was the beginning of her management job.

Well, the beginning of the position at least. Guffrey’s love for and dedication to theater came long before. 

“I’ve been doing theater in one shape or another since I was a little kid,” she said. “I read all the time, and I always wanted to live in those stories, for real.”

Guffrey continued to perform, both acting and singing, through her studies at Yale University, where she received her undergraduate degree in philosophy in 1987. 

The theater has served as an outlet for Guffrey, who describes herself as shy, to combat any anxiety she has about working with and in front of others. 

“One of the basic strengths of theater is that at any stage in life, and no matter what your skill set is, there’s a way that theater can be beneficial and put you in touch with some really interesting people,” Guffrey said. 

Now 52, Guffrey does not consider her resignation as the end of her career or involvement with theater, but the next stage.

“In addition to doing a lot of singing and some acting … I’ve been doing some writing over the years and I would like to spend some more time on that,” Guffrey said. 

To date, she’s written a couple of short pieces that have been performed by various theater groups in Maine, including “Surprise,” which was performed by the Freeport Players. 

Guffrey hopes to develop one of her short plays, “My Wife Thinks You’re Dead,” in into her first full-length play. 

She said she looks forward to continuing to participate in the organization as a volunteer, as well as pursuing personal goals. 

“If there’s one thing I’ll miss most about not being managing and artistic director is that I won’t be privy to everything from start to finish,” Guffrey said. “It’s fascinating to watch it all unfold and I really encourage anybody to get involved and dive into it as much as they can. … I’m constantly amazed and I learn something new every season.” 

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

Elizabeth Guffrey has resigned after eight years as managing and artistic director of Freeport Players.

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