George Vafiadis. Credit: Courtesy of the Penobscot Theatre Co.

George Vafiadis, one of the co-founders of the Penobscot Theatre Co. in Bangor and founder of two other Maine theater companies, died last week due to complications from Parkinson’s disease at his home in Florida. He was 88.

His longtime friend and colleague, actor, director and Husson University professor Kenneth Stack, confirmed Vafiadis’ death, noting his impact on theater in Maine, and his love of the craft of acting.

Vafiadis died on Wednesday.

“All of us benefit today from his boundless energy and dedication,” Stack said. “And his respect for the craft of the actor never waivered.”

Vafiadis founded Acadia Repertory Theatre on Mount Desert Island in 1973, a summer stock company that produces plays in and musicals in the old Masonic Hall in Somesville. Other than a break in 2020 during the pandemic, Acadia Rep has offered live theater in the summer on the island for nearly 50 years, featuring both local and national actors.

Acadia Rep began producing shows in Bangor in the 1970s and ‘80s, and in 1983, Vafiadis and his colleague, Lou Collier, formed a permanent company, the Penobscot Theatre Co. Vafiadis served as the company’s producing director until 1990, alongside artistic director Stack, moving the theater into a permanent home at 183 Main St. in 1986, where it stayed until moving into the Bangor Opera House in 1997.

“George Vafiadis was Zeus incarnated,” said Bari Newport, who served as Penobscot Theatre’s artistic director between 2012 and 2021. “A larger than life force who, through Herculean perseverance, tenacity, vision and an unyielding belief in the power of story to unite and uplift a community, created three theater companies, all of which still exist today.”

Vafiadis also founded the Public Theatre in Lewiston in 1991, which last year celebrated its 30th anniversary.

Vafiadis was born in 1934 in New Jersey and was raised there and in Texas, where he studied theater at the University of Texas in Austin. As a young man, he worked in theater companies all across the country, before moving to Maine in the early 1970s. He remained in Maine until 2013, when he and his wife, Katherine, moved to Sarasota, Florida.

Later in life, Vafiadis worked as a voice actor in audiobooks, recording versions of the King James Bible and of Abraham Lincoln’s letters. Vafiadis also appeared in a number of film and television roles, including a recurring role on HBO’s “The Wire” and in the film “27 Dresses.”

Vafiadis is survived by his wife, Katherine, and sister-in-law, Elaine. A memorial service will be held this spring at Acadia Repertory Theatre.

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Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.