By Allison Campbell-Jensen
Right out of college, Peg Guilfoyle entered the theater — the Guthrie Theater.
“I was fortunate enough to land at the Guthrie, first as the production stage manager and then as the production manager for the great artistic directors Liviu Ciulei and Garland Wright,” she says, “during what I can only describe as a great golden period of the Guthrie.”
She got a book out of the experience, too — “The Guthrie Theater: Images, History and Inside Stories” — because starting at a young age, she always has been writing. “For a while,” Guilfoyle says, “I had parallel careers.”
After a decade, she moved on from the Guthrie into a variety of roles. She was Producing Director for Theatre Arts and Dance at the University, served as a freelance stage manager for several companies, and worked for a Poets in the Schools program, among other things. These commitments kept Guilfoyle busy, but she still found time to write commentaries “and what used to be called think pieces” for newspapers, magazines, and radio. “The writing impulse was a very strong impulse for me.”
She also was a project director for histories of local institutions, like YMCA’s Camp du Nord, Gustavus Adolphus College, and Plymouth Congregational Church. Yet over time, the demands of life in the arts, family duties, and the family veterinary business were overwhelming, and she set publishing aside. Still, she continued to write for herself.
Return to the writing desk
Jan. 13 book launch
Peg Guilfoyle, with actor Sally Wingert, talks about “Singing All the Verses: Essays from a Mid-American,” Jan. 13, 7 p.m.; please register in advance for this free online event. The book is available from SubText, pegguilfoyle.com, and Amazon in print and Kindle editions.
When the clamor of daily life calmed down a little, Guilfoyle decided to bring out her writings for a fresh look. “I laid out all these manuscripts on the dining room table and passed my hands over them, trying to see what still had life in them and was leaping out to me,” she says. “And the ones in the book are the ones that leaped out at me.”
The result is “Singing All the Verses: Essays from a Mid-American.” Some essays are very new, like Quarantine Music, Andante But Never Agitato. It’s a sweet piece about finding an antique book of piano scores for “Don Giovanni,” “Lohengrin,” “La Traviata,” and other operas, sitting down to play, and feeling the resonances. Others are older, like an essay reprinted from her Guthrie book.
“There’s a piece about a stack of letters that came to me and opened the door to a country that just plain does not exist anymore,” Guilfoyle says, “and let me walk through into that country.”
One reviewer wrote: “Varied and fascinating observations from a life lived with unfettered curiosity and enthusiasm. A really fun collection … warm, witty, and woven through with a deep sincerity.”
Guilfoyle covers a variety of topics — anything that interests her and captures something of life. To explain, she quotes author Willa Cather: “‘What was any art but a mold to imprison for a moment the shining, elusive element which is life itself? Life hurrying past us and running away, too strong to stop and too sweet to lose.’ That’s what this book is about: trying to catch it before it runs away.”
Serving with the Friends board
Guilfoyle was recruited to the Friends of the Libraries Board, she says, because of her interest in books and in the arts, and her University roots in producing theater and dance. “Besides being an attentive and speaking-out type of board member,” she says, “my focus has been on the events committee.”
She is proud of the events that the Friends have presented in their Series for Curious Minds. “The Libraries are vast in reach and breadth, and we wanted to represent the breadth of the Libraries,” she says. And Guilfoyle very much enjoys hearing from other members of the committee, who come from very different backgrounds, about their ideas for speakers and events.
Guilfoyle sums it up. “The board is full of interesting people, and I learn something every time I sit down with them.” And, no doubt, they from her.