Ann Marie Mainolfi, a veteran of community theater who was the former board president of the Vagabond Players and a drama teacher at Roland Park Country School, died Sunday at her Manchester home. The former Guilford resident was 84.
Family members said no cause of death had been determined.
Born Ann Marie Kruzel in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., she was the daughter of Andrew Kruzel, a carpenter, and Anna Kruzel. She moved to Parkville as a child and was a 1951 graduate of Catholic High School.
While performing in a student musical, she met her future husband, Ferdinand G. Mainolfi. who had been sent to the school with some friends to take the male roles. She earned a degree in medical technology at the old Mount Saint Agnes College in Mount Washington after her father told her he would not pay for tuition at a drama school.
Years later she received a master’s degree in theater from Towson University, where she performed in the musical “Dear World.”
She and her family lived on Kitmore Road in Baltimore’s New Northwood neighborhood, and she joined the Matthew Players, a community theater group that performed at St. Matthew Catholic Church on Loch Raven Boulevard. She said in a 2013 Carroll County Times article that she was suffering postpartum depression after the birth of a child, and a friend suggested that she try out for a play. She appeared as Bloody Mary in “South Pacific” and in the title role of “Mame.”
She went on to other local venues and played Diana Devereaux in George Gershwin’s “Of Thee I Sing” at the old Penn Hotel in Towson and in plays performed in the undercroft of the Cathedral of the Incarnation.
As her children grew older, she also directed “Carnival” for Seton High School and Notre Dame Preparatory School’s production of “Fiddler on the Roof.” She also began an annual father-daugher production, “Fathers Follies.”
While her youngest daughter was attending Roland Park Country School, she began volunteering there and directing productions. The school later hired her as its drama teacher, and she directed numerous student productions.
While she occasionally returned to the stage to act, she began directing at the Vagabond Players in Fells Point. Her credits included “The Madwoman of Chaillot,” “Lady Audley’s Secret” and “The Miser.”
In 2001, Mrs. Mainolfi became the Vagabond Players board president and held the post for 15 years.
“As our president, she didn’t throw her weight around, but you knew what she thought,” said Tim Evans, a former Vagabonds board member and actor. “She was just a boatload of fun who hugged everybody.”
He recalled that she also served as unofficial wardrobe mistress. Mrs. Mainolfi was an accomplished seamstress and kept two rooms at her home for her costume and wig inventory. She was a regular shopper at local fabric shops.
“Directing was her main thing, but almost every show she directed, she contributed costumes,” said a daughter, Marianne Walsh of Severn.
When The Vagabond Players turned 100 years old in 2016, she said in a Baltimore Sun article, "I'm proud to be a part of it. And I just love the ambience of this place."
Marylee Barnes, the current Vagabond president, said, “It wasn’t only her love of the theater that kept her going. It was her devotion to the Vagabonds. She was a little ball of fire. She had her own energy, and she took energy from the theater and its audiences. Those forces worked off each other.”
Ms. Barnes also said, “She enjoyed young people and working with them. She was also generous, and there were times when she put her own money into the theater.”
Mrs. Mainolfi lived for many years on St. Paul Street in Guilford and later moved to a Manchester farm, where she became active with a drama club at the North Carroll Senior and Community Center. Her last production was in December.
Mrs. Mainolfi was a gardener who cultivated orchids and raised more than 100 varieties of hostas in beds around her home.
She enjoyed hosting annual family Halloween and New Year’s Eve parties. She also arranged opening night parties. She was recalled for her meatball dishes for theater events and the eggplant Parmesan she made for family occasions.
A Mass of Christian burial will be held at 11 a.m. Monday at St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church, 2930 Hanover Pike in Manchester.
In addition to her daughter and her husband of 61 years, a retired physician who practiced in South Baltimore and who worked with her as a volunteer with the Vagabonds, survivors include three sons, Michael Mainolfi of Riderwood, Thomas Mainolfi of Asheville, N.C., and Matthew Mainolfi of Lutherville; another daughter, Eileen Slaughter of Jacksonville in Baltimore County; a sister, Diane Sandruck of Parkville; 12 grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.