GreenStage Guilford Live Arts: What’s in a Name?
If anyone can answer the question, “What’s in a name?” it has to be Sue Rollins.
The advertising and marketing pro recently led months of pro bono brainstorming on the way to developing the new, dramatic name change and logo branding for the Guilford Performing Arts Festival, which is now GreenStage Guilford Live Arts.
The nonprofit, six-year-old Guilford Performing Arts Festival organization retains its name, while GreenStage Guilford Live Arts now brands its celebrated, bi-annual performing arts festival, poised to return for a third time in September 2023.
From Sept. 17 through Sept. 24, seven days and nights of GreenStage Guilford Live Arts performances, interactive events, classes, and workshops in music, dance, drama, and visual arts will be centered on the Guilford green, with some performances rippling out to other local venues.
The new GreenStage branding also helps open the door to grow future programming, says Peter Hawes, the festival’s executive director and board chair.
“The brilliance of the new name, thanks to Sue Rollins’ creative work and the volunteers who helped her, is that it lends itself to future possibilities like GreenStage Branford, GreenStage Madison, GreenStage Kids, etc.,” he notes.
Sue joined the board in 2022 and also serves as its marketing director.
“About a year-and-a-half ago, I was having a conversation with Peter. They needed marketing help, which I’ve been doing since the ‘80s, primarily as an art director and graphic designer for ad agencies, and freelance when I had my kids,” she says. “I said I could help out. It seemed like a really great organization to work with.”
Through the years, the festival has demonstrated the organization’s mission to support the creation of new, innovative, and diverse work across many art forms, while introducing them to new audiences.
To tackle its renaming challenge, Sue started off by holding a series of round-table sessions at her Guilford home last summer. She worked with a team of nine volunteers, comprised of other board members, community members, and industry professionals.
“We had these conversations about what the festival was, how it began, what it is now, and what it could be,” Sue says. “And there was a vision that really is Peter’s, that the board heartily agrees with, that the festival can really expand and become bigger and wider and more diverse.”
Discussions also delved into the festival’s original name and branding, as well as public awareness of the festival.
“It became clear, early on, that the festival really wasn’t getting the visibility it deserved, because a lot of things happen in the summer, and also the fact that it’s every other year,” says Sue. “In the in-between years, you’ve got to keep the momentum going.”
The group also talked about retaining the existing base of supporters and attendees, attracting younger audiences including families with children, and maintaining the festival’s reputation for providing high-level, quality performances.
Sue then teased an overarching note.
“The thing that came back to me was that there is something particularly great about the fact that there was this cutting-edge, commissioned work, in addition to other performances, taking place primarily on this charming, historic green in the middle of this lovely little town,” she says.
Another challenge facing the group was building brand awareness and promoting programs among a crowded field of area performances and entertainment offerings.
“We don’t have a lot of marketing dollars, so you want to find a way to stand out and be memorable in a positive way,” says Sue.
Introducing GreenStage Guilford Live Arts
After several sessions, Sue had a lot of different names on the drawing board, but one of them, GreenStage Guilford Live Arts “...really resonated,” she says.
“One of the things we decided is we have to lean into this Guilford part of it,” says Sue. “It’s the juxtaposition of this cutting-edge stuff people have never seen before on this little quaint green. It’s lovely.”
GreenStage Guilford Live Arts evokes the historic New England town green as the stage and hub of the festival; emphasizes commissioning and premiering new, or “green,” performances; ties into environmental and sustainable festival efforts; and reinforces the festival’s presentation of live performances of the arts to entertain and educate.
In addition, the GreenStage brand can be tagged to other shoreline or area events, especially in festival off-years.
“GreenStage has legs. It can be GreenStage Guilford, GreenStage Branford, GreenStage at the Legacy Theatre—so, you can change it according to what you’re doing,” Sue says. “The one thing we will always be doing is presenting live art.”
The GreenStage logo design has an interesting story, as well.
“For the logo mark itself, I had a couple that I really was crazy about,” Sue says. “But the one we ended up with got the most votes overall, because it doesn’t get too crazy or funky, but it also wasn’t ‘Oh, I’ve seen that before.’”
The logo’s blue rectangle is punctuated with white G and S letters in lowercase serif font and displays a gold star inside a blue circle created by the top of the letter G.
“At the end, I added this little star, and I realized later that’s an icon I can change, depending on what we’re presenting,” says Sue. “It can be a heart, a flower, a smiley face...It’s another way I can customize it for what we’re doing.”
The logo’s rich blue hue was also carefully considered.
“We did talk about that,” says Sue. “I know the Guilford town color is green, but I felt like this needed to speak to something else. And also, because green can evoke ecology, I didn’t want to hit that too hard. And the star is interesting, because we have a lot of events that take place outside. So, you have the blue sky above and, at night, you have stars in the sky.”
Currently working with volunteer Sandy Connolly, Sue is now helping to revamp the festival website. She’s also developing re-branded collateral print and digital materials and working on social media.
“Eventually, down the road, we’re hoping to loop in some high school kids who can volunteer and help out, because it’s win-win,” says Sue.
Look for upcoming news on 2023 performances and more to be posted at greenstageguilford.org and on Instagram @greenstageguilford or Facebook at GreenStage Guilford Live Arts.
“This year’s festival that Peter has lined up has got to be the best ever,” says Sue. “It’s amazing, and there are lot of big plans. It’s going to be very exciting for him to announce that.”
Giving Back to Guilford
Sue and her husband Doug spent many summers in Guilford with their children, Bennett and Emma (now in graduate school and college, respectively), before moving here about six years ago. Doug, an orthodontist, also has a Guilford practice.
Sue says she quickly saw Guilford’s commitment to the arts through her daughter’s years at Guilford High School (GHS). Emma is now in her sophomore year at Colby College in Maine.
“She was in the jazz ensemble at GHS. I have to say that’s an amazing high school, and that music program is unbelievable. It gave so much to her. It was really wonderful,” says Sue. “She was trained playing classical piano, but started losing interest in her teens. When she got involved in jazz band, that revived her interest. She still plays jazz piano at Colby.”
Sue notes that 2023 GreenStage Guilford Live Arts hopes to once again collaborate with GHS to offer some master classes.
As for her own contributions, Sue is happy to apply her experience, time, and talent in order to give back to Guilford.
“This sort of puts all the pieces together of things I like to do, and it helps me give back to the community,” says Sue. “I think the festival is a really great idea. There’s a lot of people on the board who’ve been there from the start, and who put time into it, and care about it. It makes it easier to put a lot of time in, because you know people care about it.”