Student doing something extraordinary: Profile on Kait Finegan

By Nichole Capizzi
April 23, 2013

At age 3, she started impersonating Shirley Temple, and if anyone ever addressed her by her real name, she wouldn’t answer. Kait Finegan, a small-town girl from Phillipsburg, N.J., began her acting career as an infant, and at age nine received her first role ever as an orphan in the beloved and timeless story, Annie.

When a young actress leapfrogs from impersonating Shirley Temple to amateur productions to a leading lady on stage, people notice.

“When I was a little girl, every day I played a different character. I would go from dressing like Dorothy [“Wizard of Oz”] one day to Sandy [“Grease”] the next. When I was about 3 I started impersonating Shirley Temple and if anyone ever addressed me as Kaitlin I wouldn’t answer or I’d throw a fit.”

Call it an innate ability to communicate, great charm or an unusual level of comfort with herself, but Finnegan quickly raised eyebrows as the most convincing performer in several shows. Without any voice lessons at a young age, Kait took to the stage like a natural.

“When I was little, I sang in our school choir. I started taking private lessons with my choir director in high school,” Finnegan said. “I played a bunch of different roles. My last couple roles in high school were Lily St. Regis in Annie, which was so fun to play a dumb blonde. My senior year I got to play Sandy in “Grease.” which was like a dream come true to me because that was one of the roles I always acted out when I was a little girl.”

Her sophomore year at Cabrini, Finegan was inducted into Cabrini’s Theater Honor Society, Alpha Psi Omega, and held the title of president for the past two years. Despite a lack of professional experience, Finegan has been challenged successively with more demanding roles throughout her college career. This year, she played Emily Dickinson in Cabrini’s production of the one-woman play “The Belle of Amherst,” written by William Luce.

Kait, who portrayed 15 different characters in the play, recalls it as “the hardest thing I’ve ever done and will probably ever do in my life. It took a almost a year to fully memorize it and even when we opened I never had it perfectly with every word from the text.”

On memorizing over one hundred pages of lines, Kait admits, “There were good days and there were absolutely terrible days. I actually left the stage crying more than once in the middle of a speech because of how overwhelming it was. There were days when I genuinely regretted agreeing to do this play because I didn’t think it was even humanly possible to memorize one hundred pages of lines. But I broke it down section-by-section and just kept memorizing the lines over and over and after awhile they just stuck in my head.”

Kait’s eighth and final show at Cabrini College, “Avenue Q,” really hit home for her.

“Avenue Q” is a laugh-out-loud musical that tells the contemporary and offbeat story of a recent college grad named Princeton who moves into a shabby New York apartment all the way out on Avenue Q. There, he meets Kate Monster (played by Finegan) and finally discover his purpose in life.

“I honestly couldn’t have imagined closing my theater career here with a better show. It was incredible though when I came out for my last bow and everyone in the audience was standing and crying too.”

Among those audience members were Kait’s biggest fans – her parents.

“My parents are my biggest fans. I don’t think that will ever change. I can’t even imagine how they’ll act if I ever make it on Broadway, they’ll probably buy out the whole theater just to fill it with friends and family.”

Even beyond her parents, Kait’s passion for the arts has created such a huge support system that touch not only the hearts of those dear to her, but strangers alike.

“It was really hard to bow on that stage for the last time.”

Now approaching graduation, Finegan will be attending The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Manhattan this summer to further her studies and enhance her love of the arts.

“I applied for their summer program first because I wanted to test the waters. I needed to make sure that being in school for acting and performing is definitely what I want to spend a couple more years doing.”

Among the Academy’s most noted alumni are Anne Hathaway, Grace Kelly, Danny DeVito and Johnny Knoxville, among many others.

“Nervous doesn’t even begin to explain it, but along with the inevitable nerves I’m actually just really excited to be able to have the opportunity to attend the academy. Grace Kelly has always been one of my idols, not just as an actress but also as an incredibly classy and beautiful woman. I can honestly say that I’d be fully satisfied in my life just to say I walked through the same halls of the school that she studied in. So yes, I am definitely nervous. It’s a huge change of environment for me but I’m so ready for it.”

“Sometimes I feel like I didn’t have a choice. People struggle everyday with not knowing what they want to do in life so I thank God everyday that I’ve known forever. In a way its bittersweet because I’m thankful that I’m so determined and know what I want to do but on the other hand it’s one hell of an industry to break into and there are no guarantees.”

Finegan will certainly be missed, as Dr. Thomas Stretton, director of Cabrini’s theater program, admits.

“Kait Finegan, who has been central to this theater in the last four years, is a dream to direct – she has amazing theatrical instincts – she can play anything; I shall miss her enormously.”

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Nichole Capizzi

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