Student News

Taking a Breath with TF

Thomas Finegar ’22 discusses their roles as the Drama SEPC representative, co-founder of the Improv Club, Lortel Fellow, admissions intern, and creator and actor in the spring student production, Creature.

By Mary Brothers '22

Image of man with glasses

A graduating senior, Thomas Finegar ’22 has spent their time at Bennington becoming a multi-hyphenate. 

Their current resume includes, but is certainly not limited to, their roles as the Drama SEPC representative, co-editor-in-chief of the student-run newspaper The Bennington Beacon, co-founder of the Improv Club, Lortel Fellow, admissions intern, and most recently, creator, actor, and dramaturg in the spring student production, Creature.

How do they get it all done, you might ask?

“Leadership is a membership position first,” said Finegar. “I think delegation sometimes has this weird connotation of not doing any work yourself, but a lot of my roles in these organizations that I'm a part of are saying ‘this is where we need to be,’ and then identifying through hard work the people who can best accomplish tasks as members. A lot of the work that I do with these individual organizations is just finding the right members of the community to be involved with, and then everything magically gets done.”

Finegar’s work on The Creature is most directly related to their studies in Drama and Psychology and their senior thesis “Morally Ambiguous Characters and Why We Care So Much.”

After doing a monologue from Frankenstein in their third term, Finegar fell in love with the character of Frankenstein’s monster and decided to pitch the idea of adapting the novel into a play to the Drama faculty. 

“[Doing the monologue] was thrilling. It felt right. And I've been obsessed with that story since. I figured that the creature from Frankenstein was a pretty interesting morally ambiguous character,” said Finegar. “He kills and sets fire to things and hates people. But all of those actions come from something that was demonstrated by other people around him. He didn't ask to be alive. So that's why it's an appealing character.”

After Finegar’s close friend and fellow Drama student Flo Gill ’22 signed on to direct the production, the rest was history. Finegar, who is acting in the production along with adapting the script, doing dramaturgical work, and being involved in the show’s design process, has juggled responsibilities both on-stage and behind the scenes. 

When it comes to the design side, my role is collaborating on some semantic aspects of how the script was written. The dramaturgy and acting combined in an interesting way– I focus a lot of my time on interacting with the other actors in a dramaturgical sense: addressing their specific questions and their characters' relationship to the novel and the history of science in the 1800s,” said Finegar. “So that was interesting early on in the process, and then it led to ways for other people to center their characters in their mind, which led me to focus more on my acting later in the process.”

As the cast and crew gear up for the performances on May 21 and 22,  Finegar is most excited for audiences to immerse themselves in the world of the play. 

“It's thrilling to see the book on stage. The show opens up in this gothic horror scientific metal world, and then it transitions into this drama. I'm thrilled for people to see that,” said Finegar.

No matter which project they're focusing on, Finegar particularly enjoys collaborating with their fellow Bennington students. 

“The Bennington experience is having five or six people around you who are passionate and also perfectly attuned as collaborators with you. And massively talented as well. I'm lucky enough that I have those people that love doing what I love doing with. There’s also extra things that can come in from that, like improv or the newspaper, in weird, unexpected ways,” said Finegar.

In addition to being one of the Student Educational Policies Committee (SEPC) Representative for the Drama discipline, where their responsibilities involve implementing student feedback into the department, Finegar co-founded the Improv Club with Elizabeth Quincy ’22 and Hazel Peters ’22 as a way to give students a creative outlet in a low-stakes environment.

“Students get together and, without the stakes of auditions or performances, just play games for an hour. It's gotten to the point where we can really focus on some complex and intellectual topics, which is so rewarding to be doing with a group of people who aren't necessarily theater focused or or improv experienced,” said Finegar. 

Last year, Finegar received a Lortel Fellowship and was placed with The Classical Theatre of Harlem, where they worked as a marketing intern. Once the fellowship period ended, Finegar was hired by the theater to stay on and keep working with them remotely. 

“I've been working with them ever since remotely. I help both with small stuff, like cleaning out an email inbox, and bigger things, like posting and engaging on social media with fans of the shows. I’ve chosen historical figures from Harlem and the Harlem Renaissance to post about on National Women's Day and Black History Month in a way that is community-engagement focused,” said Finegar. 

Finegar has found a way to balance their classes, extracurriculars, and professional life, but concedes that their to-do list is “a little insane.”

“Organization is the most important thing. There's a lot of times I have to tell my boss, I can get that to you, but it has to be tomorrow evening instead of right now. But [The Classical Theatre] meets once a week on Tuesdays as a full staff to update each other on what's happening. I actually got a chance to work with the development director pretty closely on some marketing overlap between those two departments. I feel very engaged by the work, even though I'm in a different state,” said Finegar.

Finegar is still deciding on their after-graduation plans, but they are excited by the prospect of jumping into the world of theater.

“I'd like to attend Yale Drama for theater management, which hopefully will lead me into a full career in production management,” said Finegar.

When asked what advice they would give to underclassmen or incoming students, Finegar reflects back on the importance of asking for what you want, while keeping in mind the reality of getting it done.

I've been involved in a lot of student leadership on campus, and one of the big aspects of my job is to fight for what students want. The big lesson that I've learned  is there's a million things that everyone wants to get done, but only about five of them can happen. However, those five can happen immediately, as long as people can focus,” said Finegar. “Stay passionate about what you want, what change you want, and be open to communication about the best ways that can come about.”

Finegar also encourages students to not underestimate the importance of grounding yourself on this campus.

“This place is so small, yet every single week is a year long. And VAPA is a maze. And the lawns are massive. So my piece of advice is to find the space, whether metaphorical or physical, that you can be alone in and then let that be your anchor,” said Finegar.

While Finegar’s workload and responsibilities may seem intimidating to some, they have actually partially served as an anchor during the last four years. 

“People talk about extracurriculars as just resume builders, but extracurriculars for me are when I get to take a deep breath,” said Finegar.  “ I hope all the seniors are getting to take a deep breath right now, instead of being stressed about graduation.”