Finnerty takes charge at Turnage, Arts of the Pamlico

Published 6:15 am Wednesday, March 30, 2022

By KAREN THIEL For the Washington Daily News

As a young girl, Virginia Finnerty resorted to jumping up and down to get noticed in a family where she was the shortest member. Her pastimes included multiple costume changes and repeat appearances in the room where her mom’s friends were visiting. Her dreams included a career as a trapeze artist. Since the beginning of March, the evidence of that motivated and creative personality has included her return to the Turnage Theatre and Arts of the Pamlico, where Finnerty just accepted the challenge of becoming its executive director.

A native of Honduras who came to the United States in 1974 to attend college, Finnerty has been a Beaufort County resident since moving to Washington to raise her family. She became well known in town as owner of the Pamlico House Bed and Breakfast, hosting visitors from 2010 until she was forced to close the site due to the results of quarantines during the Covid-19 pandemic. She has also served three terms on the Washington City Council, all the while staying involved with Arts of the Pamlico and the Turnage.

In an interview this week, Finnerty said she will be drawing on her many years’ experience at the Turnage as she moves the theatre beyond even the qualities of innovation and community spirit that have made it a beloved institution in North Carolina. Over the years, she has worked “basically as the executive director’s right hand” for both Joey Toler and Debra Torrence. Finnerty managed administrative and event activities from 2013 through 2017 and has served in many capacities on the board of directors, most recently as its chairperson during the pandemic.

Finnerty said her plans for Arts of the Pamlico and the Turnage Theatre include the implementation of a new “educational component … my own vision” which she said has its roots in her years of teaching. Already in the works are opportunities for youth and adults to learn about “anything theatre… traditional and improv, visual, musicals, dance… and all the supporting disciplines that include costume and makeup, set design, puppets, even things like stunt work and stage combat,” she said, noting that longtime artistic director Jeffrey Phipps, recently hired theatre manager Ethan Wolf, and art director Heather Summers will each have a hand in developing the offerings.

Finnerty said optimism and accomplishment are what she sees ahead for the Turnage, for lovers of the arts, and for herself. “My plan was to retire at 65 years old. Then the pandemic hit and that happened three years early, when I closed the bed and breakfast. Now I get a new chance to do something good!”