Nov. 23, 1983 – Sept. 6, 2013

James Richard Finan, a Buffalo actor who frequently appeared in Buffalo United Artists and American Repertory Theatre productions, died unexpectedly Friday afternoon. He was 29.

Mr. Finan, born in Amherst, was a lifelong devotee of theater.

He appeared in productions throughout his high school years at St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute where he was also a member of the swing choir. After graduating from St. Joe’s in 2001, Mr. Finan, who went by J.R., attended Niagara University to study theater and later transferred to SUNY Buffalo State.

While in the Buffalo State theater program, Finan studied under professor Drew Kahn and had major roles in productions of “Hair,” in which he sang the iconic opening lines to the song “Aquarius,” and in “Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead.”

“I remember him being his happiest onstage and in the community of other students preparing plays,” Kahn said. “He was a tough cookie. He was a fighter on stage, and I mean that in the best of ways, always working to find a place for that feistiness. He was stubborn about doing good work, really probably too hard on himself.”

After graduating from Buffalo State in 2010, he quickly found work with the small Buffalo companies Buffalo United Artists and American Repertory Theatre of Western New York. He appeared in the BUA productions “Slipping,” “F... Men” and others, as well as several productions with a tight-knit group of actors on the ART stage including “Floyd Collins” and the original play “Men of Like Passions.”

As word of Mr. Finan’s death spread across Facebook on Friday night and Saturday morning, members of Buffalo’s community of actors expressed shock and sadness. Mr. Finan’s Facbook page has become an ad hoc memorial, with messages from across the community recalling his talent onstage.

Chris Kelly, who directed Mr. Finan in “Slipping,” recalled him as a fearless and sensitive performer who found release from the troubles of his everyday life onstage. That sentiment was echoed by Steven Jagord, Finan’s best friend of 22 years.

“I know it was his passion in life,” Jagord said. “Where he felt most comfortable was on the stage.”

Members of the theater community planned to gather Saturday night in Q, an Allentown theater hangout, to remember Mr. Finan and his life and career.

– Colin Dabkowski