Kirby Povilaitis found her passion in life as a green ogre on the Camp Hill Summer Stage.
“I came in as the dark horse,” the Hampden Township youth said, recalling her first real experience in theater. “I came in knowing my Shrek knowledge.”
It was the summer before her sophomore year at Trinity High School and Povilaitis was the newbie in a seasonlong camp that taught students how to act and perform.
While many of her fellow campers had attended the camp every year since the fourth grade, Povilaitis was at the upper limit of the age range for a youth to participate.
Yet somehow she landed the part of Princess Fiona, the lead female role in “Shrek: The Musical.” Her good fortune earned her some temporary enemies among the girls she barreled past, but now they are good friends.
From an early age, she was used to performing. “The minute I was taking, I was singing,” Povilaitis said. “I started singing with my choir in school in the third grade.”
Love for acting
Now 18 and a senior, she was part of the ensemble cast for the musical “Aida” her freshman year at Trinity High School. But it was as Fiona that her true gift entered the limelight.
“It really taught me that I love acting,” Povilaitis said. “I love to broadcast my talent solely to make people happy. It has become the main thing in my life.”
The role of Fiona and theme of “Shrek” made her realize that it’s completely OK to be yourself.
“All the things that make you different make you unique and strong,” Povilaitis said. “Do not try to hide the things that make you different. Embrace the person you are and show it to the world. I have never turned back.”
In her sophomore year, she played the role of Frenchy in the Trinity High School production of “Grease.” That was also the year she first became a Shamrock ambassador.
As an ambassador, her role is to represent Trinity to seventh- and eighth-graders on visits to the parochial schools that send students to the high school.
Her involvement stepped up in her junior year when Povilaitis became a leader in PALS — the Peers Actively Listening program at Trinity. PALS is the only activity at the school where students are allowed to be in a room without adult supervision.
As a leader, she is in charge of helping a group of freshmen adjust to life as a high school student. This involves meeting with the group once a cycle to allow the freshmen to confide with upperclassmen in a setting where they can be free to vent or discuss whatever is troubling them.
“My favorite part is watching the freshmen open up,” Povilaitis said. “When they start up, they are very tense, nervous and anxious.” But by the end of the year, the freshmen have learned to relax and love their time in school.
In her junior year, Povilaitis landed the role of Smitty in the musical “How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” Over the years, her singing opened up opportunities for her to perform during school Masses, community Masses, in nursing homes and the Cumberland County Prison.
Though raised a Catholic, Povilaitis was not particularly interested in her faith. That all changed when she went on a youth retreat during her junior year in high school.
“It opened my eyes to the importance of faith and God in my life,” she said. “My church youth group has been my foundation since I have come back into my faith life.”
Every Sunday after Mass, Povilaitis said she attends the Lifeteen youth group at the Saint Patrick Church in South Middleton Township. The youth group went on a mission trip last August where they helped to repair a church roof in a rural community in Kentucky.
While there, Povilaitis was in a group of teens that had the opportunity to visit a 90-year-old woman who lived alone in a trailer out in the middle of the woods.
“She told us she lost all of her family,” Povilaitis said. “She ended up in the trailer. She still had so much faith in God and her religion. For someone who had nothing, she had everything because she was so joyful.”
Despite her circumstances, the old woman had a big smile and no problem sharing the poetry and songs she wrote to praise God. Povilaitis joined other youths in singing some songs with her accompanied by a ukulele.
After high school
Since starting her senior year, Povilaitis has continued her work as a Shamrock ambassador, a PALS leader and as a member of chorus. She landed the role of Cogsworth in the musical production of “Beauty and the Beast.”
Her plan after graduation is to go to college and pursue a degree in speech pathology. That field combines her love for helping people with her love for singing and voice.
“I have seen what speech pathology can do,” said Povilaitis who has two brothers with autism. “It’s the best way I can utilize my talent. There are a bunch of paths that I could take.” She could, for example, help victims of stroke and other ailments regain their ability to speak.
“I truly believe God gave me the gift of my voice,” she said. “If I can give that back to others, I will do it any way I can.” Though a theater major is out, Povilaitis plans to participate in acting clubs in college.