Inspiring Through Challenge

By Michael Bao

The RTHS theatre program's history is as long as the school's history. Since day 1, Mr. Ian Finley has led groups of students to perform three or drama productions each year. For the 2021 fall, the theatre program presented "Radium Girls" and "Musical Revue". Dozens of students were involved, whether directly acting in the plays or working in behind the scenes to support the actors. Even though each show may only be an hour or two long, hundreds of hours were put in by all the students and Mr. Finley himself. This project attempts to capture the sophistication, professionalism, and the brilliance of the RTHS theatre program.

Initially, I was amazed by the level of performance of the high school students. I thought that they were incredibly dedicated to the work, the friendships were real, and each student was acting for the show that they were building together, not for themselves. As I went to shoot more, I realized that Mr. Ian Finley is always at the center of the show. Even though he wouldn't admit that his role is more important than the students, as a bystander I felt that he was the reason why a lot of students enjoyed theatre. He drives and motivates each student to reach the best of their abilities, and these moments really inspired me to build my project around him. In addition, while I focused the students' performances, I have also gone to Mr. Finley's tech theatre classes and show auditions, as well as other events to capture what is going on outside of the Blackbox. The moments from these events are incredibly valuable to me because the level of support and the bond between the students are so strong. Upon reflection, I thought that perhaps Mr. Finley's teaching philosophy had something to do with the harmony that I saw, and therefore I interviewed him (not once, but three times in total...)! Through the interview, I discovered that he is not only a man who speaks a lot but speaks with passion and with inspiring ideas. While theatre is a difficult practice, it is his goal to teach valuable lessons to the students through joyful and challenging moments (hence the name of the project). Thank you!