In Black & White: On The Rooftop Writer & Director James Michael Finan

James Michael Finan

We recently had a chat with the man who, as a writer, has given us On The Rooftop, and who, as Director, takes us there.

This is James Michael Finan.

We call him Jim.

VOS: Where does the inspiration for On The Rooftop come from?
Jim Finan: It wasn’t so much inspiration as it was opportunity. Doing an original production gives us a chance to really focus on the terrific talent bank we have. Rather than focus on the name of the show, the costumes, or the sets, the audience’s eye and ear are drawn to the wonderful performance skills these talented folk bring to the stage.

VOS: How did you pick the music?
Jim: It certainly is an eclectic mix. We first polled the VOS company and everyone submitted their favourite musical theater pieces. I threw in a few more songs from some lesser known shows. From that, I whittled it down to a list of forty-eight. Then a final list of twenty-two. The tricky part was getting the songs to fit the plot lines and vice versa. Most of all, we wanted to present a mix of well-loved classics with some marvelous musical surprises.

The cast for On The Rooftop
The cast for On The Rooftop

VOS: Who are these characters?
Jim: Well, certainly they are the folks who auditioned! There’s not a person in the company who has not experienced love and loss. It’s just a matter of bringing that forward. Of course we change the names and invent occupations, but everyone can relate to relationships that have gone wrong…and others that have gone right.

VOS: Is there a story behind this story?
Jim: I mentioned in rehearsal the other night about a famous actor who appears to be teasing his audience with his “secret”. Our characters each have a secret as to why they are driven to perform. Each brings his own “story behind the story”.

VOS: How has the story changed based on your experiences with the cast?
Jim: I think it helps that I had previously met most of the cast members but I do not know them well. As a result, it freed me up to write for them without personal bias. My only regret is that there wasn’t more stage time to flesh out stories for each of them. They are all unique and wonderful.

See no evil, hear no evil: Jim with Producers Liz Clark and Beth Hunt
See no evil, hear no evil: Jim with Producers Liz Clark and Beth Hunt

VOS: How is this a “VOS” show? What does that mean to you?
Jim: I’m humbled and honoured to work with such a professional group of people both in front of and behind the curtain: musicians, technicians, costumers, producers, promoters. These passionate people do a full day’s work, tend to their loved ones, then come out to work on the show. Their trust in this unknown director with an unknown show has been remarkable. Every community theatre group experiences the emotional rollercoaster ride of creating a show and VOS is no different. With “On the Rooftop” we take our audience behind the scenes for a taste of that thrill. Buckle up!

Jim and Jamie Finan
Jim and Jamie Finan

VOS: Is this the first show you have worked on with your wife Jamie (assistant stage manager)?
Jim: In this particular theatrical relationship, yes. I really can’t say if this is healthy for a marriage or if we are tempting fate. Our kids are grown and gone so it beats sitting at home staring at each other! She’s a great sounding board and won’t hesitate to let me know when I’m dead wrong. I’m delighted to have her on board. Not sure if the feeling is mutual!!!!

VOS: What lead you to work in the theatre years ago?
Jim: There have been lots of moments that drew me in. My sisters and I would harmonize singing “It’s Only A Shanty in Old Shanty Town” while we did the dishes. My cousin took us to Stratford to see Jean Gascon’s production of “The Three Muskateers” and I was hooked. My own work as a director began after I saw a high school production of “Bye-Bye Birdie”. The students wandered about the stage looking quite lost. I thought I think I can do better. I did, but not by much….which led me to study at Banff. The rest….as they say is history boring!