The Ten Faces of Finley

Ask actor Harold Finley about any of the ten characters he will portray in Rhymes, Reasons & Bomb Ass Beatz, the one-man show he wrote, and he'll describe them in strictly physical terms. One of his British characters is a "geezer who ducks and dives, in and out," Finley says, performing the motion as he speaks. It's only after further questioning that you learn the geezer is based on a seedy underground figure he knows in Soho.

Finley's physicality can be traced to a decision he made while attending Houston's High School for Performing and Visual Arts in the '80s. Though he always wanted to be an actor, he despised the drama department and switched to dance, a move he claims was the smartest thing he's ever done. "It gave me a complete and utter awareness of my body," he says. That's especially important for this one-man show because the audience "instantly needs to know it's a different character." With Finley, the characterization on stage arises out of how a person smokes a cigarette or picks up a glass more so than his gender, occupation or appearance.

Finley had always joked that Houston was a great place to see in the rearview mirror, and after high school he left for New York to attend the Actor's Studio. When his father died, he moved to Britain, where he has built a successful acting career. Voice lessons proved so successful that he can no longer get auditions for American characters. He's now playing a transsexual on the BBC's emergency room drama Casualty. (Though a transsexual also appears in this show -- along with a rapper, an outrageous old woman, a drug dealer and a preacher -- he denies any particular interest in cross-dressing.)

Even as a writer, it seems, Finley relies on his high school training. Like dance, the story of these ten disparate individuals has its foundation in music. "Like putting on an album," Finley says. "You just hear the individual songs, but then the whole overall thing has a theme."

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Dylan Otto Krider