Chaplain assistant spends off-duty time in local theater

  • Published
  • By Christin Michaud
  • AFMAO Public Affairs
An Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations Airman plays an integral part in the mortuary's resiliency program, but off duty, he performs in a variety of other roles.

Tech. Sgt. Sean Finley, AFMAO's sole chaplain assistant, offers programming to the mortuary team and support to families of the fallen as part of his work here.

When he's not working, the Alaskan native explores his dramatic side.

Finley first toyed with acting in the third grade when he starred as a boy in the "Reluctant Dragon" but didn't really get involved with it until he was in high school. It was in high school drama that he met his future wife.

The couple never dated or had any major connections but kept in touch, said Finley. Six years ago they met for coffee and things grew.

"Being with Julie and her drive to participate in theater allowed me to transition back into it," said Finley.

His wife Julie has a degree in theater with an emphasis in acting. 

"I learn from her all the time," said Finley who will co-direct the production "Faith County" with his wife at the Riverfront Theatre in Milford, Delaware. 

"Julie is incredibly talented," said Finley. "She has great vision and has helped many shows with costumes, set construction and lighting as well as taking people under her wing to help guide them with their characters."

In the Theatre's most recent production the "Spamalot," a satire of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," Finley had five different roles while Julie had four. He's also served as a stage manager and director.

He joked that when they move to a new place finding a theater is a social avenue, because people have to hang out together a few times a week at rehearsals. 

"You can build fast relationships that way," he said.

Although he enjoys acting, Finley said it's the entire experience he is drawn to. It starts in an empty building with a blank floor to opening night where people have paid money to see the fruit of his months of labor come to life.

It all starts when the cast and crew meet for the first time, then the read through, set construction, lighting, costumes and props and then the final week of preparation before opening night known as 'Tech Week.'

"Everything in theater is fake - the doors that go to nowhere and windows that look out onto a painting," said Finley. 

"The true reality of theater, and I think what is so romantic about it is the audience - their reactions, their feelings and emotions that come out during the course of two hours or so - that is the only reality of theater, and I love it."

Finley roles include a caterpillar in "Alice in Wonderland," Johnathan Brewster in "Arsenic and Old Lace," Leonard Vole in Agatha Christie's "Witness for the Prosecution," Stephano in "The Tempest" and most recently in "Spamalot," he played multiple roles including Bedevere, mother, Concorde and Kevin.

"The people really respond to Sean on stage," said David Sparks, an AFMAO chaplain, who has attended more than a dozen of Finley's performances and was recruited by Finley to play a role in "Inherit the Wind."   

Finley said there are many ways people can get involved in community theater from assisting with set construction, props and costumes to helping with the box office, concession stand and ushering. 

"That is the great thing - not everyone needs to commit the time I have," said Finley.

He's taken his love of theater off duty and incorporated it into AFMAO's resiliency program. He offers a weekly resiliency class which incorporates script reading and discussion of the roles and script. 

Sparks said the classes have great depth to them, and Finley does a wonderful job of drawing people in. 

After "Faith County," the couple will play the role of parents to the baby on the way, who Finley says, "will be directing our lives."