Thomas Alva Edison: Man vs Myth

by  Hank Fincken: A National Theatre Company of One

Program image

Mr. Edison is sometimes credited with inventing the twentieth century. If he did not, he certainly pushed it in a new direction. Mr. Fincken has been portraying Edison for more than twenty years. He hopes to show why Edison the man is so much more interesting than Edison the myth.

"I feel it was a unique learning experience to be involved with a person who re-enacts another's life. He was so knowledgeable and efficient that at the end some of my children asked was it really Thomas Edison."
Educator New York State

Program Rating

   based on 44 evaluation(s).
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About This Program


By Request: $250.00

If four sites sign up for Date/time scheduled program, Mr. Fincken will lower the price $25.

For this school year 2017-2018 for the months of May and June, all performances will get a $25 discount.


2-4 grade 45 min.; one hour fo 6-12th grades 1 hour

Target Audience

Education: Grade(s) 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, Parent, Adult LearnersPublic Library: Library Patrons, Library Staff adult groups interested in history or science

Minimum participants:

No Minimum

Maximum participants:

There is no maximum, but I recommend under 50.

Primary Disciplines

Career Education, Character Education, Economics/Business, Gifted & Talented, Performing Arts, Problem Solving, Sciences, Social Studies/History

Program Delivery Mode

Videoconference - H.323 (Polycom, Cisco/Tandberg, LifeSize, etc...)
Videoconference – Webcam/desktop (Zoom, Google Meet, Cisco WebEx, GoToMeeting, Microsoft Teams, etc...)

Booking Information

Book it!

Receive this program and 9 more for one low price when you purchase the CILC Virtual Expeditions package. Learn more

For more information contact CILC at (507) 388-3672

Provider's Cancellation Policy

Please remember, I lose a full day whenever you cancel. I ask for half the fee if a site cancels within one week of the performance.

About This Provider

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Hank Fincken: A National Theatre Company of One

Indianapolis, IN
United States

                                   SO YOU KNOW

I’m still performing, but I’ve had to adapt. At this point, no
one is booking in-person live Theatre. So, I do virtual
presentations. To keep it exciting, I perform an excerpt from each
play, discuss the research, and answer your questions. It’s a
performance, a workshop, and an adaptation to your unique interests.

GOOD NEWS FOR YOU: It’s cheaper. Since I usually work through
CILC, I give them a block-booking discount. That discount is for
you. And there’s another discount if you book a second
presentation the same day. Call it the family discount. That means
it’s your turn to do the dishes.

CILC is a virtual learning network. I have received 8 of their
national Pinnacle Awards. The judges are customers from the previous
year, 7 questions that must result in at least a 95% OUTSTANDING
evaluation. My mother never endorsed me with such a score.

LET’S TALK NITTY-GRITTY: I can perform in English and Spanish.
For years, school, colleges, and libraries have said they want
programs that appeal to their Latinx students. So, why didn’t they
call me? Either they found me too expensive or too white. This past
July I taught Theatre in Spanish in Ecuador for the fifth year in a
row. Am I a native speaker? No, but my Spanish is good enough to
tell bad jokes and get the job done. I inspire. In addition, I
lived in Peru and Costa Rica for 6 years.

LET’S TALK DIRTY: All my characters are controversial. That’s
why I chose them. I wanted to have meaty discussions about things
that matter. I will not be preaching simple answers, but I will help
you better understand complex questions. For example, if you think
Christopher Columbus and Francisco Pizarro are horrific men, then you
are simplifying the past the same way White America used to do. If
you want complex history, book me. If you want comfortable history
with easy to identify good guys and bad, please don’t. Don’t you
want to know the “whys” behind their behavior so you don’t
replicate their footsteps?? Hey, CC is not your lazy
brother-in-law! You can also see here that I refuse to let humor
with all its destructive powers creep into my program.

WHAT HASN’T CHANGED. My research is excellent. All my scripts
have been fact-checked by college professors, not college students.
I will present the most accurate history I can (and disregard faddish
history when possible), which provides soul-searchingful insight
about the past and hope for the future. I encourage thought-provoking
questions and will try to avoid only demonizing and stereotyping.

DON’T BELIEVE ME: Ask a tough question. Give me your best shot.   

Hank’s grandfather
used to say, “Go Back far enough and every successful family begins with a
horse thief. “ Then let’s take it as a given: All historical characters have
serious flaws, just like you and me.  Hank’s
goal in representing famous people from history is not to explore a rosy past
but rather to better understand mistakes while keeping in mind noble intentions
and achievements.  Of my eight original
one-man historical plays, six are appropriate for your venue. 

For thirty
years, Hank has presented historical plays with a bite.  He wants the audience to understand that the
past was as complex as the present and the only way to improve this inherited
culture of ours is to honestly discuss virtues and flaws.   No two performances are the same because all
Hank’s plays are interactive, and they evolve according to the interests of
each audience.  In one play, the main
character says, “The History you get depends on the questions you ask.”

provides award-winning study guides.  If
the audience (student or adult) comes prepared, Hank can go deeper into the
material.  Hank interprets prepared
students as a sign that the teacher is as committed to the success of the
presentation as he is.  Hank speaks to a
venue representative long before he arrives to make sure he covers the issues
that the teachers and/or audience think are important. 

Hank has added a new STEM component to all his plays. Details
about this, and how his programs meet state standards, are available upon


Indiana Arts Commission gave him the title of Master Artist, and the Indiana
Theatre Association gave him its Service Award for promoting Theatre throughout
the state.  He has performed all across
this nation and in Guatemala, Peru, Ecuador, and Spain.  In the summer of 2019, Hank received his
seventh national Pinnacle Award for his teaching of History and Creative
Writing through video conferencing.  

Hank Fincken

Program Details


1. Mr. Edison will discuss his life and his inventions.
2. Students will ask Mr. Edison questions.
3. Mr. Edison will share some slides of his family and inventions.
4. Hank will adapt the program to your unique needs.
5. Students will ask Mr. Fincken what it is like to be Edison and what might be the differences between what Edison said and what the lab notebooks say he did.


The participants will learn something about the invention process, the history of the light system and the communication and entertainment industries. They will know more about the man himself, the times he lived in, and what it took and takes to succeed. Students will also understand that Edison's success was the result of several factors, including hard work, luck, working with the right people, and being at the right place at the right time. They will also learn how history gets rewritten to fit the needs of later generations.

Standards Alignment

National Standards

· Students improvise dialogue to tell stories, and formalize improvisations by writing or recording the dialogue

· Students imagine and clearly describe characters, their relationships, and their environments
· Students assume roles that exhibit concentration and contribute to the action of classroom dramatizations based on personal experience and heritage, imagination, literature, and history
· Students analyze descriptions, dialogue, and actions to discover, articulate, and justify character motivation and invent character behaviors based on the observation of interactions, ethical choices, and emotional responses of people
· Students demonstrate acting skills (such as sensory recall, concentration, breath control, diction, body alignment, control of isolated body parts) to develop characterizations that suggest artistic choices
· Students in an ensemble, interact as the invented characters
Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes
Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
NL-ENG.K-12.8 DEVELOPING RESEARCH SKILLS Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
Students develop an understanding of and respect for diversity in language use, patterns, and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, geographic regions, and social roles.

State Standards


Social Studies
SS.5.4.3 Trace the development of technology and major inventions on business productivity during the early development of the United States.
SS.6.5.9 Identify examples of inventions and technological innovations that have brought about cultural change in Europe and the Americas, and examine their impact. Example: Innovations in communications, such as computer technology, help to spread information and ideas very rapidly. One result may be an increase in the rate of cultural change.
SS.7.5.5 Examine the impact of cultural change brought about by technological inventions and innovations in the past and present. Example: Trace the technology of paper making from its origins in China in about 100 C.E., to its spread to the Middle East, Africa, and Europe in the Middle Ages, and speculate about its possible impact.
SS.8.4.4 Identify and explain how new inventions increased productivity in manufacturing and agriculture in the eighteenth and nineteenth century.
SS.8.4.9 Relate technological change and inventions to changes in labor productivity in the United States. Example: The cotton gin increased labor productivity in the early nineteenth century.
SS.SOC.6.2 Examine various social influences that can lead to immediate and long-term changes. Examples: natural and man-made disasters, spatial movement of people, technology, urbanization, industrialization; immigration, wars, challenge to authority, laws, diffusion of cultural traits, discrimination, discoveries and inventions, and scientific exploration.
SS.SOC.6.8 Trace the development of the use of a specific type of technology in the community.

Give examples of how tools, such as automobiles, computers, and electric motors, have affected the way we live
S.4.1.7 Recognize and explain that any invention may lead to other inventions
S.6.3.17 Recognize and describe that energy is a property of many objects and is associated with heat, light, electricity, mechanical motion and sound.