By JAMIE A. COOLEY
Max Thomas is a Chicago south-sider who says that his passion for acting and theatrics has driven him to use his talent as an outlet to express his love for his African-American roots.
Thomas describes this as being “in a constant dreamscape utopia of blackness.”
Having spent some of his earlier years in Hyde Park, then later attending Hales-Franciscan High School, 4930 S. College Grove Ave., Thomas along with his cast mates at The Revival, 1160 E. 55th St., wrote “The Miseducation on 55th Street.”
“The Miseducation on 55th Street” reflects on the south side of Chicago’s quirks and Thomas’s experiences as a south-sider are presented through comedy, improv and skit. His experiences with Hyde Park, Bronzeville and other neighborhoods played a very large role in writing the show.
“I’m very, very familiar with Hyde Park; my mother and father bought one of their first apartments in the area and my cousins lived here,” Thomas said. “The south side definitely influences my acting with realness and always [helps me] keep my specific voice and my specific point of view, especially when it comes to segregation.”
Thomas said he began acting at an early age, in school.
“I grew up in the Chicago Public Schools where there wasn’t a lot of funding for the arts, so we never had any theatre [programs],” Thomas said. “During English class where we had to read Hamlet or something, I was the one always trying to create a scene out of it.”
Thomas said stand- up comedy was his first step into acting, improv, and theatrical comedy. Over the years, he has performed stand-up at The Second City NBC Universal Comedy Festival, The DOJO Comedy, The Revival, WIP Theater, and many more.
Stand-up comedy inspired his theatrics and he received his BFA in Theatre from the University of Illinois Chicago and since has been expanding his career throughout the city.
Thomas is involved with The University of Chicago’s Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis Ave. The Court Theatre has a yearlong event called the “Spotlight Reading Series.” During these Spotlight Readings, actors and actresses rediscover classic plays by writers of color.
“I’ve been doing a lot of Spotlight Readings with Ron OJ Parson (Resident Artist at Court Theatre), a well-known African-American director in the city that a lot of black and brown actors in the city love,” Thomas said.
“He [Parson] likes the grit of stuff and the realness, opposed to if you’re a black person and have been training in theatre. He wants to get into the depth of who you are and where you’re coming from.”
Thomas is also involved in Black Youth Project 100, which he said is an organization of people from 18-35 who focus on things through a “black, queer, and feminist lens.”
“The best way I can describe it is as liberating black people; all black people, not just cis gender folks and that’s it,” he said.
Other projects Thomas is involved in with include DIY shows at places like the DOJO in Pilsen and improv on Sunday’s at The Playground Theatre, 3209 N. Halsted St.
Thomas will be performing “Miseducation on 55th Street” at The Revival in Hyde Park where he will utilize all of his talents including improv, comedy, skit, and acting.
“Miseducation on 55th Street” is running every Saturday through Aug. 5.