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Finding Joy in Performance: An Interview with Maxwell Rounsaville

Photo courtesy of Maxwell Rounsaville

Maxwell Rounsaville is an actor from Acworth, Georgia and is currently working on his Bachelor of Arts in Theatre at Columbus State University. However, he plans on switching to a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre Performance at the end of the year. He is currently a first year and is completing his first semester in a few weeks. Max is an accomplished singer, dancer and actor. His dedication to theatre shines through in all of his work. During the semester, I had the privilege of sharing several classes with him where I witnessed not only this, but his overwhelming talent. More recently, I saw him in the Springer Opera House’s production of Cabaret where he played Victor. Sitting down with him, I was excited to get a peek into the mind of such an impressive student and talk about what his process is and what theatre is about for him.

Q: Having such a strong background in dance, what drew you to theatre?

A: I actually consider myself a singer, but I started as a dancer. I started dancing because my sister started dancing, and I started doing theatre because my sister started doing theatre. She’s my older sister. Then, I fell in love with theatre and I’ve just been doing it ever since.

Q: Can you tell me a little bit about your background in singing, dancing, and acting?

A: I grew up doing theatre. I think I’ve done theatre since I was about four. I’ve been in 27 shows- I’m not entirely sure, but a lot of shows. I love what I do. I just started my professional career- I’ve been doing school and community theatre for my whole life and then about this time last year I did my first professional show. I’ve played Heather Chandler (from Heathers) and a bunch of diverse roles. I’ve played from Lori in Little Women to Jack from Into the Woods. More recently I was in Cabaret.

Q: You mentioned Cabaret. Can you talk a little bit about what that rehearsal process was like for you?

A: That was the fastest rehearsal process I’ve ever been through. It was two weeks of rehearsal and two weeks of performance. Most shows will rehearse between four and eight weeks depending on the level of professionalism, how short or long the show is, and if there are a lot of big ensemble numbers (more rehearsals) vs if the show is mostly small solo numbers (less rehearsals). For Cabaret, there weren’t as many ensemble numbers, but we did a lot of numbers without singing in them. There were a lot of rehearsals where we would just learn one section and then go home. It was a very easy rehearsal process – one of the least stressful rehearsal processes I’ve ever been to and also the shortest. I thought that was really impressive. I also just loved working with Keith and all of the people I worked with. I just enjoyed that whole process a lot. Actually the rehearsal process is my favorite part of putting on a show. It’s grueling and it can take a toll on you if you’re not careful, but I really enjoy it. The performance process was very short. It was two weekends of five performances. It certainly wasn’t easy, but it wasn't any more difficult than anything else, but I was so so proud of that show. I was so proud to be in it

Q: Why do you love theatre? Why do you keep coming back to it despite how hard the work is?

A: Theatre is a lot of work. Every now and then I’ll test myself and see if I can do without theatre. Most recently, when I was getting out of highschool, I decided to take a gap year to see what my life would be like if I didn’t pursue theatre. In that year, I found myself the lowest I had ever been, and the days were all the exact same. Even when I would go spend time with my friends and do everything that you’re supposed to do to cheer yourself up, I was so depressed. For months at a time I would be that way. Then, I got a text from my voice teacher to audition for this professional show (this was my first professional audition) and I auditioned and I got in. All of the sudden, it breathed life into me again. All of the sudden I was whole again. Something in me was just fulfilled again. Sure, days are still hard and they can still be struggles, but after that life felt meaningful again. Then I did that show and then a kid’s show which was an improv show where the kids would write stories and we would act them out. I was also working two other jobs, so I was working a total of four jobs. It was the hardest I have ever worked in my life, but I would prefer that to not being in theatre at all, so that’s how I know I love it.

Q: Are you more drawn to comedy or drama as an actor?

A: So I love drama, but I find comedy almost natural. Whenever someone is doing comedy and I know what the joke is, I can sense how they’re going to say it in a way that’s funny. Something about it just makes perfect sense to me. In that sense, comedy isn’t boring, but I can just read the line and know how it’s supposed to be said versus drama which takes a lot more analysis and a need to understand the characters and it is just so much more fulfilling. I find that some comedy comes off as cheap and the best comedy is the comedy that also has drama in it. My favorite comedies are the ones that make you laugh, but the end of the show will make you cry. My favorite is really somewhere in the middle, but if I had to choose one for the rest of my life I would choose drama.

Q: What training have you had up to this point?

A: I’ve been performing my whole life, but I only started taking formal singing training as a freshman in high school. I started taking dance lessons when I was around seven, and I’ve been dancing my whole life. However, when I got into theatre, what I started to love the most was singing so then I started taking singing lessons when I was a freshman in highschool. That would be five years ago, now. As far as acting training, when I was a junior, I moved to Pebblebrook High School, which is a performing arts school in Mapleton, Georgia and that is where I took my first ever acting lesson.

Q: What are some of your favorite moments from your time in theatre?

A: Being in Cabaret was amazing. I know that not a moment, but I just loved everything about Cabaret so much. My favorite show of all time, however, was Into the Woods and I got to play Jack in Into the Woods (not at CSU). Once again, being in the whole show was just so amazing. I think my favorite memory from theatre is when I went to our region’s One Act Competition when I was a freshman and I competed with Pirates of Penzance. I remember not knowing how we were gonna win. They started listing off all of these shows that I thought were amazing and I figured we didn’t place. Finally, they read us as the winners and I was in complete shock. Then, the reality started setting in that we had to start rehearsing to go to state. So, we went to state and I thought the regions were good. The performances at state were amazing. I can’t even articulate how impressed I was. The same thing happened at state as in regionals. We didn’t win, but we got second. We were so proud of ourselves. That was the highest my director at the time had placed in eleven years and I was so happy to get to be a part of that.

Q: What are some of your personal goals/ What are you working on now that Cabaret is over?

A: By the time I graduate CSU, I would like to play a lead in a Springer production. I would also love to be a lead in a mainstage show. Those are two of my long term goals, but right now I’m focusing on improving my acting. I feel like my acting holds me back the most right now and that’s why I’m at CSU; to work on my acting. The overall goal is to just become the best actor that I can become.

It is incredibly clear that Maxwell finds so much joy in what they do and it shines through every bit as much on stage as it does talking to him. May we all find passion in what we do the way that Max has.


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