Interview with an Artistic Triple Threat

By: Emily Hulbert

Max Tunney starring as Edna Turnblad in the high school's production of Hairspray.

Max Tunney starring as Edna Turnblad in the high school’s production of Hairspray.

It is rare that you will meet a person who is extremely talented in the arts, music, and theater. I was lucky enough to do such a thing. This person is Max Tunney or better known as Edna Turnblad from this year’s recent production of Hairspray. Max is a sophomore at Long Beach High School and involved in many activities, such as the Musical to Palette Club. He recently designed t-shirts, for not only the All County Music Festival, but also the Class Olympics. I was fortunate to interview him on his acting career and how he balances academics with his passion of the arts. Max is the featured student of the month because he is a well-rounded, creative, and musically talented  student.

1.      Congratulations on your most recent performance as Edna Turnblad in Hairspray. How did it feel to be playing a woman?

Well, it’s definitely a fun role. It’s very original. How many times are you going to be able to play a woman, and that type of woman. She’s a fun character. She transforms throughout the show and it was definitely a fun experience. It’s the kind of role a lot of people would like to play because it is so different and such a great role.

2.      Was it your first time performing as a female?

Yes, it was. I learned a lot from it.

3.      What did you learn?

Well, I’m a guy. It was more of a physical role more than anything else. For example, a woman holds herself differently than a man. I think it was helpful to learn that women have different body movements.

4.      At what age did you start acting?

I was in first grade and it was a production called The Music Man. I was fortunate to get the villain character, Charlie Cowell. His role in the play is to stop Harold Hill from selling music to all the kids because he is not a very honest man. That was my very first role and it was very fun.

5.      What are some of your favorite characters or roles that you’ve played?

When I was in fifth grade, I played the Artful Dodger in Oliver. It was with the Island Park Theater Group. I was given the opportunity to play a role that is nothing like me. This character is a kid who grew up in the lower class of England in the eighteenth century, and he picks pockets. It was almost like a release because he was not like me at all. It was fun to play somebody so different from who I am.

6.      What are some of your favorite actors that you have found inspiration from?

There is a great actor named Mark Rylance. He’s done shows in England and New York. He’s also won a few Tony awards because he’s able to play any character. He’s on Broadway now in a show called the Twelfth Night. He’s been playing a woman, the Queen of England. He’s going to be Tony contender because he is excellent and could play anything.

7.      Do you look up to him as role model?

Yeah. He deserves an award for each line reading. That’s how good he is.

8.      What extracurricular activities do you do inside and outside of school?

In school, I  participate in the Drama Club and the musical. I am  a part of the Palette Club which is the art club in the High School. I also participate in Fragments, where I do some of the art for the literary magazine. I am in the Jazz and Show Choir. I am also on the Morning Show which plays on the loud speaker in the morning.  For the past few years outside of school, I’ve been fortunate to illustrate for “Kidsday”, which is a section of Newsday. I might also try doing some cartooning.

Illustration designed by Max Tunney for Long Island's Best Heckscher Art Show.

Illustration designed by Max Tunney for Long Island’s Best Heckscher Art Show.

9.      Would you ever want to illustrate comic in the newspaper one day?

Definitely! What’s good about cartooning in the newspaper is that so many people are going to see something original that you’ve created.

10.  The Long Beach School Educators have referred to you as an “Artistic Triple Threat” because you are talented in art, music, and theater. Do you find it difficult to be a part of these activities and excel in them also?

Well, what’s good about the arts is that it is creative. It’s more  fun than anything. Education is very important too but the arts are a release. I think it is the opposite of stressful. It’s actually relieving.

11.  Do you get stressed from all the activities that you do? How do you manage stress?

No, I actually look forward to it. It’s all about balance. Some things are harder than others. In the end, when your piece is displayed in an art show or when you’re on a stage that’s when it all makes sense and your very proud that you did it.

12. Art, music, or theater: Which do you enjoy the most?

It’s very hard to say because they all intertwine. Even when you watch a movie for example, you have actors, music composers and you also have an artistic designer. I think they all intertwine. I couldn’t say which one would be my favorite though.

13. What advice can you give to someone about successfully achieving their goals?

Take the things you love most and excel in them, but make sure to keep balance so nothing is being ignored or given too much attention. That’s the most important. I learned this through talking to some seniors, people I’ve met, and also through my own experiences with my past years in school.

14.  At this point in time, what type of career would you like to pursue?

Definitely something that would combine everything in that I could work with everything; something that could involve all my talents put together.

Max  playing the clarinet during the 2013 Long Beach Memorial Day Parade.

Max playing the clarinet during the 2013 Long Beach Memorial Day Parade.

I would like to thank Max Tunney for helping me with this interview. Max, you inspire not only me, but many others to try hard at activities that we love. There is no doubt in my mind that you will end up with a very successful career. Good luck with all the things that you do, and I cannot wait to hear about more challenges and activities that you accomplish.

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