by Lorie Lewis Ham
At KRL we enjoy taking our readers behind the scenes-whether it’s learning about the lives of teachers, actors, artists, or musicians. This week we are chatting with local actor/director/and more Maxwell Debbas, who also happens to be the actor doing our latest podcast, “Players,” which just went up this week! I didn’t know this when he first auditioned, but Maxwell has already been involved in podcasts and we are very excited to have him on board with Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast! You can find this episode of the podcast on Podbean, iTunes, Google Play, and we have embedded the player at the end of this article!
KRL: Are you from Fresno? If not, where are you from and how did you end up here?
Maxwell: I was born and raised in the Central Valley. Most of my younger years were spent as a country boy in Clovis.
KRL: Current day job? And other jobs you have had?
Maxwell: I work as a managing partner of Debbas Gourmet. That consists of Research and Development, account management, sales, marketing, and whatever else needs to be done. I also sometimes work as an adjunct professor at Fresno State, teaching multimedia production classes. For a number of years I ran a production company, With or Without Justin Productions. We produced commercials, short films, documentaries, short promos, website design, photography, audio production such as podcasts and radio plays. I still work in photography, mainly commercial, events, and artistic, and if the timing is right I will do some video work.
KRL: Where did you go to school?
Maxwell: At Fresno State I studied Multimedia Production as well as Theatre. I attended graduate school at Fresno Pacific and got my MA in Educational Technology.
KRL: When did you first get involved in acting and why?
Maxwell: I have always enjoyed entertaining people. That didn’t always take place on stage, but it did manifest itself into other areas of my life. Whether it be being the class clown, making short films with buddies, working on improv type skits all throughout elementary-high school. However, I didn’t actually begin working in proper theatre until my senior year of high school. My buddy and I auditioned for Fiddler on the Roof on a whim and we were cast.
KRL: What was your first part?
Maxwell: Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof!
KRL: What are some of the shows you have been in, and the parts you have played, and with what companies?
Maxwell: I have had the honor to be involved in many productions with many theatre groups. Some of my favorite roles have been: Huck Finn (Big River) with CenterStage, Vice Principal Panch (Spelling Bee) GCP, LeFou (Beauty and the Beast) MTF, Roger (Grease) CMT, Lazar Wolf (Fiddler) GCP, Jazzbo (It’s a Wonderful Life) GCP, and the various roles with the Flower Tome Series we put on for Rogue.
KRL: Do you have a favorite type of show to be in?
Maxwell: Some of my favorite types of shows are staged radio shows. I have loved radio shows since a child, and in college we studied the art of radio shows, including Foley artist work, and we put on a great original production of a show called Dracular. I try to work in the radio show world as much as I can. The last few years I have also been a part of three original radio shows for Rogue, It’s a Wonderful Life: The Radio Show, and many podcasts where I have worked on short radio shows.
KRL: What do you like best about acting/singing?
Maxwell: Entertaining people. Being able to help people escape for a bit and just enjoy a show.
KRL: What is the hardest?
Maxwell: I had this answer that involved the difference between performing and entertaining, and the craft involved in each, but really the hardest part is memorizing lines!
KRL: Future goals and dreams?
Maxwell: Continue to create art where I can.
Maxwell: I am going to answer specifically regarding the entertainment industry: Charlie Chaplin is someone that I definitely look to for inspiration.
KRL: Fun answer! What do you feel has helped you the most in growing as an actor and singer?
Maxwell: Being thrown into things. My first role was a huge one, and I didn’t have any proper theatre training. That is the kind of crash course learning that sticks with you.
KRL: What advice would you have for someone wanting to get into acting?
Maxwell: Don’t be afraid of being yourself. It’s your own quirks that make you unique on stage and film.
KRL: What is your dream role?
Maxwell: I was lucky enough to play two of my dream roles in Musical theatre, both Tevye and Huck. The few that I would still consider dream roles would be Randle P McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, and Seymour in Little Shop.
KRL: Is it hard balancing a job/school and acting?
Maxwell: Always. Its family/friend time that really takes a hit with acting however. There have been months where I didn’t see many close friends because I was in back to back shows. When I was younger it wasn’t nearly as big of a challenge to find the time to do a show, but with a big boy job, I now look for shows with shorter runs and have to look months in advance to make sure it doesn’t conflict with work travel etc.
Here are what a few of Maxwell’s friend and fellow performers had to say about him-
“Max is a very directable actor who can play a wide range of roles he’s also very fun to work with.”
Karan Johnson, who directed him in Lost In Yonkers
“Max is not only a very talented, creative performer; he also brings a presence of playfulness mixed with thoughtfulness to the projects I have been lucky enough to be in with him.”
Greg Ruud, fellow actor
“It was my great delight to choreograph Max in RCTC’s production of White Christmas. Max brought a warm glow into every moment, and is a comedically gifted and gracious performer. He is also an exceptionally kind person who maneuvers through life with elegance and grace. I’m honored to be considered a friend.”
Denise Norwood, River City Theatre Co.
“Max is one of my favorite people and “real” actors…a true chameleon .He has a very broad acting range spanning age, comedy, musical and classical. He is incredibly focused, kind, funny, bright and a joy to work with.”
Tessa Cavalletto, fellow actor
“Max is both a delightful human being and a wonderful actor. The first probably has a lot to do with the second. You can’t be a good actor without compassion and understanding of the human condition. He is a total delight.”
Laurie Pessano, GCP, fellow actor, has directed him, and been directed by him for commercials
You can learn more about Maxwell on his website, and be sure to check out Max in “Players” and in another Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast episode in October!