By Elizabeth Wilkes

  • Max Greenhouse
  • Riverwood High School
Elizabeth Wilkes

The first time Max Greenhouse wanted a part in a play, the role was a grandma.

The play was being produced at summer camp. Max, who was 8 at the time, wanted that lead part and he wasn’t going to hear any differently.

“I was saying all day that I wanted to be the grandma, and I wouldn’t take no for an answer,” he said.

His camp counselors gave in. They rewrote the role as Grandpa and he got the part.

Max has been involved with theater ever since.

His work paid off. Last year, during his senior year at Riverwood, Max won the Outstanding Student Achievement award at the state high school theater convention.

Mary Beth van der Hoek, drama teacher at Riverwood High School, has known Max since his freshman year and watched him grow in the realm of performing arts.

“He has dealt with tremendous challenges, yet he never used them as an excuse,” van der Hoek said, vouching for his versatility and eagerness to complete any task set before him. “I could always trust him to get the job done.”

One significant challenge Max faced involved the long-term illness of his father, who died a year ago. Max’s father was the music director at his son’s middle school when Max was in the sixth grade. That year, his father was forced to retire after he contracted Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS). He battled the debilitating disease for eight years.

Because of his father, Max found ways he could contribute to the fight against ALS. He solicited volunteers throughout his high school to help staff and participate in the annual Walk to Defeat ALS.

Max also organized efforts to raise awareness of AIDS. He established a club at Riverwood which plans the annual Human AIDS ribbon, where students line up on the football field in the shape of the iconic AIDS ribbon.

During the fall of senior year, Max faced one of the biggest disappointments of his theater career. He wasn’t cast in the school’s fall production of Blithe Spirit.

Max decided to look for theatrical opportunities elsewhere.

He found a position at the Alliance Theater, which was putting together a show about the Israel-Palestine conflict, Pangs of the Messiah. He was able to serve as assistant director, stage manager, and researcher, in what he claimed was an “excellent experience.”

“With theater, you are very prone to rejection all the time,” Max said. “But one thing always leads to the next…you just have to find a way to move on and find something else.”

Max attended the Georgia Thespian Conference this year, where his troupe along with 3,000 other theater students present productions and participate in workshops.

Max’s friends had nominated him for the Outstanding Student Achievement award without his knowledge, and the winner was to be announced on the final evening of the conference. But a few hours before the closing ceremony, Max injured his head severely when he slammed into the corner of a wall.

He ended up winning the award, only to leave for the emergency room for stitches once the ceremony concluded.

“That was one roller coaster of a day,” Max said.

What’s Next:

Max will attend Tufts University in the fall. He plans to major in drama and minor in English and film, providing him with a broad skill set for opportunities in all areas of theater.