Columbia College Chicago Theatre Alum Honored in Windy City Times’ ’30 Under 30 Awards’ for Pride Month

Preston Max Allen

Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department alumnus Preston Max Allen ’13 is honored as one of Windy City Times‘ 2024 “30 Under 30 Award” winners. The annual “30 Under 30” awards were announced June 6, 2024, as part of Windy City Times‘ LGBT Pride Month celebration. Founded in 1985, Windy City Times is Chicago’s oldest LGBT news source, publishing regularly online and producing periodic print inserts in the Chicago Reader weekly newspaper. For more information, click here.

The award recipients were honored for making substantial contributions to the Chicagoland LGBT community in the fields of entertainment, politics, health, activism, academics, sports or other areas. Hundreds of people have been honored by the paper in the 10+ years since the awards were established.

Allen — a graduate of the Theatre Department’s BA Program in Acting who also took courses in the Theatre Department’s Musical Theatre and Comedy programs — came to Chicago from Texas to study at Columbia College Chicago. He is the composer and author of musicals and plays produced in New York City and Chicago.

Preston Max Allen

“Preston Max Allen (he/him) is a transgender playwright, composer and lyricist whose work has been featured at the New Amsterdam Theatre, Lincoln Center, Signature Theatre, and more,” says the award citation published by Windy City Times. “Preston’s musicals include his 2019 Off-Broadway debut We Are the Tigers (album streaming); The Rage: Carrie 2, An Unauthorized Musical Parody (Jeff Nominee, Best New Musical); Agent 355 (co-book/dramaturgy by Jessica Kahkoska); Krisis Kids Wilderness Adventure Camp (Village Theatre Kidstage Commission); and Never Better (production upcoming at Theo Ubique). Preston’s plays include Modern Gentleman (New York Stage and Film 2022 workshop); Caroline (production upcoming); and Storytime (Lucille Lortel Theatre micro commission). Preston is a member of the Writers Guild of America East, Ars Nova Play Group (2019-21), and 2023 Jonathan Larson Grant Honorable Mention recipient.”

Allen’s latest effort, the new musical Never Better, will receive a developmental production September 7 through October 13 at the award-winning Theo Ubique Theatre in the Chicago suburb of Evanston as the opening of the theatre’s 2024-25 season. For more information, click here.

Preston Max Allen

As previously reported in this blog, Allen participated in a 2021 Zoom webinar on “Flipping the Script: How to Thrive as a Trans, Gender Nonconforming, or Nonbinary Performer,” presented by Columbia College Chicago. Also, as previously reported in this blog, Allen has discussed in interviews how his personal journey as a queer, transgender man shaped his work as a creative artist who writes and performs musicals:

“Growing up on Spring Awakening, I realized that musical theatre could sound like what I heard on the radio. . . . Seeing musicals like Next to Normal taught me musicals can tackle real things and they don’t need to be huge, they just need to be honest. . . .

“There are so many boxes societal standards require women to check. To be popular. To be confident. To seem blasé like you don’t care and nothing phases you. Growing up in the ‘90s, magazines and media all projected this one way to be a woman. . . .

“As I began transitioning [from female to male], I began to better understand the complicated relationship I had with these ‘archetypal types of girls in high school.’ I was subconsciously almost trying them on and realizing like, wait, none of these girls are me and that’s OK. It made me look more closely at these internalized, cinematic, media-driven stereotypes I had in my head about women that I’d latched onto to try and build or perform a female identity. Without the weight of that, I had more space to really make these characters more specific and give real validity to their struggles without judging them, because I was no longer judging myself. . . . I’m excited for more broad ways I can tell queer stories.”

The 2024 “30 Under 30 Awards” ceremony took place June 6 at LinkedIn’s Chicago headquarters at 525 W. Monroe St. Event sponsors included AIDS Foundation Chicago (AFC), Pride Action Tank, Windy City Times, LinkedIn, Monarq Advisors, Geof and Joshua Brown, the Center on Halsted, Equality Illinois, the Chicago History Museum/OUT at CHM and Fifth Third Bank.