Elias Thomas is a 6-foot-7 starting center on the Freeport Falcons basketball team who is also actively involved in the school’s performing arts department, including as the roller-skating lead in the school’s production of “Xanadu.” Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Freeport High senior Elias Thomas, 17, a lifelong Durham resident, has been playing a variety of sports since grade school. His love of theater and performing started even earlier. He made his stage debut as sleeping baby when he was 3 months old and was the lead in the high school musical as a junior. He also plays trombone, some self-taught piano and has sung in chorus groups since fourth grade.

The day after helping the Falcons win their much-delayed season-opening basketball game against Brunswick, the 6-foot-7 center spoke about how his parents’ passions fostered his diverse interests, how performing in musicals has helped with basketball, and what it’s like to dance and sing while on roller skates.

Q: How many sports do you play?

A: I play basketball and baseball and this year I played soccer. I’ve never played before but I decided to play this year. I also swam for about seven years with a club team up until my sophomore year.

Q: Why soccer?

A: It actually had to do with theater because they weren’t doing a fall musical because of COVID guidelines. I thought why not try to play? It’s fun. It’s my senior year, why not take advantage of it, and I ended up having a really good time and I even played a little bit in my last few games.

Q: Did you get into athletics at an early age?

A: I started around first, second grade playing rec sports and even before that my mom (Carmen Thomas) was a pretty big athlete and her dad was a big athlete and I’ve just been around sports and I was definitely interested.

Q: When did you get into the performing arts?

A: That was pretty much from birth. My dad (Mitch Thomas) made sure my sister and I were getting music in our lives. He’s sort of a semi-professional music guy, involved in theater and he directed a lot of shows at a community theater in Auburn. … The first show I was technically in, I was three months old. Someone was holding me backstage and I was sleeping and instead of waking me up, when it was her time to go onstage, she carried me on and it worked and it looked normal.

Q: You had the lead male role in your junior year when Freeport High put on “Xanadu.” I understand that required you to learn a new skill. What was that?

Elias Thomas played the lead male role in Freeport High’s stage production of “Xanadu.” Ingrid van Duivenbode photo

A: If you’ve seen the movie from 1980, you know Olivia Newton John is on roller skates so I knew I would have to be roller skating, which really wasn’t a problem because I’ve been skating on ice since I was 2, 3 years old. … I had to dance in the roller skates and I’m not a good dancer either, so I had to make sure the roller skating was down. It was definitely interesting. It was fun.

Q: How tall do you think you were on roller skates?

A: I was about 6-10, 6-11, so it was funny to see.

Q: The stereotype of high schools is that there are drama geeks and jocks and the two groups are completely exclusive. Are you glad you interact in both social circles?

A: I’ve always thought of myself as an example for other athletes who have an interest in performing arts. I also do band and chorus and I’m able to take things I learned in (one) activity and apply them to the other activity and I’m able to bring a different perspective to these different groups. And I’ve also met a lot of different people I never would have talked to. For me, I’ve gained so much confidence from both sports and theater. People know me for both and you just have to own it and do it.

Q: Are there specific examples where a skill from performing arts has helped you athletically, or vice-versa?

A: Dancing in shows has definitely helped my footwork in basketball. I’ve heard of professional athletes taking dance classes and saying it helps and it definitely does. My coordination has improved from doing theater and the biggest thing is the confidence from just being on stage, having 500 people listen to you sing and talk.

Q: What do you see as a potential career path?

A: I pretty much knew what I wanted to do since I was 11. I’ve wanted to go into sports broadcasting. My dream is to have my own radio show. The goal is to have a national sports show on like FOX radio or ESPN. Obviously that’s a big goal.

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