Local actor will bring Lyman Bourke home for Christmas

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MARK SALTZ /
Advocate staff photo by MARK SALTZ
Jamie Wax plays Lyman Bourke and other characters in his one man show, A Gift for Lyman Bourke.

It’s time for Lyman to come home.

He’s been away from Baton Rouge for two years. Yes, two years.

The idea was that Lyman would make his off Broadway debut during that time. No joke. Some New York producers came to the show a few years ago and were impressed.

Well, better clarify that. They attended a rehearsal, where they met with Jamie Wax.

Wax is creator of Lyman, whose story A Gift for Lyman Bourke, has become a holiday tradition for many Baton Rouge residents.

Lyman Bourke is a 92-year-old man who leads the audience back in time to the Baton Rouge orphanage where he lived at age 13. The year was 1929. Lyman’s father died in World War I, and his mother succumbed to influenza.

Lyman can’t stand the holidays, because he believes cheerful faces are a lie. Radio is his only escape, but then the worst happens — the orphanage is robbed, and the radio is stolen.

Lyman is devastated, because he can no longer listen to his favorite show, Young Orphan Agnes. She gives him hope — she, too, was an orphan who was adopted by a rich man.

And on this particular Christmas, the show is to be broadcast from the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans instead of its regular studio in New York.

So, Lyman runs away to New Orleans in search of Agnes, hoping they will become instant friends.

But the true adventure is discovered on the journey, where he meets a Cajun moonshiner, a tent preacher and runs from the police. And does he meet Agnes in the end? Well, the answer is best left to the Baton Rouge Little Theater’s main stage, where this story first played out 20 years ago.

“And it means a lot to me to return to the stage where it first started to celebrate 20 years,” Wax said.

He laughed.

The thought is humorous, because he ran into a friend on a recent visit to Baton Rouge Little Theater who had been speculating whether Wax still could play a 13-year-old.

“She said, ‘You haven’t changed,’” Wax said.

But at age 43, Wax has experienced changes. He has traded Los Angeles for New York, where several projects are unfolding, including a scheduled workshopping and reading for his one-woman play, The Scutley Papers, and his work on the ensemble piece, Soul Doctor.

Wax is a creative consultant and actor in Soul Doctor, which is based on the life of musician Shlomo Carlebach, known as the Singing Rabbi. Carlebach was close to French jazz singer Nina Simone.

“And Nina Simone is one of the characters in the story,” Wax said. “We workshopped the play at the New York Theater off Broadway, and we’re hoping for a run on Broadway in late 2013.”

Still, there was something special about working in the New York Theater.

“It’s the theater where Rent started, and Once,” Wax said. “It was an amazing opportunity to be able to work in the theater where those plays began.”

But that doesn’t discount the opportunity to return to Baton Rouge Little Theater’s main stage.

“I love Baton Rouge Little Theater,” Wax said. “I wouldn’t be acting if it weren’t for that theater.”

Meantime, Wax continues to divide his time between Baton Rouge and New York. Returning to his hometown will especially be important in May when his daughter graduates from high school. His son is an 11-year-old sixth grader. And Wa x is a newlywed, having married his wife Jacquelyn in October.