Max Burach wants to play soccer during recess. But first: Broadway
From Broadway to Bedtime
It was Tuesday, May 2, and a curly haired first grader had just hopped into his mom’s car after school. As he settled into his car seat, buckling it across his chest with his tiny hands, his mother announced she had something to tell him. “Leopoldstadt was nominated for a Tony Award!” she said, and his eyes lit up with a mixture of joy and astonishment and pride.
Did he understand what a Tony nomination was?
“A trophy?” he asked innocently. No, not quite. “A chocolate bar?” he guessed. Just a little off. Well, he knew it was something special, and a recognition of his hard work, and the hard work of those he spent so much time with. And with that, he had just one question.
“Can I have my snack now?”
Is Max Burach ‘34 your typical first grader? The answer is both “yes” and “no.” Is priority number one after school a snack? Yes, yes it is. Is his favorite part of the day racing across the schoolyard at recess, kicking a soccer ball with his friends? Naturally. Does he don a batter's helmet and lift a heavy bat in his town’s Little League, dreaming of home run glory? Of course—it’s childhood! Why wouldn’t he?
Ah, but here the typical veers into a different way, specifically, The Great White Way. Max Burach performs in a Broadway show, the critically acclaimed Leopoldstadt, from the one-and-only playwright Sir Tom Stoppard. The play has been nominated for six Tonys, including a nomination for Best Play which includes Max as an original cast member of the show. He is, upon closer observation, not typical at all. A first grader at Pingry and, perhaps, a budding marine biologist, he really wants to tell you all about his favorite sea animal, the octopus, and why it is so smart. (“It has nine brains!” he marvels.)
But first, Broadway.
There are eight performances of the show every week, and Max, as the youngest cast member in the show, shares his part with two more children. He is on a rotation: Stand By (backstage); On (onstage); and Offsite (at home). In a typical week—there’s that word again—he is on Broadway four or five evenings. He arrives at the stage door and heads backstage to hair and makeup, where they only slightly flatten his curly mop.
Leopoldstadt follows the lives of a wealthy Jewish community in Vienna in the first half of the 20th century. The play takes place from 1899 to 1955, and shows a family who fled the pogroms in the East, and the tragic consequences of the Nazi invasion. The play features a large and remarkable cast and weaves together their story across generations, and the heartbreaking tragedy that, in 1955, there are only three survivors left. Max plays the role of the youngest child, Heini.
Max and his mom, Nancy Braun, are immensely grateful and moved to be part of such an important play. “We come from a Jewish family,” says Nancy, “and all of Max’s ancestors were lost in the Holocaust, except for my grandfather—his great-grandfather—who was a survivor… It felt like a really important message to be a part of, especially in this kind of climate that we are in. It feels so relevant.”
When asked how it feels to be a part of such an important play, the answer is apparent before he even says it.
“I feel proud.”
For about a year now, Max has been performing at the Longacre Theatre on Broadway in front of a crowd of a thousand people. In between car rides and homework sheets and snacks and swimming lessons and consuming more and more sea animal facts, he has approached each rehearsal and every show with an enthusiasm and joy that has surprised and impressed his parents. The cast has become like a second family, and, as the closing date of July 2 approaches, Max is saddened to think about the experience ending. Yet all the critical acclaim and the six Tony nominations are an incredible way to conclude such an extraordinary experience.
But for now, nearly five days a week, Max hops into a car after school and leaps out onto Broadway, arriving at the stage door and bounding backstage with the same enthusiasm as when he races outside at recess time. And, at the end of the night, he exits that same stage door—the only cast member already dressed in his pajamas, ready to dream about it all on the car ride home.
After some snacks, of course.
Second image photo credit: Joan Marcus
Contact: Sara Courtney, Communications Writer
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