Celia Keenan-Bolger is no stranger to the theatre and is probably most known for playing Scout Finch in the critically acclaimed To Kill a Mockingbird, winning a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in the play in 2019. You might also know her from her roles in The Glass Menagerie, Peter and the Starcatcher, Les Miserables, and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.
Celia answers 5 questions for Broadway Direct, where she tells us about her exciting new podcast, Sunday Pancakes, her inspirations on becoming an actress, and what NYC spot she’s looking forward to returning to.
1. What inspired you to become an actress?
When I was five years old, my parents took me to see a children’s theater production of The Sound Of Music. The memory that stands out for me from that evening is that in order to see the stage, I had to kneel in my seat and the older woman next to me kept asking me not to kick her. But when the show was over I told my parents I wanted to be on stage too. They signed me up at this children’s theater and I got to perform in musicals for the next 5 years. While I loved learning music and choreography and performing, it was really the time before play practice and during the lunch breaks when I would get to sit around with the older kids and talk and laugh and share that really changed me. I think I felt a kind of belonging that was completely new to me and made me feel like this was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
2. Who in your field inspires you?
In the wake of George Floyd’s murder last May, the NY theater world has had to face some very difficult truths about the racial injustices inside of our own community. I have been so inspired byBlack Theater United, Broadway Advocacy Coalition, and Broadway for Racial Justice who have created spaces that aim to not only raise awareness but also provide resources, virtual town halls, and action items for the theater community to engage with. These organizations are giving us the tools to do the work in dismantling the systems that perpetuate racism inside of our community.
3. What will audiences be most excited about seeing in your upcoming projects?
I am so thrilled to share my podcast Sunday Pancakes with audiences because after a year of isolation it’s given me an enormous feeling of connection. Early in the pandemic, I heard the author George Saunders talk about the role of the artist during challenging times and he encouraged us to keep a record of what we were going through. This podcast is my attempt at doing that. It’s been a very difficult time for theater artists, we’ve been at 100% unemployment this past year and I wanted to talk with people in our community about what that has been like for them. I’ve been so moved by the insight and resilience of my guests. So far I’ve gotten to talk to Denee Benton, Philippa Soo, Kelli O’Hara, and Zachary Qunito and their reflections have not only helped me navigate this time but they’ve also made me feel less alone.
4. What are some things you’ve always wanted to do that you’re able to spend time on now?
Growing up, my family ate dinner together every night. It was where we processed the day, talked about what was happening in the world, told jokes, and shared experiences. Both my husband and I are actors and the theater schedule being what it is, having dinner as a family every night was nearly impossible. Early on in the pandemic, I wondered how I was going to keep coming up with meals to cook and felt daunted by the task of feeding my family every single night. But over time, I think it’s gotten easier and I’ve lowered expectations for myself. I love coming together at the end of the day with my 5-year-old. He introduced me to something called “rose, bud and thorn” and so we go around the table and everyone has to say something great, something we’re looking forward to and something hard about our day.
5. What NYC spot are you missing most now?
I cannot wait to be back in a theater (on or off-Broadway) and then go out for a snack or a drink after the show with friends so we can talk about what we just experienced. In the theater district, Bond 45, Glasshouse Tavern, or Sardis were popular post-show hangs. I cannot WAIT to be back in them with my community that I value so deeply.
You can catch Celia Keenan-Bolger in her new podcast Sunday Pancakes and follow her on Instagram @celiakb.
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