Two-time Tony Award nominee, Celia Keenan-Bolger is back on Broadway in her tour de force performance as "Laura" in the revival of Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie at The Booth Theatre in NYC (222 West 45th Street, between 7th & 8th Avenue). Celia is sharing the stage with Emmy and two-time Tony Award winner Cherry Jones, television and film star Zachary Quinto, and rising actor Brian J. Smith. Click here for tickets and follow the show at http://theglassmenageriebroadway.com and on Facebook and Twitter, and Instagram!
For more on Celia follow her on Twitter!
1. What initially attracted you to The Glass Menagerie? John Tiffany, who directed it. John directed a show at St. Ann’s Warehouse called Black Watch and I remembered thinking I would do anything to work with him. Then I found out that Cherry Jones and Zachary Quinto were cast. It was more about the people involved than the play itself. I read The Glass Menagerie in high school and it didn’t completely resonate with me, but I felt if John Tiffany, Cherry Jones, and Zachary Quinto are interested in it, then I am too.
2. How do you feel your perspective of the show changed between high school and now? I have a completely different relationship with the play now. It’s a very grown-up play about big family problems. As someone who grew up in a very functional family, I couldn’t find my way into the play in high school or understand what was appealing about the play, but I think the way this production is approaching it on Broadway is that this is a family who cares deeply about each other, but doesn’t necessarily have the tools to take care of each other. That was something I just never saw or felt about the play in high school. I think that is the driving force of what we are doing now with this production.
3. What do you identify most with about "Laura"? She is the most different character I've ever played, and yet I do feel really emotionally attached to her, even though I’m not anything like her. Even though I don’t feel this way in my own family, I do identify with what I believe she experiences about the expectations put on her and the disappointment that she is to the family. It’s really easy for me to understand that. When you are an actor, you have a pretty vivid imagination and you are interested in other people’s lives and what makes them tick, and I think she has a very rich interior life, but I think she has a tough time expressing that.
4. How did you get into the character of "Laura"? How did you find how you wanted to play her? On a daily basis, how do you go from your everyday life into character? So much of it, definitely the building blocks of it, had to do with Steven Hoggett, our Movement Choreographer. We did a week with him which was so amazing and informative. He came up with the physical vocabulary of the play. It was a lot about the transitions and building a physical life for the production. That was really my foundation for how I found "Laura," and gesturally how she exists in the world and how that is a mirror for what is going inside of her.
I’m not really a method actor, but since we did the show for so long at The American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, MA, I have a pretty easy time of going in and out of character. Once that music starts, I’m there.
5. You are working with an extraordinary cast and I think you all work so well together. What have you learned from working with everyone in the cast? I love this cast so much on stage and off. It was such a wonderful process to make this piece. We all have different approaches to this production. Zachary came in with an enormous amount of information and research on Tennessee Williams because he felt his character of "Tom" would benefit from knowing as much as he could about Tennessee, so that was a very interesting part for me to watch, him transferring this amazing writer onto himself and being a conduit for Tennessee Williams.
Cherry Jones completely works from the inside out. The level of detail and purpose she has with everything and the way she is able to build and build and build with something is where I need to slow down and try to do a little more of. It’s so exciting to be on stage with her.
Brian J. Smith is my entire show. That scene with him is everything. It's is my favorite part of the show and probably my most favorite thing I’ve done on stage. The writing is incredible and we have such a connection. We don’t do it the same way every night. I think he’s extraordinary in his part.
6. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing the show? I hope they feel the same way that I did, which is "Do we need to see another revival of The Glass Menagerie?" and then they see the show and say, "Absolutely, yes we do." A few people have said to me that they felt like they were seeing the play for the first time or it felt like a new play to them. I love that a play written so long ago still resonates with so many people in 2013.
People have said to me at the stage door, both men and women, that they themselves feel like an outsider, similar to "Laura," so it’s very comforting to see "Laura" up on stage feeling that way too. It feels good to play a character that others can relate to so deeply.
7. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? I saw a production of The Sound of Music when I was five years old, growing up in Detroit, MI, and I said to my parents, "I want to do that" and they were like "Ok." So I started doing children’s theatre in Detroit, MI and have been doing it ever since.
8. Who haven’t you worked with that you would like to? Oh my gosh, there are so many people. I would love to work with Annie Baker, who is a wonderful playwright; Sam Gold and Dan Aukin who I think are wonderful directors; Jeanine Tesori, I’ve done little things with her, but never anything big; I will go anywhere and do anything with John Tiffany and Steven Hoggett.
9. You’ve also been nominated a few times for a Tony Award. What is it like to get nominated and be recognized? What does it mean to you? I never got into being nominated for awards, but it sure is nice when it happens. All I want is to be respected by my peers and particularly those I really respect. When you are nominated for a Tony Award, you get to be in a room with a lot of people that you wouldn’t necessarily be in a room with and sometimes they say "You were really great in that show" and you get to feel like you part of a larger community and that is something I’m so, so grateful for.
10. How do you feel social media has helped you get your name out there more and been able to enhance your career? I’m awfully lucky that I’m Andrew Keenan-Bolger’s sister because he was at the very beginning of the social media. He was growing up while this was all happening. I’ve luckily been able to get in on that. There are pros and cons to it, but when The Glass Menagerie opened on Broadway, the amount of people that posted their good wishes on Facebook and Twitter was very sweet and that meant a lot to me. I also feel that social media is good for whatever political agenda I’m generally interested in putting out there. My brother and I started the "Broadway for Obama" campaign and I think social media was incredibly helpful to get people who weren’t interested in politics, especially young people, who were interested, but didn’t know how to get involved.
11. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? They talked a lot, in college, how other people’s successes are not your failures and how important it is to take care of the people in the business with you and to be supportive and to try to understand that your career is your own career and comparing yourself to other people will pretty much lead to madness and not fulfillment. That is life’s work, but that is good advice for any career.
12. You also come from a family of performers with Andrew and Maggie. Have you guys ever talked about creating a show together? We would love to do something together. Growing up we did a ton of shows together. It would have to be something very specific and we haven’t quite found it yet. We did a concert about 5 years ago for a theatre company my sister was running which was really fun. The good thing and the bad thing is that we are all busy now, but when we find the right thing, it will happen.
13. After the show, a lot of fans wait at the stage door for you. What do you enjoy about meeting your fans and interacting with them? Particularly for this play, I’m so moved at how many young people are coming to the show for the first time, so that is very fulfilling for me. It's so wonderful to hear from the number of people who tell me how much they enjoyed seeing me in Peter and the Starcatcher, which I loved so much! It’s very moving to see so many people coming to theatre and spending all that money to have an experience and then wait afterwards to tell me about it. I love that part of my job.
14. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? I guess flight. That seems pretty rad.
Broadway: Peter and the Starcatcher (Tony Award nomination, Drama Desk nomination, Drama League nomination), The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Tony Award nomination, Drama Desk Award for Best Ensemble, Theatre World Award), Les Misérables (Drama Desk nomination). Off-Broadway: Peter and the Starcatcher, New York Theatre Workshop; Merrily We Roll Along, Juno, City Center Encores!; A Small Fire, Saved, Playwrights Horizons; Bachelorette, Little Fish, Second Stage. Regional: Sweeney Todd, Kennedy Center Sondheim Celebration; Our Town, Intiman Theatre; The Light in the Piazza, Goodman Theatre. Television/Film: Law & Order, Heartland, The Education Of Max Bickford, Mariachi Gringo. Celia is a graduate of the University of Michigan Musical Theatre Department.