Heart of Glass — Celia Keenan-Bolger Finds Strength in Fragile Characters

By Marc Acito
15 Dec 2013

Keenan-Bolger in The Glass Menagerie
Photo by Michael J. Lutch

The actress, however, felt she had reached a plateau. "In musicals I was playing these wounded birds." So she turned to Off-Broadway: She took on the role of a drug-addicted party girl in The Bachelorette and a bride in crisis in A Small Fire. After one show, an audience member confronted her, saying, "'You were a real b*tch.' That was a very different response to what I was used to," Keean-Bolger said. "And I thought, 'I think I like it.'"

Her next role, Molly in Peter and the Starcatcher, was far closer to her own delightful nature, even though she's 20 years older than the 13-year-old character. It earned her a second Tony nod.

A third nomination seems likely, given the universal praise she's received for her interpretation of Laura in The Glass Menagerie, a role that intimidated her at first.

"For the first two weeks of rehearsal, I didn't have a limp," she explained. "I just didn't know what it was and I felt like in some way it's the least of her problems."

In that regard, she wasn't able to enlist the help of her brother Andrew, who had recently played a disabled character in Newsies. "Andrew's character was definitely defined by the disability. I mean, he's called Crutchie."

Finally director John Tiffany asked the actress, "Well, if you did have a limp, what would it look like?" The result is now onstage eight shows a week, followed by some restorative physical therapy.

Laura's fragility reminded Keenan-Bolger of the character she would rather have forgotten: Clara in The Light in the Piazza. "There was a time when I wished I'd never done that show because the experience was so sad. And now I'm grateful I did. All that work all those years ago, building a foundation, is showing up now.”

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Celia Keenan-Bolger and Brian J. Smith
Photo by Michael J. Lutch