Michigan native Celia Keenan-Bolger wins Tony for Mockingbird
NEW YORK, NY–Michigan native Celia Keenan-Bolger won her first Tony Award Sunday night for her role as Scout in To Kill A Mockingbird.
Bolger grew up in Detroit, and got her college theater degree from The University of Michigan. She trained as a youth at the Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit and the Detroit School of Arts High School. She also attended Interlochen Center for the Arts.
In 2005, Keenan-Bolger made her Broadway debut starring in William Finn‘s musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, where she originated the role of Olive Ostrovsky. For this performance, she was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. She had appeared in the musical from its beginning at the Barrington Stage Company (Sheffield, Massachusetts) in July 2004, to the Off-Broadway production at the Second Stage Theatre in January through March 2005.
“I have loved the theater since I was five years old growing up in Detroit, Michigan. I grew up in the neighborhood where my grandparents had a cross burned on their front lawn because they were being welcoming to black families,” she said in an emotional speech at the podium. “Instead of moving to the suburbs, they raised me and my brother and sister in that same neighborhood.”
She went on to thank producer Scott Rudin, writer Aaron Sorkin, “director Bartlett Sher for making me brave and Harper Lee for making the greatest literary heroine of all time. There is a small army of laborers at the Shubert that make coming to working eight times a week a joy,” she continued. “I have the most incredible friends in the whole world, and they take care of me and love me when I’m not winning a Tony Award.”
To Kill a Mockingbird marks Keenan-Bolger’s first Tony win. She earned nominations for her performances in The Glass Menagerie, Peter and the Starcatcher and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Her other Broadway credits include Les Misérables and The Cherry Orchard.
The star of Mockingbird is Michigan native Jeff Daniels who is founder of The Purple Rose Theatre in Chelsea where he grew up. Daniels was also nominated for his role, but the category for Best Actor went to Bryan Cranston for his role in Network.
Sorkin’s Mockingbird is very different from the film. The writer of Newsroom, The West Wing and plays like A Few Good Men took the story by Harper Lee and infused the play with his own signature writing. The play is told in flashback with Scout (Keenan-Bolger) as principal narrator of the flashback.
Daniels’ performance as Atticus Finch is commanding and he will be identified with the role for years to come. He will continue in the role until February 2020, and the star in a briefer run at The Kennedy Center in Washington DC.