Since she made her Broadway debut in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee as young speller Olive Ostrovsky, Keenan-Bolger has proven the breadth of her skills and her deep well of empathy and compassion through her characters. And, for a woman who launched with an intimate new musicals built without a “big name,” she has gone on to show her chops for straight plays in Roger Rees, Alex Timbers, and Rick Elice’s Peter and the Starcatcher to some of theatre’s most iconic titles alongside dramatic masters: The Glass Menagerie with Cherry Jones, The Cherry Orchard with Diane Lane, and now To Kill a Mockingbird with Jeff Daniels.
But Keenan-Bolger isn’t just the accompaniment to the big star, she is one in her own right.
As Scout Finch in Aaron Sorkin’s stage adaptation of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Keenan-Bolger anchors the play. It’s through her perspective, her memory, that audiences watch her father Atticus defend Tom Robinson. While she grapples with the events of that summer and the story she was told that doesn’t quite compute, Keenan-Bolger (as Scout) navigates the complexities of playing an adult coming to a realization and the eight-year-old of her memory.
Though Keenan-Bolger played Scout from the very beginning, she didn’t think she would play the role on Broadway. She was asked to do the reading just so Sorkin could hear the play aloud, without having to wrangle child actors. “I was like, ‘I would be thrilled,’ and to get to do something where there are no stakes—if they're using kids I don’t even have to worry about it,” she recalled during an interview with Build. “When it was announced I was like, ‘What little eight-year-old is going to get to play that part? I'm so jealous of her.’ Stole that part out from an eight-year-old’s nose.”
But in her performance, her years of work on her craft become evident as she balances strength and vulnerability, curiosity and fear, openness and stubbornness. Which is why when we asked her what the play about her life would be called she answered, “She Was a Bossy Older Sister and maybe Heidi Schreck would write it because she’s right next door and I love her so much.”
Bossy or not, Keenan-Bolger shows us eight nights a week what it means to be in charge.