Broadway favorite Celia Keenan-Bolger fought for the role of Scout Finch in Aaron Sorkin’s stage adaptation of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Though originally hired in the early reading stage—in lieu of a child who would, theoretically, eventually play the role—Keenan-Bolger didn’t know how she would cede that role to another actor. Luckily, she didn’t have to.
But after one year on the Shubert Theatre stage, the actor (who won her first Tony Award for this performance) does walk away.
“I do think I’m going to feel some very big feelings about leaving that group of people, especially Gideon [Glick] and Will [Pullen],” she said a few days prior to her final performance November 3. “I feel like I’m going to cry talking about it. It’s that thing when you see people eight times a week for a year, your life becomes enmeshed in theirs.”
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But more than missing her Mockingbird family, Keenan-Bolger says she will miss the catharsis of playing Scout. “Right now I have a place to process the world’s events,” she tells Playbill. “I’m like, ‘What’s going to happen when I don’t have a place to go and process all of this?’”
Mockingbird has reassured Keenan-Bolger’s belief in the necessity of theatre not just artistically, but politically. “My understanding of the power of a lot of people coming together to process hard times [has strengthened],” she says. “We don’t have that many spaces to do that. I think that’s why church is probably so powerful. There aren’t that many places to gather together and I think our audiences are from all over the country—I think they probably voted for a different person than I voted for—but to come together and watch this story and for all of us to try to figure it out has been very moving to me.”
As she said in her Tony Award acceptance speech, her childhood home was a place equal parts showtunes and protest slogans. She lived at the intersection of the political, personal, and theatrical, and considers her time as Scout a privilege. “It feels to me like it’s not just a performance, but that it’s a culturally relevant moment that I got to be a part of—on Broadway.”
While Keenan-Bolger takes time away to rest up, she hopes to come back ready to rise to the next occasion.