Working In The Theatre: Celia Keenan-Bolger


[street noise] A normal day before the show usually
starts with me going to yoga. I usually warm up my voice a little bit in the
shower and then I walk through Union Square to go to the subway. Usually stop at the farmers market see what’s happening there. I was nervous to do a Tennessee Williams
play. I had never seen the play on stage. I’d read it a few times but the
Glass Menagerie I didn’t have any ideas of how it was
supposed to be. When I auditioned I remember asking John Tiffany like what should I do. Like is there a concept or and he so immediately alleviated any anxiety that I had and just said “you know let’s see what you do. I don’t have any big ideas except to assemble great actors to tell this beautiful story.” Laura is the daughter in the Wingfield
family. She is someone who I think her interior life is pretty wild and complicated. She also grew up with a sort of physical
disability which I think stunted whatever emotional growth that maybe
happened or could have happened earlier on. Every time I work on something it’s a
sort of different process of how I prepare and this one was surprisingly physical. Steven Hoggett who did the movement he said that these are characters who so much of what’s happening inside of them goes unsaid. He wanted to find a physical vocabulary for how what’s going on inside leaks out. Steven Hoggett and John Tiffany came up with these exercises. Stephen assigned someone in the play and he said take the person to a spot in the
house and mend them physically which is like what does that even mean but what
comes out of something like that is so amazing and is so very present in what
are what we made. I try to usually choose projects that
are things that I would myself want to go to. I think I had a a weird chip
on my shoulder about like The Glass Menagerie where I was like I’m not sure
that I would want to go see that and obviously, I was just ignorant. I think probably part of not wanting
to work on a lot of the classics, too, has to do with the sort of intimidation part
of it. I feel like I was trained for something so specifically
and that I don’t have the chops. But, I think what’s great about how
long life is, is that you can learn on the job. One of the great things about doing The
Glass Menagerie is that it’s so autobiographical for Tennessee Williams’s
life. I was very interested in merging Rose, who is his sister, with Laura. I just got a sense of this very, very strong sibling bond. Zach Quinto, who plays Tom,
did a ton of research and was a really valuable resource for me. Then beyond
that, I felt like maybe it’s better to use my own imagination of who this
version of of Laura is. I try to check in with the other actors. Zach and I are
sort of next door to each other, so we usually have a good, long talk before
the show. [Zachary Quinto, in background] So, are you warming up your body or your voice? [laughter] [Celia Keenan-Bolger] Get in here! Get in here! There’s something so hilarious
about doing eight shows a week for a long time, and it’s that you really get to
know the ins and outs of the people that you’re in the play with. You know their
life so much because basically every day you’re like, “Alright, what’s going on?” [banjo tuning] [banjo playing and humming] When you do musicals, your process needs
to be very, very fast. The expression of singing is such a different thing than
just talking. There’s less room when something is metered and there are notes on
the page. You can’t take extra time or you can’t use a different inflection. You
sort of have to stick to what’s been written. When you’re doing a play, you’re able to really go at it
differently every night. [Keenan-Bolger, in background] I bought apple cider donuts from the farmer’s market! They’re right behind you. [laughter] [Keenan-Bolger] Cider! Just one! [Quinto] Oh, not good, Celia! [Keenan-Bolger] Better than a cream puff. [Quinto] So true. [audience chatter] Working on this, watching Cherry Jones
work, I was like, “There’s a reason that she is as good as she is.” The amount of detail that she’s layering into one moment. She has eight things going on at once Getting ready to play this role every
night requires a little different focus than I’ve had to have before
because so little is said. It is easy for me on some nights because I’m so
still and because I don’t say very much that I can drift when you’re just, you
know, sitting on a couch for an entire scene. It’s easy to be like, “What’s for
dinner tonight?” or, “What happens this weekend?” Inevitably, that’s going to happen sometimes. But, I have been trying to to stay rigorous
about being present in the scene. What I love so much about this
production is how many young people are coming to see it. As somebody in high school, I just didn’t have a “poet’s soul.” I just didn’t get it.
The idea that there is a whole generation of young people that could
actually care about this play I think is so special. I guess I feel like this part more than almost anything I’ve ever done, all of not just my life experiences but my theater experiences and my
acting experiences have sort of led me to have the tools to even know what to do in this role. I have the voices of other directors in my head about when they just would say something in a rehearsal years ago, like “what acting is” or something ridiculous like that. But, I think a lot of parts, I’ve taken little pieces from
a few characters that I played and been able to try to synthesize it into
something, and in that way it’s like the best part of getting older. I’m not sure that I would totally have understood what to do with this ten years ago when I was the actual right age to play this part. I think there was a
point where I used being an actor as a vessel to put things out there that I
wasn’t necessarily dealing with in my own life, or that it was like a little bit of therapy. It still is like that, which is part of the gift. But, I also think to really dig deep, at least for me, being able to understand who I am and what’s happening inside of me, that somehow helps me understand
other people more deeply That’s really what I’m in pursuit of:
is understanding what makes people that are nothing like me tick. Sometimes you play roles that you sort
of carry around with you when the play ends. You sort of feel the emotional
weight of the character. But, as soon as the plays over, I remember when we were rehearsing I was like, “Am I about to be depressed for six months? Because she’s got a lot going on!” But I don’t feel that way. I feel like once the
plays over, she’s sort of gone. And that’s that’s a relief, actually. [end credits]

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