U-M alumna Celia Keenan-Bolger wins Tony Award for role in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’
University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance alumna Celia Keenan-Bolger (BFA ’00, musical theatre) received a 2019 Tony Award for ‘Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play’ for her critically acclaimed performance as Scout Finch in Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird on Broadway. She received the award on the nationally broadcast 73rd Annual Tony Awards, which aired on CBS on June 9.
Keenan-Bolger competed against a prestigious group of actresses including Fionnula Flanagan (The Ferryman), Kristine Nielsen (Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus), Julie White (Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus), and Ruth Wilson (King Lear).
This was Keenan-Bolger’s first Tony Award win. She was previously nominated for the same award for Peter and the Starcatcher (2012) and The Glass Menagerie (2014). Keenan-Bolger also received a nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (2005).
During her speech, the Detroit native thanked her father and her late mother for their commitment to staying in the city, which saw its population of white residents plummet in the late 1960s after the 1967 rebellion spurred by systemic racial injustice.
“I have loved the theater since I was five years old growing up in Detroit, Michigan. I grew up in a neighborhood where my grandparents had a cross burned on their front lawn because they were being welcoming to black families who were integrating the neighborhood,” she said. “When my mother met my father, instead of moving to the suburbs, they raised me and my brother and sister in that same neighborhood—that I am standing here accepting this award for playing Scout Finch in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ is incredibly moving for me.”
Keenan-Bolger is an alumna of several Detroit youth theaters, including the Mosaic Youth Theater. She graduated from the U-M with a degree in Musical Theatre before moving to New York City to pursue her dream of acting.
Also nominated for a 2019 Tony Award was Theatre & Drama alumna Dominique Morisseau (BFA ’00, theatre) for Best Book of a Musical for her work on Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations, which follows the development of the legendary Motown group. This was Morisseau’s first Tony Award nomination, but she has earned a raft of other prizes including the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship.