NEW YORK, N.Y. – Celia Keenan-Bolger, who has portrayed shy girls and fearless young ladies, is about to try something new — playing a mother.
The 36-year-old Tony Award-nominated actress said Wednesday she has signed on to star in Sarah Ruhl’s new play “The Oldest Boy.” It begins previews Oct. 9 at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center.
“I’ve never gotten to play a mother onstage,” Keenan-Bolger said. “I’ve barely gotten to play a grown-up. So I’m really excited.”
In “The Oldest Boy,” she will play the mother of a toddler who is believed to be the reincarnation of a high Buddhist teacher. His parents must decide whether he should begin spiritual training far away or stay home. Rebecca Taichman will direct.
Keenan-Bolger said she has been a big admirer of Ruhl, whose other works include the Pulitzer Prize finalist “In The Next Room, or the vibrator play” and “Stage Kiss.” Her admiration only deepened when she read the script for “The Oldest Boy.”
“I had never read anything like it,” Keenan-Bolger said. “It explores themes of what it is to be a parent and to be confronted by a different culture and religion. And it talks about teachers and students, which is something I think we don’t talk about that much in America.”
To get into the role, Keenan-Bolger has been reading heavily — including “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying” — and she plans to go on a Buddhist retreat in the coming days. “I feel like my world just got so much bigger just by getting to do this play,” she said.
Keenan-Bolger’s Broadway credits include the shy Laura Wingfield in this winter’s stunning revival of Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie” and a fearless Molly in “Peter and the Starcatcher.” She also has been in “Les Miserables” and “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”
The rest of the cast of “The Oldest Boy” will be Ernest Abuba, Joel de la Fuente, Tsering Dorjee, Takemi Kitamura, James Saito, Jon Norman Schneider and Nami Yamamoto. Fuente, who plays her husband in the work, is the best friend of her husband, John Ellison Conlee, and even officiated at their wedding.
“That’s how incestuous it gets,” she said, laughing.
Mark Kennedy is on Twitter at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits