Celia Keenan-Bolger: Optimistic Activism

Pessimism is an easy route to take in today’s world, but Celia Keenan-Bolger still counts herself an optimist. However, she enjoyed spending time in the shoes of someone with a darker view of the world, as Bee, a young woman who believes she can jump through space and time with the click of a button, in Bruce Norris’s A Parallelogram, which recently was at Second Stage Theater.

Sitting in the hair and makeup chair before her photoshoot, a few days before the play closed, Keenan-Bolger reflects on the show, as well as on her role as both a mother and an activist. “Bruce makes a case for being kind and he makes a case for being honest,” says Keenan-Bolger. “And for someone who generally leads with kindness, it’s been really interesting to see how being honest—if you’re also kind—can be an act of generosity in a way that I didn’t necessarily consider before. I thought particularly right now, at a time when it feels like there are a lot of worldviews, it’s the time to live in somebody else’s skin.”

One of the worldviews she’s particularly focused on cultivating is that of her 2-year-old son. Coming from Detroit, Keenan-Bolger doesn’t crave a creek and a backyard the way her husband does but still feels like New York City was something to work up to. “To think that he’s going to grow up with all of this access and all of this understanding is a weird slant of the world that I’m like, ‘This isn’t what the world is really like,’” she says. “And he’ll be like, ‘This is my only reference point.’ So that will be interesting.”

Keenan-Bolger believes exposing her son to political rallies, as well as culture and art are key experiences. “I feel like we go to a fair amount of protests,” she says. “And that’s a really important part of being a mother right now, especially to a white boy who is born into privilege. I think now more than ever we are having good discussions about what that actually means. Also trying to make sure that he understands from a young age what times we are living in and how that is going to affect his life and what part he can play in making a difference.”

The day before this interview, Keenan-Bolger and her son were at Grand Army Plaza before a performance to join the rally for Peace and Sanity. She was resisting white supremacy, the patriarchy, and hate while wearing her ‘The Future is Female’ shirt, and her son was dressed in a ‘Black Lives Matter’ onesie. “Clothes are becoming part of the resistance in a way that I feel like they weren’t necessarily before,” she says. “Obviously, it’s not enough to just buy the t-shirt but I do think when I look through my drawers these days I have a lot of political shirts. I have a lot of Ruth Ginsberg and Hillary and shirts that have political messages. If I’m walking through the streets these days I guess it is important that part of what I am trying to project into the world is political. Clothes are a way of doing that.”

Styled by Kayla Foster
Hair & Makeup by Austin Thornton
Clothing by Layana Aguilar & Nina shoes