“I like to be busy,” Andrew Keenan-Bolger said as we spoke about his career and his current role in the hit Off-Broadway play, Dracula, A Comedy of Terrors. “I do terribly with unstructured time. That’s my absolute worst nightmare.” At 38, Keenan-Bolger has been busy most of his life, from childhood on. He made his Broadway debut at age 10 as Chip in Beauty and the Beast and has appeared in six Broadway shows, national tours, Off- and Off-Off Broadway productions, films, podcasts, and appeared on TV shows from The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel to Nurse Jackie, and The Blacklist.
Dracula has been getting raves, and it’s a comedic retelling of the classic legend, complete with gender-bending characters and situations. Running through January at New World Stages in New York, the play has a script by Gordon Greenberg and Steve Rosen that’s part meta-commentary, part campy romp, and part slapstick farce. It’s also got a touch of horror and more than a hint of sex, and the 90-minute piece flies by like the proverbial bat. Keenan-Bolger takes on seven quick-change roles including Jonathan Harker, a timid real estate broker who, once bitten is anything but shy—as the change from argyle to fetish gear makes abundantly clear.
Speaking of busy, Keenan-Bolger, along with Kate Wetherhead, wrote a three-book series for young people called Jack and Louisa, about two MTN’s (musical theater nerds) and their adventures. Keenan-Bolger describes it as “really the book I wish I had, growing up as a theater-obsessed, little music theater nerd.”
Helping young people accept themselves, come out (if that’s where they are) and live authentically is a passion of Keenan-Bolger’s—and one he’s worked for. “When I graduated from college and moved to the city, [being out] was, weirdly, a conversation that I had to have with my agent. But I didn’t like the way it made me feel—that choosing to be who I am publicly might possibly eliminate work. I always felt like that was a weird trade.”
It’s a topic Keenan-Bolger takes up in his blog (The Keenan-Blogger), which includes such articles as “5 Tips for Coming Out,” which include coming out to yourself, and taking your time. As he writes, “being honest and accepting yourself is more than just lifting a burden—it’s putting on a suit of armor.” Through his blog and being outspoken on social media and in interviews, Keenan-Bolger says, “I’ve been trying to show young people that you can be whoever you are, and if you are passionate, and if you work hard, and hopefully you are a little talented, at least you can, you can find a place, especially in the theatre community, which is, I think just the most accepting place that, honestly, it values you being authentic.
“We don’t want someone who is like anyone else. We already have a Kristen Chenoweth, we don’t need another one. Well, we don’t necessarily have this…whoever you are. So, I’ve tried to put that out. And having worked with Disney on a bunch of stuff, knowing I have a young audience and always trying to be transparent about what it is like being an out person. And oftentimes having dialogue with a lot of my followers who are often queer or questioning and just trying to be open and say that it’s not always easy, but surrounding yourself with people who know you and who love you make this whole thing called life possible.”
Keenan-Bolger is also mindful of the struggles many go through, writing, “I recognize that as a cis-white male, I’ve been afforded privileges that are not necessarily available to everyone in the LGBTQ+ community. I can only speak to my own experience,” adding that he feels called to share things he wishes he’d been told as a gay youth growing up in the Midwest. Above all he wants to encourage young people to be patient and take time to discover—and live—an identity that feels right to them.
In his personal life, Keenan-Bolger married journalist Scott Bixby in 2018. He’s close to both his sisters, Tony-winner Celia Keenan-Bolger and playwright and teaching artist Maggie Keenan-Bolger. Andrew says that while they weren’t a theater family growing up—instead were quite musical—Celia blazed the trail for all of them. Andrew says that being raised around seeing her in shows had a huge influence on him, and he lovingly describes the family as “theater carny folk.”
Andrew is keenly aware that not everyone has the kind of family relationship he and his sisters do, and since they both live in New York, the holidays will be about getting together. Nonetheless, for working actors, there is often a show on Christmas, and he anticipates that there will be a lot of celebration backstage at Dracula. “If you have to work on a holiday, it’s a gift to spend it with a cast you love. Being in the theater is really its own kind of chosen family,” he says. He adds that his husband Scott will be visiting family while Andrew works, “but any person who goes into show business knows it’s going to be different every year. So, having partner who is flexible and understanding is just what’s needed.”
Looking ahead, unlikely that Keenan-Bolger will have to deal with that dreaded unstructured time. He has more movies, blogs, and books in the works—all powered by his dynamic spirit and wholly authentic approach to life.