How Mary-Louise Parker's Kids Kept Her 'Hopeful' Through Broadway's COVID-19 Shutdown

·2 min read
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 26: Mary Louise Parker attends the 74th Annual Tony Awards at Winter Garden Theater on September 26, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 26: Mary Louise Parker attends the 74th Annual Tony Awards at Winter Garden Theater on September 26, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/WireImage)

Bruce Glikas/WireImage

Broadway is back, and Mary-Louise Parker couldn't feel more at home!

The actress, who was nominated for a Tony Award earlier this month for her performance as Li'l Bit in the revival of the Paula Vogel play How I Learned to Drive, opened up about the Broadway shutdown and how she coped amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I'm deliriously happy. Just to walk through the stage door at night, I feel like I know where I'm going and I understand my life," Parker, 57, tells PEOPLE, adding that her children, William Atticus, 18, and Caroline Aberash, 15, played a major role in keeping her optimistic as the theater world awaited its grand reopening.

RELATED: Mary-Louise Parker Poses in Rare Photo with Two Children at Her New York City Broadway Premiere

"Sometimes it's performative for your kids, you have to be a little bit hopeful and try to be creative," she says of staying positive during the shutdown. "We put on plays, my kids and I, and we did [it] with their friends in other places and tried to write things and just connect in whatever way."

How I Learned to Drive
How I Learned to Drive

Jeremy Daniel

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

As for finally being able to grace the stage again, Parker tells PEOPLE "every bit of" being back has filled her heart with gratitude.

RELATED: Jesse Tyler Ferguson Jokes He's 'Professionally Lost a Lot of Awards,' but Getting a Tony Nom Is 'Profound'

"Setting up my dressing room, going to places and hearing the stage manager on the monitor — every bit of it made me want to cry, I was so happy," she says, going on to recall some of the heavier moments she experienced during the height of the pandemic.

RELATED VIDEO: Girl, 8, Awaiting Organ Transplant Brings Down the House Onstage with Broadway Star Jessica Vosk

"I also remember walking through the theater district in the midst of COVID and all the theaters were dark, and I knew that they were dark, but to see them, I was just walking through, just weeping," she explains.

Parker, who is nominated for her fifth Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Play for her performance in the revival of Vogel's Pulitzer Prize-winning How I Learned to Drive, couldn't contain her excitement when talking about the recognition.

Though she's taken home theater's highest honor twice, she says, "I'm so lucky! So, so lucky. It's my dream. I've always wanted to be a theater actress. It's all I've wanted to be."