Dowling, Vincent 1929–

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Dowling, Vincent 1929–

PERSONAL: Born September 7, 1929, in Dublin, Ireland; immigrated to United States; naturalized U.S. citizen; son of William Francis (a sea captain) and Mai (Kelly) Dowling; married Brenda Mary Doyle (an actor), 1952 (divorced); married Olwen Patricia O'Herlihy (an artist), 1975; children: (first marriage) Bairbre, Louise, Valerie, Rachel; (second marriage) Cian (son). Education: Attended St. Mary's College, Rathmines School of Commerce, and Brendan Smith Academy of Acting.

ADDRESSES: Office—Miniature Theatre of Chester, P.O. Box 722, Chester, MA 01011-0722.

CAREER: Standard Life Insurance Company, Dublin, Ireland, 1946–50; Brendan Smith Productions, Dublin, 1950–51; staff member, Roche-David Theatre Productions, 1951–53; Abbey Theatre, Dublin, actor, director, and associate director, 1953–76, artistic director, 1980s; Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival, Cleveland, OH, producing director, 1976–84; Solvang Theaterfest, artistic and producing director, 1984–86; College of Wooster, Wooster, OH, professor of theater, 1986–87; Pacific Conservatory of Performing Arts, Sacramento, CA, producing director; Miniature Theater of Chester, Chester, MA, founding director, 1990–. Actor in films, including Boyd's Shop, R.F.D. Productions, 1960; Young Cassidy, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1965; and Guns in the Heather (also known as Spy Busters), Buena Vista, 1968. For seventeen years played role of Christy Kennedy for radio program The Kennedys of Castlerosse; narrator of documentary video Sons of Derry, Cinema Guild, 1993, 1997. Producer of productions, including play The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickelby, 1982; and Playboy of the Western World broadcast on Public Broadcasting Service, 1982. Director of productions, including A Moon for the Misbegotten, produced in Buffalo, NY, 1989, and productions of Trinity Square Repertory Company, 1975–76, Meadow Brook Theatre, 1976–77, and Missouri Repertory Theatre, 1978–79. Co-founder, Jacob's Ladder Trail Business Association; International Artistic Directorate of the Globe Theatre, London, England, member.

AWARDS, HONORS: European Artist's Prize, Loyola University, 1969; Cleveland Critics Circle Award, 1982, for The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickelby; named Irishman of the Year, 1982; Wild Geese Award, 1988; Loyola Mellon Humanitarian Award, 1989; Walks of Life Award, Irish American Archives Society of Cleveland, 2000; D.F.A. from John Carroll University, College of Wooster, and Westfield State University; D.H.L. from Kent State University, 2003.


Astride the Moon: A Theatrical Life, Wolfhound Press (Dublin, Ireland), 2000.

A collection of Dowling's papers and video interviews are held by the Department of Special Collections and Archives at Kent State University.


The Fit-Ups, 1978.

Acting Is Murder, 1986.

A Life in the Day of an Abbey Actor, 1990.

Upstart Crow, 1995.

Also author of play Do Me a Favourite! Adaptor of The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov and Lysistrata by Aristophanes. Writer and producer of one-man shows, including Wilde about Oscar, Another Actor at the White House, and 4P's.

WORK IN PROGRESS: A second volume of autobiography.

SIDELIGHTS: Irish-born Vincent Dowling spent more than two decades as a director and actor with the Abbey Theatre, Ireland's national theater, in Dublin, and the majority of his more than one hundred acting roles were performed with the Abbey. Dowling, who immigrated to the United States in the 1970s, has produced, directed, and acted worldwide, including at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and at the White House where, in 1981, he performed for then-President Ronald Reagan. The following year, he was invited to perform before the U.S. Congress. He has also brought many successful productions to New York, Paris, Moscow, and Florence.

In 1990, Dowling founded the Miniature Theater of Chester, in Chester, Massachusetts, where he now makes his home. The 150-seat theater is housed in the Chester Town Hall, and Dowling acted in the first production, Mr. Dooley's America. Dowling told Variety writer Markland Taylor that the theater expands the art scene of the Berkshires.

Dowling has mentored a great many young actors, including Roma Downey (Touched by an Angel) and Tom Hanks. He offered Hanks his first union job at the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival. In the foreword of Dowling's memoir, Astride the Moon: A Theatrical Life, Hanks writes that "Vincent's the reason I'm an actor." In the book, Dowling writes of his childhood in Dublin during the 1930s and 1940s, where he was the sixth of seven children. His parents had a volatile relationship, and in a time when divorce was forbidden, his father left his mother, and they lived apart for fifty years. He writes that although his father was unsuccessful as a husband and father, he was a hard-working river captain who emphasized the power of the written word to his son.

Dowling also writes of his brother's participation in the Irish Republican Army (IRA), Irish politics, and his occasional disagreements with the Abbey's director, Ernest Blythe, a Northern Protestant and former minister in the Free State who auditioned potential actors and printed their names in Gaelic, while Dowling knew just enough Irish to get by. "Their skirmishes not only make fascinating reading," wrote C.L. Dallet in the Times Literary Supplement, "but belong in any discussion on the functions of art and culture and their all too frequent misuse as weapons for enforcing political hegemony." Dowling recounts his dual career as an actor and director and his many love affairs, including those he engaged in while he was married to his first wife, Brenda, an actor with whom he attended the Brendan Smith Academy of Acting at age sixteen. He writes of keeping several mistresses at a time and his inability to stop betraying Brenda, who was pregnant with their fourth child when the marriage ended. Dowling later married American Olwen Patricia O'Herlihy, with whom he has had one son.



Dowling, Vincent Astride the Moon: A Theatrical Life, Wolfhound Press (Dublin, Ireland), 2000.


Irish Literary Supplement, spring, 2002, David Krause, review of Astride the Moon: A Theatrical Life, p. 13.

New York Times, February 15, 1987, James W. Flannery, "An Irish Rover Comes Home to the Abbey," section 2, pp. 5, 31.

School Library Journal, September, 1997, Edward T. Sullivan, review of Sons of Derry, p. 163.

Times Literary Supplement, May 11, 2001, C.L. Dallat, review of Astride the Moon.

Variety, August 8, 1990, Markland Taylor, "Mass[achussetts] Director Makes Mini Theater," p. 56; September 24, 1990, review of Playboy of the Western World, p. 94.


Bookview Ireland, (June 28, 2005), Pauline Ferrie, review of Astride the Moon.

Vincent Dowling Home Page, (June 28, 2005).