Vincent Dowling

(07/09/1929 - 10/05/2013)

Vincent Dowling, born on September 7, 1929, in Kimmage, Dublin, was the sixth of four sons and three daughters of William Dowling, a ship’s captain, and Mary Dowling (née Kelly). His childhood was marked by financial struggles and family upheavals, including his father’s departure when he was just a toddler. Despite these challenges, he received his education at St Mary’s College and Rathmines College of Commerce, showcasing promise as a bright student.

Dowling’s journey into the world of theatre began when he accompanied a girlfriend to an acting academy run by Brendan Smith. Enrolling in a two-year course, he honed his skills in acting and stage management, eventually performing in and managing academy plays. His professional career kicked off in 1950 when he toured Ireland with Smith’s company, marking the beginning of his illustrious theatrical journey.

After a stint in London, Dowling returned to Ireland and found his home at the Abbey Theatre in 1951, where he quickly made a name for himself with his professionalism and versatility on stage. His performances in productions like Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey into Night” garnered critical acclaim, showcasing his depth as an actor.

In 1976, Dowling made the leap across the Atlantic, becoming the Artistic Director of The Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival (GLSF) in Cleveland, Ohio. His tenure there was marked by innovative productions and the discovery of future Hollywood star Tom Hanks. Dowling’s creative vision and promotional skills elevated the festival’s reputation and attracted audiences from far and wide.

In 1990, Dowling founded the Miniature Theatre of Chester in Chester, Massachusetts, driven by a passion to bring professionally performed plays to small-town America. Despite operating on a modest budget, the theatre thrived under Dowling’s artistic direction, showcasing his commitment to making theatre accessible to all.

Vincent Dowling’s personal life was as colourful as his professional career. He was married twice, first to actress Brenda Doyle, with whom he had four daughters, and later to Olwen O’Herlihy, with whom he had a son. Notably, his relationship with actress Sinéad Cusack resulted in the birth of Richard Boyd Barrett, who later became a prominent left-wing politician in Ireland.

Vincent Dowling’s legacy lives on through his contributions to theatre on both sides of the Atlantic. From his early days at the Abbey Theatre to his pioneering work at the GLSF and the establishment of the Miniature Theatre of Chester, Dowling’s impact on the world of theatre is undeniable. His dedication to the craft, eye for talent, and unwavering passion continue to inspire generations of actors, directors, and theatre lovers worldwide

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Connection with area: Theatre actor, director and producer, was born in Kimmage, Dublin