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Irish stage actor Dowling dead at age 83

May 14, 2013

CHESTER, Mass. (AP) — Stage actor Vincent G. Dowling, who had a long-time association with Ireland’s national theater company and performed several times in the Reagan White House, has died in Massachusetts at age 83.

His wife, Olwen O’Herlihy Dowling, said Dowling died Friday at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston after complications following surgery.

Dowling left school in Dublin at age 16 to become an actor and performed on stages around the world, from Hong Kong to Moscow. He eventually settled in Chester, at the foothills of Massachusetts’ Berkshire Mountains, where he established a professional theater.

Dowling spent 27 years at the national theater of Ireland, The Abbey Theatre, working as artistic director, director of experimental theater and leading company actor.

He also performed solo on three state occasions at the White House during the Reagan years.

Dowling said that while he was acting: “My reality was in who could I pretend to be. Acting is to experience everything in God and the devil in yourself on stage.”

Academy Award winner Tom Hanks told The Irish Times that Dowling was the reason he was an actor. Dowling directed the unknown Hanks in California in 1976 and the next year invited him to perform at what was then the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival, where Dowling worked.

“To act with Vincent on the stage is to share the wings with a master,” Hanks said.

In the early 1990s, Dowling founded The Miniature Theatre of Chester, now in its 20th season.

Besides his wife, Dowling is survived by their five children and seven grandchildren.

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