Joe Dowling on haters, home, the Guthrie legacy, and how to (politely) walk out of a show
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MT: Do you wish that you’d left earlier?
JD: No, no, no. No.
MT: Is the job fun?
JD: It has its moments. If I’d wanted to leave earlier I would’ve. I mean, no one forced me to stay. And I have no regrets at all about staying.
MT: How many hours a week are you here?
JD: How many hours are there in a week? I was here until 11 o’clock last night, and I’ll be here until the same time tonight—we’re teching Nice Fish and we’re paying attention to that. It varies week by week. But rarely is there a week that isn’t 65 to 70 hours I imagine, but I’ve never imagined.
MT: I’m joking a little bit—but only a little bit: do you worry about this place falling apart without you?
JD: Oh, not at all! Anybody who thinks they’re indispensible needs a psychiatrist. This organization is very strong and very vibrant and has a lot of great people working in it from its top echelons right through the organization.
MT: Do you wish that you’d had the chance to do movies?
JD: Biggest regret of my life. I’m of a generation of Irish directors that were lost to possibility. When I was growing up, there was no Irish film industry. It didn’t exist, so theater was where you put your energies. And then some years later when I had sort of established my career, not only as a director but as an administrator and so on, I was deep into it. Then the shoots began of an Irish film industry.
MT: What types of movies do you like?
JD: I don’t go to very many action movies. It’s too noisy for my old ears. Siobhan and I went to see The Avengers, because we thought it was going to be in the Diana Rigg style—remember that series? Well, we thought it was going to be an update of that. Turned out it was a completely different experience. And we didn’t understand a word of it. She left halfway through. We were at that cinema where there’s a bar upstairs, and she went up and had a cocktail. I felt like a total old fart at that point.
MT: Have you ever walked out of anything in the theater?
JD: Oh yes, people should if they don’t enjoy what they’re seeing. Walk out. Why not? I mean, I wait for intermission. But I have walked out at intermission of plays. Very rarely.
MT: What do you think when you realize that people have left one of your shows?
JD: I’m always heartbroken. I want to cry when I see people leaving my productions. But I have no hesitations about leaving other peoples’. I’m very distressed when I go back in after intermission and there are big chunks of seats gone. Happens all the time. Every performance.
MT: Are there distinctive things about Minnesota audiences?
JD: I think it’s the best audience I’ve ever worked in front of.
JD: Absolutely. People are warm and forgiving and understand the process. In New York that is just not the case. In New York they’re paying a hell of a lot of money and they want their money’s worth. And so there’s a brutality. They’re ready to attack: at the first sign of weakness, they will pounce.