In public, Joe Dowling is never at a loss for words. He can be charming, stubborn, or both at once, but the outgoing Guthrie Theater head is always ready to deliver words of wisdom in his distinct Irish lilt.
Dowling was left speechless Saturday evening at the end of All the World's a Stage, an evening gala dedicated to the past 20 years he spent at the helm of the theater.
See also: Joe Dowling Ends His Time at the Guthrie with Sharp Juno and the Paycock
The visibly moved Dowling eventually regained his composure and asked the audience (and dozens of actors assembled onstage) to sit down, as they all knew he could talk for a long time.
The event presented a mix of scenes and songs drawn from more than a dozen of the shows Dowling directed at the Guthrie over the years, along with moments written specifically for the event.
Apart from Dowling's, the warmest greeting of the night may have been for local hero Kevin Kling, who shared some of his experiences working with the director (including allowing the distinctly Midwestern performer to use an accent "from the part of Ireland that borders Canada"), and took note of the hard work put in to bring the Guthrie from its original location to its current spot by the Mississippi.
The governor at the time fought it, like he had fought "predators and aliens" in the movies. "He hadn't met the Shamrock," Kling said.
Along with the new building, one of the major accomplishments of Dowling's years at the Guthrie is the continued development of the young actors' training program, currently offered in conjunction with the University of Minnesota. Dozens gathered on the thrust stage for a reading of the titular speech from Shakespeare's As You Like It.
Elsewhere, there were musical tributes, including several that featured new lyrics written for the evening, such as a transformed "You Gotta Get a Gimmick," where the likes of Sally Wingert and J.C. Cutler noted the ways they've gotten the director's attention over the years; and a fitting finale of Cole Porter's "You're the Top."
At the end, Dowling thanked not just the people onstage (and the well-dressed house of long-time supporters in the audience), but all of those who came before him, including the various artistic directors, staff, and actors who made Sir Tyrone Guthrie's dream a reality.