Outside of his long history as a company member for PlayMakers, Dooley is also a professor of acting with the UNC Department of Dramatic Art.
“It’s very useful to be teaching the craft that you then practice,” Dooley said. "Because your students have an opportunity to engage with me in the studio when I am their teacher, and then they have an opportunity to engage with me at PlayMakers when I am their fellow actor.”
Dooley said teaching dramatic art has contributed to his own work as an actor.
“For me, if you’re teaching something, you have to put it in a form that you can give to your students,” Dooley said. “I then can take that same template for what I think good acting is and apply it to my own work when I’m working at PlayMakers.”
As a professor, Dooley gives students room for discovery, said Kathryn Hunter-Williams, artistic associate and company member for PlayMakers.
“What is so wonderful about him as a professor is that he gives space for you to discover your work and your talent,” Hunter-Williams said. “He doesn’t prescribe, he affirms that.”
Bobbi Owen, a professor of dramatic art, was on the faculty when Dooley arrived for his first performance with PlayMakers. Owen said that she admires Dooley for his professionalism both in the classroom and on stage.
“He’s not one of those people who brags about the good old days when he used to go to New York and see plays, because he goes to New York and is in plays,” Owen said.
His repertoire of parts varies widely, and his roles as both teacher and performer are always integrated, Owen said.
“It seems to me that he’s always teaching when he’s acting, so that the graduate students around him watch him do it the way it’s supposed to be done,” Owen said. “You know that phrase ‘Do as I say, not as I do?’ With him it’s ‘Do as I say and do I as I do.’”
Hunter-Williams agreed that Dooley’s roles as a teacher and performer overlap. She said the word she would use to describe him in both positions is generous.
“His talent and his skill and his generosity are our standard,” Hunter-Williams said. “His connection to the community at large, it goes beyond the building.”
The legacy that Dooley holds with PlayMakers is hard to specify, Owen said, because it is impossible to know exactly what will leave the greatest impression on an audience.
“It’s how they move you,” Owen said. “For some of us, it might be the fool in 'King Lear,' and for others it might be playing a big part or playing a little part. That’s very hard to codify.”
Hunter-Williams said his legacy stems not only from his role as a performer but also as a colleague.
“He is really the kind of colleague and coworker and artist that you just want to create with and to share the world with,” Hunter-Williams said. “And I think that is his legacy.”
Dooley, looking back on his 30 years with PlayMakers, said he is grateful for those who came before him and passed on the torch to him. He said he will continue to carry this legacy into his future work, before passing it on to future generations of actors.
“During these 30 years, we’ve done everything in our power to do good work and work that has been recognized on the national scene, both for our performance work at PlayMakers and for our academic work,” Dooley said. “It is tremendously gratifying, something that I’m very proud of — the quality of the work we do and the respect that our peers in the field afford us.”