“Drama Therapy is the therapeutic and intentional use of dramatic processes, such as story telling, role-play, and improvisation, to facilitate personal growth, enhance self-worth, instill more appropriate behaviors, improve functioning, and reinforce proactive choices in a safe and flexible environment.”
– North American Drama Therapy Association (NADTA)
Thirty-eight-year-old Irish Actor Mark Dooley started his double major of Drama Theater and English at NUI Galway three years ago, and this past semester decided to study abroad at Keene State College.
Dooley said he looked at a lot of places around the country, but wasn’t too enticed by big city areas like New York or Boston. He said he knew he wanted to find somewhere he’d be able to engage the school community.
Being an avid rugby player, when Dooley was looking at KSC he said he got in contact with the head rugby coach John Johannesen about being able to play. Because of his age, Dooley said he’s “Not trying to hide”and is something that “everyone here has been very accepting about.” Johannesen couldn’t let him play on campus, so he set Dooley up with the Keene League.
Dooley said, “That effort really showed me what type of place this was…because of that before even [classes started] I had made friends in town and met their families and such, it was really nice.”
Dooley had been a professional actor for eight years prior to his enrollment in college.
He said, “I never wanted to work with children or be a teacher or anything when I was starting out…I knew that I wanted to be an actor.” He has acted in TV pilots, stage productions, commercials and a few short films.
He said his hometown of Galway is more of a disadvantaged area economically, and NUI Galway holds a program called “UNI for You” for the children in the area to get a glimpse of college life.
Dooley said, “Back home, we get grants so if your family is under a certain income you can get free college…so we want to get these kids to come to the college and just see it, realize it isn’t a scary place.” The youth in the area, he said, may or may not have a history of attending college in their family, and may think it’s an impossibility to get there. Dooley said he wants to change that. Alongside getting these kids to the campus, getting them engaged with the theater is always exciting for him.
He said, “The process of going through acting warm-ups…and playing through scenarios or real life situations as different characters can really help you work it out. A lot of people are more open when they’re playing someone else than themselves, and it’s a freer environment.”
Dooley said that this program, alongside personal experiences through theater and acting, lead him to want to work toward a Master’s Degree in theater therapy after he finishes his Bachelor’s next year. Though wanting to continue to act professionally, Dooley said he has seen first-hand the impact this new style of therapy can have on people, especially children, and how it can help them get through things they don’t initially understand.
This idea is clear in the NADTA definition of drama therapy, which at the end states, “With child and adolescent populations, dramatic techniques can help clarify, communicate, and define a child’s feelings.”
Dooley indicated he firmly believes this to be true, and knows he’ll be able to make a difference in the field.
Dooley said he’s had a great experience working with the KSC faculty and student body because of his age. He said, “The first week or two everyone was a little standoffish, but just taking your time to make bonds with people and you get to know each other…I’ve been having a great time being here.”
KSC Senior Hank Cardina-Blanchette attested to Dooley as, “Having his fresh personality and his experiences, specifically in the Theater and Dance department, is exponentially more beneficial. Mark’s personality is fantastically fluid, he’s a very relaxed guy, but very driven…and he’s made these fantastic connections with me and all of his friends.”
When he came here, Dooley had expected the experience in the theater to be different because of cultural differences, but he was shocked to see it was very similar.
He said, “Here, I was expecting it to be different, but it’s really funny to see the same warm-ups and games, vocal exercises and everything. There’s different techniques, but that’s individual…drama doesn’t change.”
Back home, he said they study more European theater, and here it’s mostly American, which he said is nice to get the history of, giving him a broader range of stories to use and relate to.
Dooley is performing in the Mabel Brown Room on April 16, at 7 p.m. He said, “Other than class work, this is my main performance, [and] I’m very excited to share it on campus.”
Matt Bacon can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org