Joe Dowling, who headed Ireland’s famed Abbey Theater from 1978 through 1986, will succeed Garland Wright as artistic director of the Guthrie Theater. Dowling takes over in November.

After ankling the Abbey, Dowling became managing director of the Gaiety Theater, Dublin’s oldest commercial theater, and founded the Gaiety School of Acting. Known for his commitment to the classics, strong rapport with actors, and dedication to education, Dowling will be the Guthrie’s seventh artistic director. Wright’s nine-year tenure as artistic director was the longest in the theater’s history.

At a Feb. 9 press conference announcing his appointment, Dowling, 46, noted that there has always been a strong historical connection between Ireland and the Guthrie, largely because the director who lent his name to the 32-year-old theater was himself Irish.

“I have all my life been inspired by the life and work of Tyrone Guthrie,” said Dowling. “People often think that because Guthrie was knighted, he was English. I am here to correct that misconception.”

Dowling has spent much of the past five years directing in the U.S. and Canada, most notably at Broadway’s Roundabout; Arena Stage and the Shakespeare Theater in Washington; Canada’s Stratford Festival; and the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Mass.

“I have become very taken with American theater, and particularly inspired by American actors,” Dowling said. Citing the American zest for change and innovation as the reason for his enthusiasm, Dowling said he looks forward to working with the Guthrie company, one of the country’s outstanding theaters.

After transferring the responsibilities of artistic director to Dowling in November, Wright will return to complete the 1995-96 season by directing Rodgers and Hart’s “Babes in Arms.”

Speaking about his successor, Wright said, “I am extremely pleased with the wisdom and thoughtfulness of the search committee, and by their choice. I congratulate the board of directors for making an excellent appointment. From my own experience, I know Joe Dowling to be a remarkable artist. His ‘Juno and the Paycock’ was a peak moment in my theatergoing experience. By reputation he is a favorite director of actors, and I’m sure he will be a nurturing presence for a great acting company at the Guthrie as well.”