GSA Board

Will Wollen


Before joining Gaiety School of acting , Will was Executive Dean of the Drama School at LAMDA (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art). As well as teaching and leading the faculty at LAMDA, he has taught at other leading vocational drama schools and theatres, including RADA, Shakespeare’s Globe, Rose Bruford and Arts Ed London. He was a Senior Lecturer in Drama and Theatre (Acting) at the University of Kent, where he became Director of Education and Undergraduate Student Experience for Arts & Humanities across the university.

As well as his conservatoire and higher education experience, Will also has twenty-five years’ experience in the UK theatre industry working as an actor, director and a busy arts consultant. He was Artistic Director of Theatre Royal Margate from 2007 to 2012, where he created an exciting menu of contemporary theatre, led a dynamic and innovative outreach and youth theatre programme and commissioned and produced new works. While at Theatre Royal Margate, Will created mentoring schemes for new touring theatre companies and writers, and is proud to have been one of the founders of house, a powerful initiative to support venues by improving the range, quality and scale of theatre presented across South East and Eastern England, and building the audience for contemporary theatre across the region.
He has also directed for, among others, The Watermill Theatre, Croydon Warehouse Theatre and CreACTive, Milan. As a director he has focussed on new writing and Shakespeare, and is strongly influenced by his background working in mask and Commedia dell'Arte. He worked as Assistant Director of Outreach and Touring at The Watermill Theatre, West Berkshire Playhouse between 2004 and 2007 under Jill Fraser, where he became Education Consultant for Edward Hall & internationally renowned Propeller Theatre Company.

As an actor he has worked on all scales of professional theatre, from London’s West End and Royal National Theatre to work with Cherub Company London and small-scale rural touring, about which he is passionate. As a physical actor, his creature work has also featured in major films.

Patrick Sutton

Director (exeunt)

Patrick Sutton is Director of The Gaiety School of Acting – The National Theatre School of Ireland. He is also the Director of Smock Alley Theatre 1662. Trained at Dartington College of Arts, England, Patrick graduated in 1980 with an honours theatre degree. He also has an MA in Screenwriting from IADT. Patrick has worked extensively as an actor in Ireland, England and France. He is former Director of Plymouth Action Community Theatre, The National Festival of Youth Theatres, Ireland, Wexford Arts Centre, and Artistic Director of TEAM Theatre Company. Patrick has worked at a senior level in politics, industry and the arts. He was a government appointee to the board of The Irish Arts Council where he acted as chairman of the grants and business and finance subcommittees (1997-2005) From 2005-2009 he served on the board of Culture Ireland, the International Irish arts promotion agency.

Patrick is a former Government appointee to the board of The Irish Museum of Modern Art. He is a former board member of Storytellers Theatre Company and The Project Arts Centre. He is currently a board member of The Lisa Richards Actors agency, The Arts for Peace Foundation, The Gaiety School of Acting and Smock Alley Theatre and is appointed to the Governing Authority of The Dublin Institute of Technology. He frequently appeared as a guest presenter on MindFeed with Norah Casey on NewsTalk 106fm. Patrick is also Director of Communicate, a communications company working at senior level in Industry Politics and the Arts.

Joe Dowling


Joe Dowling founded the Gaiety School of Acting in 1986 and was our chairman until 2011. He is currently the Director of the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Previously Joe worked as the Artistic Director of the Abbey Theatre and the Managing Director of the Gaiety Theatre. He has directed plays in all major Irish theatres and also in London, New York, Washington, Montreal and the Banff Festival of the Arts, Alberta.


Directors of the Board

Mark Byrne – Chair

Mark Byrne has been Group Head of Business Affairs at Element Pictures since 2012. Current films include Joanna Hogg’s THE ETERNAL DAUGHTER (BBC Films and A24) which had its world premiere at Venice Film Festival 2022; Sebastián Lelio’s THE WONDER (Netflix) which had its world premiere at Telluride Film Festival 2022; and Stephen William’s historical biopic CHEVALIER (Searchlight Pictures), which had its world premiere at Toronto Film Festival 2022.

Currently in post production is Yorgos Lanthimos’ POOR THINGS (Searchlight Pictures/ Film4), starring Emma Stone, Mark Ruffalo and Willem Dafoe.

Recent television productions include the adaptations of Sally Rooney’s novels, CONVERSATIONS WITH FRIENDS (BBC Three / HULU), and the award-winning series NORMAL PEOPLE (BBC Three / HULU), both directed by Lenny Abrahamson and Nancy Harris’ eight-part comedy drama THE DRY (Britbox / ITV Studios / RTÉ).

Previous productions include all of Lenny Abrahamson’s films including the Academy Award, Golden Globe and BAFTA winning ROOM and Yorgos Lanthimos’ Academy Award, Golden Globe and BAFTA winning THE FAVOURITE starring Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz and Olivia Colman.

Prior to joining Element Pictures, Mark spent 6 years with Bord Scannán na hÉireann/the Irish Film Board, initially as Business & Legal Executive and later as Head of Legal Affairs. In 2006 Mark was co-producer of the IFTA award winning film MIDDLETOWN starring Matthew MacFadyen. Mark is a former board member of Screen Producers Ireland, the Irish Film Institute and Filmbase and is an alumni of ‘Inside Pictures’, the film business training and leadership skills development programme created by Qwerty Films and run by the National Film & Television School in the UK. Mark is also a member of the European Film Academy.

Pat Byrne

Pat Byrne has over 35 years’ deep practical and strategic experience of working both with Irish SME’s and with multinational companies to accelerate the delivery of their growth plans. He has extensive experience in financial assessment, complex project negotiation, business plan development, policy and strategy formulation and execution.

Pat spent over 22 years with IDA Ireland which is the Irish Government agency charged with attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to Ireland. In this role, he was based in Boston and Chicago for over 10 years where he had responsibility for identifying and wining key FDI projects for Ireland from the US Lifesciences sector.  In 2002 Pat joined Enterprise Ireland the sister agency of IDA Ireland which is focused on supporting the development and internationalisation of Irish owned enterprises. In Enterprise Ireland Pat led teams which were responsible for supporting companies in the digital media, e-learning, telecom and software sectors.

Since 2015 Pat has been a self-employed independent business and strategy consultant working with national governments and agencies in over 10 countries.  He has supported and guided government agencies through every aspect of FDI from set up, strategy development and implementation, policy advocacy agendas, regulatory requirements, investor targeting, attraction and assessment and, investor aftercare.   Pat has been a consultant to international organisations such as the World Bank Group (‘WBG’), the OECD and USAID as well as the governments of Qatar, Jordan, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Costa Rica, Moldova, Vietnam, Kyrgyzstan and Lithuania.

In November 2020 Pat completed a two-year specialist FDI advisory and consultancy assignment in Doha, Qatar.  His responsibilities included identifying and assessing investments proposals from the Lifesciences sector and supporting the Government’s strategic planning and development of a number of specialised Free Trade Zones in Qatar.

Pat holds an MBA (hons) from the Michael Smurfit Graduate School of Business and Bachelor of Commerce from UCD.  He is married with three children and lives in Kilmacanogue, Co. Wicklow.

Paul Halferty

J. Paul Halferty is Assistant Professor and Head of Drama Studies at University College Dublin, where he also serves as Director of the Centre for Canadian Studies. He is a theatre historian and performance studies scholar whose research examines the intersection of theatre and identity, primarily sexual, gender, national, and racial in Canada and Ireland. Before returning to graduate school, Paul was assistant producer at da da kamera, the theatre company of playwright and actor Daniel MacIvor and producer Sherrie Johnson, and worked with Johnson on the “Six Stages” international theatre festival. He served on the Board of directors of Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in Toronto from 2007 to 2014, and was president of the board from 2008 to 2012.





William G Dowling

Mr. William Dowling has spent the past 20 years at C Suite level working in International Commercial Education. Prior to this he held the position in San Francisco as a financial consultant. Mr. Dowling has built a network of contacts that have assisted in negotiating several key contracts globally, including successfully negotiating and guiding several government entities through grant programmes and setup.

Having successfully started the Irish subsidiary of AEC Education Plc he has also held other Chief Executive roles, served on industry boards and has negotiated at board level across the world. Will has worked on company and course development to help bring private local educational institutions to a wider international audience. His key financial and accountancy skills have served in assisting his clients to focus and maximise their return in a large geographical area. He has worked with many global corporate clients and has been involved with many funded projects in the US, Europe and Latin America.

Wills keen interest in the non-profit sector stems from his youth. In his most recent start up, Will has gained clients across the UK, US, Latin America and the middle east. This has included training and coaching C-Suite staff from a prominent Middle Eastern Royal family.

Ciara Stagg

Ciara is the Corporate Partnerships and Philanthropy Manager at the Abbey Theatre and writer based in the Libertied, Dublin. Formerly Alumni Relations Officer at Trinity College Dublin, Ciara’s work includes the play Hardhat, performed in the Brian Friel Theatre in 2017, Landlines which was professionally read on Zoom with Fishamble in 2021, her audio play Biscuit Tin was produced with for radio broadcast in 2022 and her short story Say When was published on the Shorter Stories Website in March 2022.

In 2021, she worked with the University of Notre Dame to create and teach the ‘Spring Playwriting Programme’ which saw students devise and draft a full-length play over eight weeks, with the finished script performed over Zoom by American and Irish professional actors. Currently, Ciara’s work at Trinity College Dublin involves managing the universities international volunteer groups and coordinating worldwide events, she is also the script-writer and presenter of the Inspiring Ideas at Trinity webinar series.

Rory Nolan

Rory is an award winning actor from Dublin. He has been at the forefront of Irish Theatre for nearly twenty years, having worked extensively and most notably with companies like Rough Magic, The Abbey, Landmark, The Gate, Fishamble, Corn Exchange and Druid.

He has been a member of the acclaimed Druid Ensemble for the last nine years and has toured extensively with them, both nationally and internationally. Rory has appeared in numerous television and film productions both at home and abroad.

He is a graduate of the Gaiety School of Acting’s 2 year full time course.

Ann-Marie Carroll

Ann-Marie Carroll is a HR Manager currently working in the pharma sector.  She was previously in a corporate law firm for over 18 years. The initial years of Ann-Marie’s career were spent working in a medical device company and in a large Dublin hospital.  She studied at the National College of Ireland. 

Ann-Marie has been a keen supporter of theatre for many years, and she has been a Council Member of the Friends of the Dublin Theatre Festival since 2010.


Briana Fitzsimons

Briana is an award-winning author, anti-racism advocate, educator and DEI consultant who grew up in Yonkers, New York and has lived in Ireland since 2017. She holds a BA in English Literature from Boston College, an MSc in Creative Writing from the University of Edinburgh, teaching degrees from CUNY Lehman College and California State University, East Bay and, most recently, a Graduate Diploma in Equality, Diversity and Inclusion from the University of Limerick. Briana was a special education teacher for 13 years and has been working in the DEI field since 2021. With her passion for social justice, one of Briana’s main goals is to empower people with the tools they need to make sure that everyone is seen, heard and feels a sense of belonging in all educational and work environments. Her award-winning book, Black & Irish: Legends, Trailblazers and Everyday Heroes was published in 2023 and is being widely used in schools across Ireland. Briana was named one of the “50 to Watch in 2024” by The Irish Times and one of the “100 Women of 2024” by the Irish Examiner. She lives in Co. Kildare with her partner and two children and is proud to call Ireland home.