Characters of Cork: Dolores happy with stage of life

Roisin Burke meets up with Dolores Mannion, whose passion for theatre has led her to a decades-long career with Cork Arts Theatre.
Characters of Cork: Dolores happy with stage of life

Dolores Mannion, Artistic Director of the Cork Arts Theatre relaxes in her garden with her partner Elena Hostetler at Shanagarry, Co. Cork, Ireland. - Picture David Creedon

THE beating heart of Cork Arts Theatre for over 20 years, Dolores Mannion, aged 66, is a force to be reckoned with.

Originally from Belfast, but living in Cork for the past 40 years, Dolores is a passionate actor and social worker, a rare combination.

“I trained as an actress and my parents said if I was going to do acting, I was to have a profession as well so I did social work. It’s hard to make a living in theatre.”

Her love for theatre goes back to her school days, when she was involved in school plays. 

More than two decades into her role as artistic director of the Cork Arts Theatre, she still embraces theatre in her life as a pastime and as a job.

“I’m lucky to be able to make a living from theatre, it’s a blessing.”

A tough time for the arts 

The past few years have been tough for the arts, Dolores said.

“The pandemic was a terrible time for the arts, I didn’t take to the online stuff, It’s not the same.”

In recent times the Cork Arts Theatre secured a €68,000 grant which they have been using to put on new productions at the theatre. Dolores has written a play that will make up part of the series of performances. Apple Tart is about and also dedicated to Dolores’ mother. A deeply personal play about caring for someone you love who has Alzheimer’s, it reveals the joy, the pain, the laughter and the power of good storytelling. Apple Tart runs in the Cork Arts Theatre at the end of August.

Dolores, who has three sons, has also been fostering children for years. 

Together with her partner Elena, the pair have fostered 40 children over the past 30 years.

“Long term teens is what we take in, building relationships and confidence in the future, we don’t do respite, which would be a couple of weeks.”

Dolores said there is a lot to be proud of in fostering, watching the children grow up and graduate or return to their families.

“There are a lot of success stories.”

'The loves of her life'

Dolores said her family are the loves of her life.

“I have three sons and grandchildren and Elena has three daughters and four grandchildren with another two on the way!”

Dolores and Elena, who met online, through shared interests including Christianity over 30 years ago, have a very strong Christian faith and help out at St Anne’s Church, Shandon.

“Christianity is important to me because God loves me no matter what,” Dolores said.

Elena, who plays the fiddle, guitar and mandolin, plays Christian music for the church also.

Dolores with her partner Elena and their dogs Holly and Betsy. Picture David Creedon
Dolores with her partner Elena and their dogs Holly and Betsy. Picture David Creedon

Living in East Cork, Dolores and Elena have a full house with three cats, two dogs and seven goldfish.

“The best thing about my lifestyle is not caring anymore, at 66 you kinda think, this is who I am, this is where I am at, we are lucky to be comfortable. We have a good life, its very easy.”

Dolores said a big part of her easygoing lifestyle is Elena’s exceptional organisational skills.

“My wife is very organised, it makes life very easy, as long as you fall into line!”

A big piece of advice that Dolores has learned over the years, but wished she had learned sooner is to do with raising children: “When children come to you, give them advice but also tell them you trust them to make their own decisions, that’s the best advice I have been given as a parent.”

In her spare time, Dolores loves nothing more than attending a play at a theatre: “I see a play every week, whatever is good, wherever it is on, I like being drawn into the action.”

As to what makes a character, Dolores said likable personalities can have an opinion while being able to listen and engage with others and of course, have a honed talent for storytelling.

“I love conversation, but storytelling is a fine art.”

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