Student Spotlight: Nick O’Leary ’14

By Josh Renaud/The Dartmouth Staff

Nick O’Leary ‘14 looks forward to the launch of his senior project, “The Alchemist.”

For his honors senior thesis project, Nick O’Leary ’14 will direct the 17th century classic production “The Alchemist,” the culmination of his interests and experiences at the College.

Over the past three years, the theater major has taken on a variety of roles as an actor, set designer and director. No role, however, has been as challenging as his work on “The Alchemist.”

Theater professor Irma Mayorga called O’Leary’s project very ambitious.

“On the one hand, he didn’t just want to direct it, he wanted to direct and be the set designer, which is highly ambitious in and of itself,” she said. “On the other hand, we have this text from 1610, which means he needs to make it translatable to the modern audience.”

Despite the difficulties, O’Leary is excited to see his project’s launch, adding that the production of such a classic work piqued his interest.

“I wanted to do a play that wasn’t the public domain, so that I could challenge myself as a dramaturge,” he said.

Dramaturgy, the process of working with the script, often involves shaping an archaic text for contemporary audiences.

“I wanted to do something that people wouldn’t be able to see any other way,” he said.

O’Leary’s interest in theater began at a very young age. He said he was “furious” after his parents would not permit him to be part of community theater during kindergarten.

In first grade, his wish was granted, and he began performing. He started working as a set designer and director in high school.

“I was pretty much hooked at that point,” O’Leary said. “I knew what I really wanted to do was direct.”

His passion for theater carried through to Dartmouth, and, by junior year,  he directed “The Real Inspector Hound,” a play by Tom Stoppard.

Mayorga said that O’Leary excels at exploring multiple “modalities of theatricality.”

“He’s not following fashion, but he is creating his own style.” Mayorga said. “And part of that is just exploring things and experimenting, which serves him well as an artist.”

Although O’Leary is still fairly new to directing, fellow students and professors who have worked with him attest to his talent and potential.

Diane Chen ’14, one of the lead roles in “The Alchemist,” said that O’Leary is analytical and intelligent when approaching a new work. At the first rehearsal of “The Alchemist,” O’Leary was already passionate, insightful and inceptive as a director, Chen said.

“His style of directing is more like a discovery process,” she said. “He gives us very big ideas to think about, which helps us own our acting choices.”

After Dartmouth, O’Leary plans to intern at some theaters and hone his literary analysis skills. He hopes to eventually direct his own plays.

“The opportunities at Dartmouth have really inspired me,” O’Leary said. “I have gotten to work in a professional setting and with close mentorship. I’ve been able to do everything that I wanted to do here at Dartmouth.”

THE FINAL WORD (with Nick O'Leary '14)

One pet peeve: bad grammar.

One director or actor I’d like to work with: director John Tiffany.