Over the course of his prolific and celebrated acting career, Sag Harbor’s Gerard Doyle has played hundreds of roles, from men to women to children to fantastical creatures like dragons. If you’re wondering why you haven’t heard of him, it’s because much of Doyle’s work has been in narrating audiobooks. Doyle—who has a distinctive Irish brogue that sounds just right in fantasy novels—splits his time between bringing characters from the page to life and introducing kids to theater at the Ross School in East Hampton.
“My wife and I came here in 1998, just after my daughter was born,” says Doyle. “My wife’s family lived in Montauk. I had landed a job understudying two major roles on Broadway in The Weir. The run got extended, so we stayed longer.”
Doyle’s agent then got him a job with Recorded Books, an audiobook publishing company, narrating A Star Called Henry by Roddy Doyle (no relation). “They gave it to me, bless their hearts. I didn’t know much about it—so little, in fact that after I finished I had to rerecord the first 60 pages!” Doyle says. “The contrast was marked, I must say. It was very stilted. But it won an award!”
Doyle won an AudioFile Earphones Award. “We went back to England shortly afterward, and I heard that AudioFile Magazine had given me an award. They review 75-80 books every two months. It’s very nice. I’ve received nearly 30 awards since.” Doyle also won an Audio Publishers Association Award. “It’s the audiobook Oscars—but not nearly as prestigious.” Doyle won the 2007 Audio Publishers Association Award for The Dead Yard, by Adrian McKinty. Doyle’s recorded all of McKinty’s work since.
“I’ve recorded 14 of Adrian McKinty’s books. I love his writing. He writes these characters with strange voices to wind me up,” says Doyle, who consults with the Melbourne, Australia-based McKinty via Skype. Doyle has researched various languages and dialects for McKinty’s books; for Falling Glass, he had to learn Shelta, a somewhat obscure Irish language. “I called [McKinty] and asked about it and he said, ‘I don’t f—ing know!’” Doyle laughs. Doyle eventually found a professor who speaks Shelta and worked on his narration through Skype.
Fans of fantasy young adult novels will likely recognize Doyle’s voice from Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle series. The series’ first title, Eragon, was made into a film and presented Doyle with a unique challenge. “[Eragon] was released in both print and audio before the movie,” says Doyle. “The voice I chose for the dragon was kind of gravelly. For the movie, they chose this soft, feminine voice. Some readers have criticized my choice. [As more books were released] more and more dragons appeared. And of course, then Paolini, out of mischief, started writing descriptions like ‘this dragon’s voice is very deep.’ Finally during the fourth book, he gave me information on the language and voices.”
Doyle is also a fixture at the Ross School. “I love the fact that we integrate theater into the classroom,” he says. “It’s extraordinary. Many students literally find their voices during the work that we do. There’s a performance element built into the work that I do with each grade. Some projects push them outside their comfort zone and many of them volunteer for the extracurricular shows.” This spring, Ross presented Chicago. “They’re really dedicated, which is great,” says Doyle.
Doyle’s dedication has kept him busy with recording and teaching. “I really do feel privileged,” he says.