Lynn Manning
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Lynn Manning

Band Spoken Word Comedy

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"WEIGHTS WINS FRINGE REVIEW AWARD"

This is to certify that

“Weights”

has been awarded a

FringeReview Theatre Award

For outstanding theatre
At the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2008, Assembly @ George Street, Edinburgh, Scotland

The Review

Something I have noticed in recent years at the Fringe is that productions that have any kind of life-affirming qualities or ultimately positive messages, tend to hit a glass ceiling of four stars, no matter how truly outstanding they are. It is in fashion to be slightly disapproving of life-affirmation as art.

Lynn Manning's one-man tour-de-force, "Weights" has achieved several four-star ratings at the Edinburgh Fringe 2008, and I believe it is time at least one reviewer who isn't afraid of applauding both positivity AND outstanding theatre to present this production with a well deserved five star rating for a play in which the "universal oneness of all things" is shared and made practically evident. This is a piece of theatre that isn't afraid to chart the darkest hours of a person's biography, yet equally to celebrate, and even offer up to an audience, a happier outcome, and a message that the lowest places we sometimes find ourselves in are the places from which the steps can only rise upward.

Lynn Manning, actor, writer, commentator on life, and occasional comedian of the stage, has a rich vibrant voice, which tells a tale so evocative and resonant, it received regular whoops, sighs and spontaneous rounds of applause from audience members. Manning shares his own personal story, creating the voices and gestures, so well observed, of over a dozen characters, in a journey that takes us through his childhood, the sixties, the seventies and toward the now.

The violent act that led to his blindness is re-charted and played out with superb pacing, observation, poetry and not a small amount of hindsight-humour. This is fine writing realised on the stage through direct story-acting. We find ourselves in L.A, on Hollywood's famous Vine Street. We stare down the barrel of a gun with Manning, and we stare with him down the tunnel of years that represents his past, present and a future without sight yet brimming with insight. I stopped taking notes after ten minutes, the reviewer's notebook and pen dropped, and I had to just watch and listen.

As a performer, his authenticity and directness is refreshing. This is a man on a "free ride to wasted", who takes us beyond the darker years and into a place where he is realising himself through the creative opportunity that blindness has brought him. Manning performs with an economy of movement, a large but graceful soul, his delivery is so on top of his material that it feels as if he is telling the story for the first time. The ability to do that confirms this as outstanding work.

A story of loss of sight, of growing up, and of learning to experience the inner light of creativity, so well described by writers such as Jacques Lusseryan, Manning has succeeded in bring a life-affirming story to the stage that never descends into sentimentality and firmly confronts the harsh realities of life. A story of loss of sight, perhaps; but Manning has helped the rest of us to see a little more clearly with this fabulous play.



Signed ……………………………………. Editor Date: ………………………………
- FRINGEREVIEW.COM


"WEIGHTS L.A. REVIEW"

'Weights,' a Playwright's Solo Show of Humanity, Clarity
Lynn Manning, blind since 1978, shares his life, from childhood poverty to evolving creativity.
By F. KATHLEEN FOLEY, Special To The Times
In an era of hucksters, hype and 15-minute celebrities, Lynn Manning is that rarest of valuable commodities. Manning is an artist. Not in the cheapened modern sense of the word, that generic meaning that is misapplied to every Hollywood deal maker with a high concept and a cell phone. Manning is the real thing, a writer of clarity, finesse and overriding humanity.

Playwright Lynn Manning in his autobiographical tour through South L.A. in "Weights" at Actors Gang in Hollywood.
GARY FRIEDMAN / Los Angeles Times

Manning also happens to be blind. That particular condition has nothing to do with his talent or his capacities--and everything to do with his art, or more specifically, the evolution of his creative identity.
"Weights," Manning's intensely personal solo show, now being presented by the Taper, Too at the Actors' Gang, hinges upon Manning's senseless blinding in 1978 and his subsequent efforts to rebuild his life. The piece was developed in conjunction with the Mark Taper Forum's Other Voices Project, which is devoted specifically to helping disabled theater artists hone their work.
"Weights" traces Manning's life from his impoverished childhood in South-Central L.A. to the present. Based on 20 years of Manning's writings, the play was refined over the course of three years in the Other Voices program.
Going into Other Voices, Manning was already a respected playwright and poet whose critically acclaimed dramas include "Private Battle" and "Central Ave. Chalk Circle," updated adaptations of Büchner's "Woyzeck" and Brecht's "Caucasian Chalk Circle."
Autobiographical solo shows present a clear and present danger. Often, the writer-performer subjects the audience to a diary-like recounting of his or her past, with all the minutiae intact. That kind of show might serve its creator as a personal expiation, but it can be deadly going for an audience.
No fear here. A cerebrally athletic wordsmith, Manning knows how to twist a phrase and lash out an insight with agility and strength. Far from a dreary recapitulation, his story vaults back and forth in time, selectively and effectively, splicing surrealism and realism, humorous banter and fiercely poetic outbursts into a sweeping autobiographical sampling.
Tall, muscular and formidably fit, Manning strides on stage and positions himself within the rectangular playing area of Akeime Mitterlehner's simple set. Geoff Korf's lighting keeps Manning effectively pinpointed. Sound designers Karl Fredrik Lundeberg and Al Jackson are both integral players throughout the evening. Jackson acts as deejay, spinning platters to underscore Manning's narrative, while Lundeberg plays his original compositions on a variety of instruments. The music, both live and taped, heightens the action without swelling into melodramatic excess.
Sliding through a series of smooth karate moves (he is a former judo champion), Manning commences with a routine anecdote about bodysurfing on a busy beach. But as the sky darkens and the beach magically empties, we realize that we are descending into a nightmare, a place of menace and dread, where sudden violence is an ever-present possibility.
An aspiring painter, Manning was shot by a deranged drunk in 1978--but he had strange premonitions of his blindness long before that. One of the most striking aspects of the evening is Manning's lack of bitterness over his blinding, which redirected and redefined him, both creatively and personally. Manning is also forgiving of his alcoholic mother, who routinely neglected and abandoned the nine children she had by various men. In fact, he dedicates his show to "Moms," and his enduring affection for that flawed character, now deceased, is palpable.
Manning describes the nuts-and-bolts logistics of adjusting to his blindness with offbeat humor, earning genuine belly laughs from his audience as he recounts the problems of inappropriately helpful bystanders, the new experience of wooing a woman he can't see, and the travails of urination.
As a personality, Manning is always prepossessing. However, as an actor, he seems occasionally hesitant, at least in this outing. Director Robert Egan, the producing director at the Taper, hasn't quite smoothed out the rough edges in Manning's performance. A few inappropriate pauses could be chalked up to opening-night gremlins that might disappear during the course of this too-short run.
"Weights" is a memory play, one man's saga about the triumph of spirit over adversity. As entertainment, it is constantly diverting. As art, it is universal and cathartic. For Manning, it is a personal triumph, bravely revealing and poignant.
- Los Angeles Times


"WEIGHTS L.A. REVIEW"

From The Hollywood Reporter
April 2, 2001
Weights
Taper, Too at the Actors' Gang, Hollywood
Through April 15
By Jay Reiner
In 1978, Lynn Manning took an unsolicited bullet to the head from a crazed Patron in a Hollywood bar. Only 23 and a budding visual artist, Manning lost his sight and crossed over to a new identity -- or, as he puts it in his mesmerizing one-man show, he went from being black to being blind. In "Weights," the first production of the Taper, Too's new season at the Actors' Gang, Manning brings us face to face with the unusual meaning of that fateful event.

If Manning has lived the sort of life a poet can tell best, it's ironic that he had to become blind Homer to tell it. But where Homer gave us the wine-dark sea, wandering Odysseus and the topless towers of Ilium, Manning gives us the mean streets of L.A., a childhood straight out of hell and a liberation entirely of his own making. Of the two odysseys, Manning's may well be the more harrowing and, in its own way, the more heroic.

Standing before us rock-solid and trim (he is a former world champion of blind judo), Manning displays a special talent for capturing the raw feel of everyday experience.

Poetry winds through the narrative of his life story so subtly, it's often difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins. In part that's because everything out
of Manning's mouth carries the cadence and crispness of language used to its best advantage. At times he weaves a web of words that begins hard and
strong but turns so seductively sensuous, it's like watching a spider spin steel into silk.

Playing off the central event of his blinding, Manning gradually acquaints us with the brutal facts of his childhood. As the violence, drinking and betrayal
in his parents' unraveling relationship increased, so did the miseries of the children. At one point, he and his eight siblings were living in abject poverty and were neglected to the point of near-starvation. McLaren Hall and six foster homes were a welcome relief. Eventually, Manning learned that the man he once idolized as his father was not and, even worse, had sexually molested a younger brother and sister. So it was, to say the least, another cruel twist of fate when Manning walked into that Hollywood bar wearing a spiffy Panama hat and wound up being carried out sightless with a bullet lodged in his skull.

Manning tells a story here that he clearly relishes.
He once asked himself, in view of the many calamities to have befallen him, what was the worst possible blow he could still suffer, and blindness was the answer. As a result, he had begun to practice being blind, just in
case. This helps explain why, much to the concern of his caseworker, he showed no inclination to grieve his blindness but instead seemed eager to get on with his new life. In fact, he seems to have welcomed his new
identity, as if it presented him the opportunity to start life again -- only this time, he would be sole master of his destiny.
His life as a blind man and writer is the show's final destination. The struggle for independence, the rear arrangement of sensory priorities, the added pleasures of
lovemaking, the cane, the wit, the half-wits -- Manning is a wonderful guide into this new reality. "Weights" is the sort of show you desperately wish someone didn't have to write. But if someone has to write it -- and he did -- we're extremely fortunate it was Lynn Manning.
Robert Egan is the unobtrusive, savvy director.
WEIGHTS
Presented by Center Theater Group/
Mark Taper Forum
Playwright/performed by: Lynn Manning
Director: Robert Egan
- The Hollywood Reporter


"WEIGHTS LONDON REVIEW"

In October 1978, Lynn Manning was shot through the head in a Los Angeles bar
by a stranger who had taken a dislike to him. He was 23 years old. The
bullet separated his right eye from the optic nerve and a day later surgeons
removed what remained of his left eye.

Manning describes these experiences in his autobiographical one-hander
Weights which has had a UK run taking in the Clocktower Theatre, Croydon.
The author is a multitude of a man: actor, film-maker, teacher, paralympic
silver medallist and judo world champion. He is also a writer of rare gifts
and the piece constitutes a sustained prose poem.

The narrative includes an upbringing that featured an abusive step-father
and spells in foster homes when his alcoholic mother proved unable to care
for him. "Ma crawled into a wine bottle and stayed there a long time." The
language ranges from taut, understated narrative to complex asides that are
exhilarating in their structure and elocution, the metaphors firing off like
darts. Flashbacks to boyhood and a child's capacity for wonder are
contrasted with the horrors to come.

Manning was an accomplished painter before the shooting and he frames the
stages of his life as if they were canvases, a device that underlines the
discipline and clarity of the writing. The author is at his most affecting
as he recalls morbid adolescent prophecies that he might lose his sight but
would not let blindness catch him off guard. There are subtle Lear-like
references to vision that are reinforced when Manning describes his first
walk with a white stick: "Each step felt like falling down a cliff."

Shortly after being blinded, Manning told rehabilitation workers that
society had been steering him away from his dreams for as long as he could
remember. He describes the heightened perceptions that follow loss of sight,
not with the platitudes that often accompany the subject but through closely
observed and concrete details such as analysis of the Doppler effect of
sound. "I made wondrous discoveries every time I went out. A whole new world
was opening up and I cared about it."

The piece has everything that could be required of autobiographical drama; a
charismatic performer, a compelling life story and a monologue that benefits
from rare descriptive gifts. As Manning conveys the liberating effects of
blindness he approaches the audience for a final, sustained burst of dense
imagery that constitutes a hymn to the uplifting effects of creative endeavour.
- Plays International


"WEIGHTS AT NATIONAL BLACK THEATRE FESTIVAL"

Winston-Salem Journal Weights Review

Saturday, August 9, 2003

Weights presents richness, honesty
Show is gritty, humorous, true tale of a man who comes to terms with his losses

By Susan Gilmor
JOURNAL ARTS REPORTER

Weights is remarkable as much for what it lacks as for what it offers.What it offers is the true story of a man who grew up amid poverty, abuse and abandonment - only to lose his sight at the age of 23 after being shot by a drunk in a bar.What it lacks is any trace of self-pity or schmaltz. There's none of the treacly Hallmark Hall of Fame kind of feeling that so often accompanies a portrait of a person triumphing over adversity.Instead, Weights feels gritty, honest and real.Lynn Manning tells the tale of his own life with remarkable humor and acceptance - moving back and forth in time between his childhood, the shooting and his recovery. His words are powerful, given an extra thrust by the poetry he weaves between scenes. And his story is a fascinating one.He paints a vivid picture of his childhood - both when his home life seemed ideal and after alcoholism and abuse had taken their toll on him and his eight siblings. It's a horrible tale, but it makes it easier to understand how Manning later came to terms with losing his sight. For him, it was just another in a long line of losses.His performance is riveting, especially when he recounts what happened at the bar the night he was shot. And his stories about adapting to his blindness are laced with sensuality and humor. The scene where he demonstrates trying to look cool while walking with a cane is especially funny... Weights is a remarkable show - powerful yet wry. And that is refreshing, indeed.? - Winston-Salem Journal


Discography

WEIGHTS (One Blind Man's Journey): released 2005 by Bridge Multimedia. Samples can be streamed at: www.bridgemultimedia.com/weights

CLARITY OF VISION, Selected Poems Written And Performed By Lynn Manning: released 1994 by New Alliance Records.

Also featured on New Alliance Records' anthologies, HOLLYWORD 1&2, and THE BLACK AND TAN CLUB.

Photos

Bio

Lynn Manning is an award winning poet, playwright, actor, Paralympic Silver-medalist, and former World Champion of blind judo. He accomplished all of this after being shot and blinded at age 23. Based in Los Angeles, he's co-founder and literary manager of Watts Village Theater Company; president of FireHouse Theater Company; a trustee on the board ofThe Network Of Ensemble Theatres; a member of The Actors' Studio Playwright/Directors Unit West, and associate artist with Cornerstone Theatre Company.. Lynn's autobiographical, one man stage play, WEIGHTS, received three NAACP Theater awards for 2001, including Best actor for Lynn. He has since performed WEIGHTS from Chicago to Off Broadway and from Croatia to The 2008 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Lynn's award winning play, SHOOT, is included in the ground breaking collection, BEYOND VICTIMS AND VILLAINS (CONTEMPORARY PLAYS BY DISABLED PLAYWRIGHTS).