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Blind actor brings popular one-man show, ‘Weights,’ to Syracuse University Sept. 15
Lynn Manning, an award-winning actor, playwright, poet and former international blind judo champion, is bringing his one-man show, “Weights (One Man’s Blind Journey),” to Syracuse University. The performance, which recounts his experience of being shot and blinded in a bar fight, is Thursday, Sept. 15, at 8 p.m. in the Rose and Jules R. Setnor Auditorium in Crouse College. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, contact the SU Humanities Center at (315) 443-7192.
“Weights” is part of Syracuse Symposium, whose theme this year is “Light.” Co-sponsors of the performance are the School of Education; the SU Center on Human Policy, Law and Disability Studies; the School of Education’s Cultural Foundations of Education and Teaching and Leadership programs; the College of Visual and Performing Arts’ music education program; and the College of Arts and Sciences’ African American studies and Women’s and Gender Studies departments.
“The SU Humanities Center is thrilled to partner with a half dozen other organizations on campus, including the School of Education, for this special solo autobiographical show,” says Gregg Lambert, Dean’s Professor of the Humanities, as well as founding director of the SU Humanities Center and principal investigator of the Andrew W. Mellon Central New York Humanities Corridor. “Lynn Manning is an exceptional artist who sheds light on race, gender and ability by forcing us to confront our oppressions. ‘Weights’ is not so much a racial story or a disability narrative as it is an in-depth look at what we call ‘identity.’”
Born and raised in Southern California, Manning spent much of his childhood with his siblings in and out of foster homes. In 1978, the 23-year-old aspiring actor/athlete lost his eyesight in a Hollywood bar fight, following a gunshot to the face. The episode later inspired him to create a one-man show of original poetry and spoken word that premiered in Los Angeles in 2001. The original production has been since been presented all over the world, including at the Kennedy Center, and has garnered three NAACP Theater Awards, including one for Manning for Best Actor.
“It is performance art—removed but intimate,” says Manning of “Weights,” in a recent online interview with fellow playwright Maria Oshodi. “I try to perform as if I’m talking to one person. … I verbalize everything of true importance, so the audience doesn’t miss anything. I paint pictures with words.”
Manning has proven his creative mettle in other areas. In addition to “Weights,” he has written several critically acclaimed plays, including “Shoot!” (in whose film adaptation he stars), “Up From the Downs,” “Private Battle,” “The Last Outpost” and “central avenue chalk circle.”
Manning also serves as co-founder and literary manager of the Watts Village Theater Company, president of the Firehouse Theater Company (for people with disabilities in the theater arts), and board member of the Network of Ensemble Theaters. An accomplished actor, he has appeared in numerous sitcoms (“Seinfeld,” “Dream On” and “8 Simple Rules”) and commercials (Nike, Sprint, Hewlett-Packard, Schweppes and Bank of America).
Manning’s love of writing has resulted in publication in three poetry anthologies: “Voices From Leimert Park: A Poetry Anthology” (Teshai Publishers, 2006), “Staring Back: The Disability Experience From the Inside Out” (Plume Books, 1997), and “Grand Passion: The Poetry of Los Angeles and Beyond” (Red Wind Books, 1995). He also has released a spoken-word CD of original material, “Clarity of Vision” (New Alliance Records, 1994).
A world-class judoist, Manning represented the United States at the Paralympic Games (1988) in Seoul, Korea, and was named the U.S. Olympic Committee’s “Blind Male Athlete of the Year” after winning the blind judo championship at the World Victory Games (1990) in Holland. Other honors include the World Cup for Blind Judo in Sardinia, Italy (1991); silver medals at the Tokyo International Invitational for Blind Judo (1991) and the Paralympic Games in Barcelona, Spain (1992); and bronze medals at the International Blind Sports Association World Championships at Colorado Springs, Colo. (1995), and at Madrid, Spain (1998). Now retired from competition, Manning is a volunteer judo instructor at the Braille Institute of America in Los Angeles.
Syracuse Symposium is a semester-long festival devoted to the interdisciplinary humanities. The SU Humanities Center organizes and presents the festival each fall for the campus community, on behalf of The College of Arts and Sciences. This year’s festival explores the protean meaning of light, in all its senses and myriad of forms, through music, dance, the visual arts, philosophy, science and religion. The festival also attempts to bring new meaning to “Light” through an array of lectures, performances, symposia and special events.