1 July 2005
Lynn Manning is an award winning playwright, poet, actor from Los Angeles. Colin Hambrook saw the new production of his autobiographical play 'Weights' in Brighton, at the beginning of its UK tour.
Lynn Manning cuts a striking figure on stage. His entrance begins with a few martial arts moves. Then begins the story of how he was blinded after being shot in a Hollywood bar at age 23. 'Weights' is a stark tale of disability, childhood deprivation and abuse, presented with a deft, poetical edge. 'Weights' is a well crafted piece of storytelling, that presents issues around visual impairment from a compelling and original standpoint, that fits perfectly into the Extant stable
The story pivots around repeated refrains. When Manning's mother reacts to the news of his blindness with the words
I couldn't be so strong, he replies
you have to lift weights. There are refrains in the staging too. After each scene, Manning moves to the side where his brow is mopped and he is given water - like a boxer preparing to go back into the ring for the next round. And there are musical asides from Gary Bergman and subtle changes of lighting, which alter the ambience and echo the drama being played out. There is humour where Manning describes the surrealism of professionals and individuals fearful reactions to his plight. And there is a serious endeavour to express the truth.
'Weights' mirrors Extants' last production 'Resistance', by dwelling on the visual experience of blindness, as one of its central themes.
In the absence of light and shadow, colour and contrast fall away. Thus Manning describes some of his first impressions after leaving hospital.
The sun hit smack in the face like something solid. He goes on to explain how the brain compensates for sensory loss:
Through a nebulous fog of colour swirl - I could manipulate colours in a mental palette - was it blindness or madness.
Manning contradicts the 'tragic but brave' notion that coming to terms with blindness is an ordeal that takes years. Three weeks after leaving hospital he was keen to pursue his dreams and follow an academic career. His rehab counsellor had other ideas. Insisting that there had to be a problem with Manning's attitude, the counsellor offers him a future of selling lottery tickets. If he is lucky he might open his own vendor franchise, eventually.
Undaunted Manning perseveres. He can no longer fulfil his dream of becoming a visual artist but he can learn to 'paint with words'. 'Weights' weaves and spins the storytelling around the juxtaposition of poetic phrasing and rhythmical imagery. Poems like 'Magic Wand' are central pivots for finding the language to express the profound metamorphosis Manning went through:
From black man to blind man - white man's burden to everyman's burden.
And so the play expresses his will to come to terms with other people's attitudes and perceptions - the barriers to the realisation of his dreams. Manning cites poetic and literary influences including 'The Last Poets' and Gill Scott Heron through to Maya Angelou, Ralph Ellison, Melville and Joyce.
Lynn Manning's energy seems relentless. 'Weights' is an important offering, challenging race and disability stereotypes with ease and engagement.
Weights on tour
'Weights' is a passionate, inspiring dramatic work which has received much critical acclaim along with three NAACP Theater Awards, including one for Best Actor. Since its debut in 2001, 'Weights' has been performed across the United States as well as overseas, in such locations as Los Angeles, New York, Washington, D.C., Canada, and Croatia.
If you would like further information about the shows or the companies involved please contact Turtle Key Arts
Alternatively you can telephone them on 020 8964 5060 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Weights on CD-ROM
What the critics are saying about 'Weights'
If Manning has lived the sort of life a poet can tell best, it's ironic that he had to become a blind Homer to tell it - Manning gives us the mean streets of L.A., a childhood straight out of hell and a liberation entirely of his own making. - Jay Reiner, The Hollywood Reporter
Lynn Manning has created a monologue that is intriguing, engaging, and purely inspirational. We, the captive audience, hang on to every word. - Entertainment Magazine Online
Manning is the real thing, a writer of clarity, finesse and overriding humanity. His story vaults back and forth in time, splicing surrealism and realism, humorous banter and fiercely poetic outbursts into a sweeping autobiographical sampling. - F. Kathleen Foley, Los Angeles Times
'Weights' has received three National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Theater Awards, including Best Actor for Lynn Manning.
In order to bring Manning's story to an even wider audience, Bridge Multimedia and Remote Recording have now recorded and produced 'Weights' for audio CD, both in stereo and in 5.1 Surround Sound.
To order your copy, please email: email@example.com