Jerry Manning, the well-loved artistic director whose mantra was to “put the Seattle back in Seattle Rep,” died last night from complications following a routine procedure. He was 58 years old.
Manning first came to Seattle Rep in 2001 as an associate artistic director overseeing casting and artist relations. He became producing artistic director in 2008 and was named interim artistic director in 2009 before officially stepping into that role in 2010. His mantra was much more than lip service: Manning was dedicated to supporting local playwrights and actors and making the Rep a truly regional theatre again. He revived the company’s New Play Program, which dedicates money, time and manpower to producing new plays, and formed the Rep’s Writers Group to foster the talent of Northwest playwrights. His devotion to his playwrights and performers was rivaled only by his devotion to the creation of new work.
Manning began his theatre career with 11 years at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. From 1995 through 2000, he was artistic associate at off-Broadway’s New York Theatre Workshop where, among other successes, he helped shepherd Jonathan Larson’s groundbreaking musical Rent from workshop to off-Broadway to Broadway.
While at the Rep, Manning directed many plays including I Am My Own Wife, Of Mice and Men, boom and Thom Pain (based on nothing). One of his proudest moments, as he was quick to recall in recent years, was producing the premiere of Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare’s one-man show An Iliad before he’d even had a script; his faith in their work was unshakeable. An Iliad has since been performed all over the world.
Manning will be remembered beyond the incredible work he brought to life. He was beloved for his generosity of time and spirit, his trademark short-and-sweet curtain speeches, his perpetual-motion energy level and his unbridled enthusiasm for his adopted home. He will be missed.
Photo by Alan Alabastro