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Renowned LA theater artist Lynn Manning dies at 60

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Poet Lynn Manning performs during the dedication of the Kirk Douglas Theater on Sept. 30, 2004 in Culver City, California.
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
Poet Lynn Manning performs during the dedication of the Kirk Douglas Theater on Sept. 30, 2004 in Culver City, California.

The poet, actor and playwright had quietly been battling liver cancer. Blinded at the age of 23, his work explored disability and race.

Los Angeles poet, actor and playwright Lynn Manning died Aug. 3 at the age of 60. He had quietly been battling liver cancer.

Manning was a 23-year-old budding visual artist when he was blinded in a Hollywood barroom shooting. He re-channeled his creative energy and discovered he had a gift for the written word and performing. Manning went on to co-found the Watts Village Theater Company, and he performed his one-man show, “Weights,” on stages around the world.

Manning was much-admired in L.A.’s theater scene, and the news that he had died suddenly was met with sadness.

The Frame’s John Horn spoke with Oliver Mayer, Associate Professor of Dramatic Writing at the USC School of Theatre, and  a longtime friend and colleague of Manning’s.

Interview Highlights

Who was Lynn Manning and what was his role in the L.A. theater community?

He had an unbelievably hard life. His mother nearly killed his stepfather. He lived in six foster homes and went to nine different schools. Then when he’s only 23, in a bar fight, a stranger shoots him in the head and blinds him. How did he move from being a visual artist to a playwright after that accident?
It would be easy for us to remember Manning as L.A.’s blind playwright and think of his work only in terms of his disability. But Manning would probably have a different opinion of that legacy, wouldn’t he?
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