Watts Village Theater Welcomes Back Co-Founder Lynn Manning as Interim Artistic Director

On February 1, Watts Village Theater Company (WVTC) welcomed back its co-founder Lynn Manning - an award-winning playwright, actor, and poet - who now serves as the nonprofit's Interim Artistic Director.

Manning, a former WVTC Board Chair, holds the unique honor of having served as artist and board for the company, and now serving as the artistic visionary for the future of the innovative Watts-based theater company. See below for a bio on Manning.

WVTC Interim Artistic Director Lynn Manning stated, "I'll never have the charisma of Quentin Drew, nor the kinetic energy of Guillermo Aviles-Rodriguez, but inner vision and institutional memory I have in abundance."

Manning added, "Having been involved with the organization since it began, even during the period following Quentin's death in 2005, I know how far the organization has come. As we approach out 20 year anniversary, I am excited about the innovative, first-rate artistic productions and educational programming addressing the needs of our community that that we have in store for Los Angeles - including this year's Riot/Rebellion project, conceived by the incomparable Guillermo Aviles-Rodriguez. I look forward to applying my vision and institutional memory to the task of growing WVTC's aesthetic and civic value to the community it was created to serve."

As WVTC undergoes this historic transition period, it honors the years of service and dedication given by former Artistic Director Guillermo Aviles-Rodriguez.

David Mack, WVTC Managing Director stated, "Guillermo has maintained an exemplary career during his time at WVTC. Under his artistic leadership, the company has achieved unprecedented growth in its personnel, financial standing, strategic partnerships - including collaborations of new work with over 15 theatre companies from across Los Angeles - and audience development. Moreover, he conceived and stewarded monumental, original productions including Meet Me @Metro and Riot/Rebellion. Though he will be missed, he still remains a permanent part of the WVTC legacy and alumni family."

In January 2013, Lynn Manning returned to Watts Village Theater Company (WVTC), accepting the position of Interim Artistic Director, and began working on the artistic vision for WVTC's upcoming seasons this year. Manning, an award-winning poet, playwright and actor, is Co-founder and former Board Chair of WVTC.

Born in Fresno and raised in Los Angeles, Lynn considers himself a native Angelino. A product of L.A. County's foster care system, he grew up in both abject poverty in South-central and in suburban security in The South Bay. Lynn graduated from John Marshall High School and Los Angeles City College. He pursued his dream of becoming a freelance artist until he was shot and blinded at age 23. He then turned his creative energies toward literature and, eventually, to playwriting and the theatre arts.

Manning developed his theatre bonafides in the field. He honed his play writing skills in Center Theatre Group's Mentor Playwrights and Blacksmiths workshops (1991-2001, and The Actors' Studio Writers/Directors Unit, West (1998-2004). He fine-tuned his acting chops in membership with The Firehouse Theater Company, Actors' Conservatory Ensemble, and The Wilton Project. Manning's teaching experience comes from two years with The A.S.K Theatre Project "Playwrights In The Schools" program, and three years as California Arts Council "Artist In Residence" with The Mark Taper Forum's Other Voices Project. In the former, he developed and directed play writing and performance workshops for people with disabilities, and in the latter, taught play writing to students at George Washington Preparatory High School.

In 1996, Lynn Manning co-founded WVTC in partnership with its founding Artistic Director, resident Watts actor and community activist, Quentin Drew. Their dream was to establish a permanent professional theatre arts institution in Watts. Their mission was to produce plays of relevance to the underserved community of Watts and South Los Angeles, as well as promote literacy to the youth through theatre arts education. Manning was a founding board member when WVTC earned its nonprofit status, and served on that board until rotating off in 2012.

From 1998 to 2012, Manning also served as Board Chair for the nonprofit Firehouse Theater Company - dedicated to the inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of theatre making. Manning draws his administrative and programming experience from these years of intimate cooperation and teamwork with the boards and staffs of these two socially conscious arts organizations.

Manning has had upwards of a dozen plays produced. His autobiographical, solo play, WEIGHTS, received three NAACP Theater awards in 2001, including Best actor for Lynn. He has since performed WEIGHTS from London to Off Broadway, and from Edinburgh to The Adelaide Fringe. He has written several critically recognized plays, including, WEIGHTS, OCHRE & ONYX (THE Langston Hughes PROJECT), UP FROM THE DOWNS, PRIVATE BATTLE, THE LAST OUTPOST, THE COLORIZED VERSION, SHOOT, and CENTRAL AVE. CHALK CIRCLE. Mannig's Dramalog Award winning play, SHOOT, is included in the ground breaking 2007 TCG anthology, BEYOND VICTIMS AND VILLAINS (CONTEMPORARY PLAYS BY DISABLED PLAYWRIGHTS). Lynn both wrote and starred in the short film adaptation of SHOOT, by the same title. It premiered at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival, and was distributed to cable television by HBO. For more information, visit http://lynnmanning.com/.

Founded in 1996 by actor and Watts community activist Quentin Drew and actor/playwright Lynn Manning as an outgrowth of Cornerstone Theater Company's residency in Watts, Watts Village Theater Company is a multicultural urban company that seeks to inspire its community with an appreciation of all cultures through new works about contemporary social issues. WVTC has been a leader in providing acting and theatrical performance workshops for at-risk youth in Watts and South Los Angeles.

WVTC is proud to have collaborated with Watts Towers Arts Center, LATC, Inside at the Ford and the Matrix Theatre. WVTC's 2003 production of Manning's "Private Battle" won a NAACP Theatre Award. "Up From the Downs" (2005), and "Ochre & Onyx" (2009) received critical acclaim for examining cross-cultural relations between Latinos and African-Americans in Watts.

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