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Jerry Manning, the Artistic Director for the Seattle Repertory Theatre, died suddenly on Wednesday at 58. He was recovering from surgery to repair a congenital heart defect, and died from complications.

According to the Seattle Times, Manning had been with Seattle Rep since 2000. In May 2010, he was appointed Artistic Director, enabling him to secure his position and provide firmer guidance to the theater. He’d been appointed the Interim Artistic Director in 2008, so his passing actually leaves him a six-year legacy.

The Times obituary mentioned his mentoring of playwrights and all the plays he’d commissioned/scheduled/directed. While all that is certainly praiseworthy, there is even one more significant legacy he leaves.

I honestly can’t recall all the great plays we’ve seen at the Rep. The only reason I remember I Am My Own Wife and Of Mice and Men is because the Times mentioned them as sterling examples of two plays he directed. I was very impressed with the dazzling pace and theatrical magic of Wife, and with the almost cinematic sweep of Mice. Those two were very impressively mounted. I also appreciated the ambition and heart of Pullman Porter Blues, one of many shows which he mentored and nurtured.

I don’t think I’m alone in forgetting specific plays; all I recall is being consistently satisfied and impressed with their productions. What I do recall, however is even more significant than those. Now remember, Manning took the helm in 2008, right at the time the economy collapsed. Arts organizations everywhere appeared on endangered species lists. Several here, including The Rep’s neighbor, the Intiman, folded completely (although Intiman has been resuscitated, it’s still on life support). But the Rep hung on, as it always had.

Somehow, Jerry Manning managed to keep this ship afloat, and we’re all the richer for it. That’s his unforgettable legacy.

Rest in Peace, Jerry. And my condolences to your family and all your wide circle of friends. Because of what you accomplished, we’ll always remember you.

 

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