Re posting this… I found out the staff at the Rep didn’t know so I took it down, but it looks like it’s out there so…
The first time I met Jerry Manning I was standing outside of ACT Theater in Seattle about to hear one of my plays read. I had applied for an internship at Seattle Rep in casting and if I got it, would be working with him. By chance a friend introduced us. We chatted and then told me we would see him later that week for my interview. In the interview he was blunt and did not spare honesty. If I had some assumption about the job or the world that was incorrect he made sure I knew it. I got the job and started a friendship and working relationship that lasted until today, when I found out that Jerry had died. As I write this I do not know the reasons behind his death, but it was common knowledge that Jerry had HIV and had been through bouts of full blown aids. Whatever it was that took him I’d guess it was related somehow.
I wanted to write something now. Right now because I’m afraid I’ll be too sad later. Knowing that my friend, someone who had meant so much to me, is gone makes me sad beyond words. I worked with Jerry in one capacity or another for 5 years. I was his casting assistant, his assistant director,and from time to time his drinking buddy (Actually a lot). I see him sitting across from me laughing like a cat that smoked menthols like a chimney. I have so many moments flooding through my head right now. I want to talk about them all. To hold on tight to everything about him that I remembered and loved. I spent a lot of time over at his apartment. It has one of the best views in the city of Seattle. In the Summer his balcony doors were always wide open and he would be out there gardening, taking care of his little patch of green. He always opened his doors to you, hosting a party, or giving you a place to live if you had none. Before my wife and I moved to New York we stayed with him for a week, and truth be told I think we drove him a little nuts, but if we did, he never said anything. My education in theater was given to me by Jerry and though I have worked in a lot of other arts organizations, none of them will every match the time I spent working with him or the other friends I made in that place. It was both a time and place that could never come again for me. It was youth and adulthood colliding together to deliver me my first real mentor, and god knows how I ended up with Jerry Manning. It seems both crazy and perfectly natural. We interns from Seattle Rep and beyond called each other Jerry’s kids. It was a cute little nickname, but what is easy to forget is how many of us there are. We are all over the country, all over the world, and the things Jerry taught us are there too. I met my wife because of Jerry. He handed me her head shot and I cast her in a show long before we started dating. Later, he was the first one to realize that she and I were in love. He saw it even before we did. I am truly sorry that he never got to meet my son, Max. He would have loved him and I often though that I couldn’t wait until I could get them together. Now I will just tell Max stories about Jerry and how he is the reason he entered the world.
One night, in winter, I remember sitting in his living room with four other people while it snowed outside, something rare in Seattle. We had decided to read Of Mice and Men out loud. Taking turns. The idea was to see if there was a new or better way to tell that story on stage. To see if three or four people could tell the whole story, play all the characters. Test things creatively. I remember how peaceful it was. The snow falling outside of his windows as we sat together. I’ll always remember you Jer. Sitting there reading. Happy just to tell a story. Love you pal.