Posting Date: October 8, 2009

Meet Mannie Rivers: An inspired artist who wishes to inspire others

By Jonquil Harris

Mannie Rivers

Photographs by Melissa Withers

Some theater majors tell stories of how they were born to be on a stage and how they knew that they were destined to be a performing artist. The case is different with Theatre and Performance Studies major Mannie Rivers. It wasn’t until his junior year in high school that he even stepped a foot onstage. Although he loved it, it wasn’t until a visit from Kenyan students transformed his ambitions from being a performance artist to a teacher-artist.

The Kenyan students attended a residence arts school, Shangilia, which uses performing arts to rehabilitate street children and orphans in Nairobi. Mannie was fortunate to be a chaperone during their first trip to the United States in November 2007. “The experience changed my outlook on what theater could do in the world and what theater could do in my life,” he says. “I’ve worked with children before, but these were the happiest children I have ever seen, considering that some of them may have been raped or abused by their parents. I witnessed firsthand what theater has done for them, and I want to bring that same experience to other children.”

Mannie previously attended another college and came to KSU to test the campus out for a semester, just to see if he liked it. He was surprised at how much he did not want to leave KSU. “I knew very soon this was the place for me. There are so many opportunities for growth and, once I became a resident assistant, I loved it and knew I had to stay.”

His love for KSU continues to be fostered through the efforts of Karen Robinson, associate professor of Theatre and Performance Studies. He says, “She has done so much to help me find who I am as an artist and has provided me with many opportunities. Through the work that she loves to do, she has introduced to me many things that I now find interesting. If she had not bought Shangilia here to KSU, I would probably not be a theater major.”

During his short time in the world of theater, the senior already has a full resumé. Mannie is currently a teaching artist with the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta. He trained with the Georgia Wolf Trap program, during which he explored performing arts as a way of teaching, learning and knowing for pre-school and kindergarten children. He will follow up with more training in spring 2010 and will begin his residency with them in the fall. Mannie is also teaching arts to high school students through the Alliance’s Collision Plus education program.

Mannie has been busy at KSU as coordinator for the KSU Tellers, a performing company whose mission is to consistently improve and expand storytelling. As a performer, he has been in the KSU plays “Memorabilia” and “You Always Go Home.” Mannie has also loaned his many talents to writing a response play during Suzan-Lori Parks’ “365 Days/365 Plays” play cycle.

Once Mannie graduates in May, he will continue his career with teaching at the Alliance Theatre. His long-term plans include becoming a director of a school of the arts so that he can use theater to rehabilitate children and teach them how to express themselves artistically.


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