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Tracy Manning: A woman of many roles

Spotlight on a theater extraorinaire

By Caroline Shapley | Echo

A day in the life of Tracy Manning can be easily described as busy, but fulfilling.


Director. Mentor. Mother. Creator. Professor.


These are just a few words that describe Tracy Manning, Taylor University’s director of theatre, co-chair and assistant professor of department of music, theatre and dance. From teaching acting theories, to long nights of rehearsals and attending her own children’s events, a day in the life of Tracy Manning can easily be described as busy, but fulfilling.


During the day, she teaches a full load of classes and fills the learning tool boxes of many students.


“As director of theatre, I consider what’s the season?” Manning said.


She works through curriculum guides to teach acting theories and plans the productions for the year. To plan a year of productions is to consider many factors beyond the theatre department. Manning considers how plays meet mission and educational goals of Taylor, cost and how does each play cater to the audience.


Manning sits in her office which is adorned with posters from the many productions she has been a part of.

Manning knows what the theatre department does is not small or quiet. Theatre reaches to a broader audience. She considers how the the Taylor community will respond to a production and what type of production is needed and honors the community. She does this by presenting productions of a variety of time periods and genre. She believes that plays need to have breadth.


“The human experience is complicated and big and broad,” Manning said in response to not choosing plays that only leave the audience feeling happy and entertained. “There isn’t any person or any story that is one thing. What I mean by that, is even if the story has elements to it — or circumstances within it that makes me sad — that’s not the only thing I’m going to feel when I’m in the room with it. I’m going to feel other things, too, because nothing is one thing.”


Through these considerations and hard work, the department has explored productions that push audiences to think and engage in conversation about. The department has also earned acknowledgement of awards on national level and recognitions with these explorations of various works.


Not only does she work with students on campus, but she does work off-campus by recruiting for the department, visiting high school plays and attending conferences.


When asked how she manages to do all that, Manning acknowledges that she has a larger capacity to take on more.


“There are times when I am really busy and no doubt, I work a lot,” Manning said. “I do, I work a lot. But I also go to my children’s basketball games and I go to cross country meets and I go to plays that my children are in at Eastbrook and I go to church and I teach Sunday school. I have a life. I don’t feel like my work life is so busy that it is devoid of anything else. I’m also doing what I love.”


When she meets with prospective students, Manning understands wanting to be practical when choosing which area of study to pursue.


However, Manning is a firm believer in following and working with the gifts of what God has given each of person. She advises students to pursue what they love and know and trust that God will provide.


To risk a lot and to be brave in the face of fear is what Manning says is the attitude willingness of students participating in the department.


“This is a place you can fail and we’ll get up together,” Manning said.


Manning enjoys watching the students she has worked with prosper and fulfill their roles in theatre. Her previous students are in different areas around the country acting, teaching theatre and working with theatre, all putting to use the skills and lessons that they had learned alongside her at Taylor.

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