From Rad Hatter to TEDxCharleston!
Some of the Holy City’s best and brightest will be coming together again on Oct. 18 for the fifth annual TEDxCharleston, an independently-organized rendition of the global speakers’ series celebrating “ideas worth sharing.”
This year’s event, themed “Shake it Up,” will feature 14 speakers and four performers, each of whom were selected from hundreds of applicants to bring their own perspective to bear on the loosely themed event. As has been in the case in recent years past, Daniel Island residents will be making a significant contribution to the production. But this year, Daniel Island will be showing off its creative side in addition to its intellectual offerings.
Two Daniel Island residents will be presenters at the 2017 consortium — Brian Sullivan, a clinical psychologist, College of Charleston professor and software company executive (to be featured in a future issue of The Daniel Island News); and artist, musician, and professional puppeteer Kris Manning. Both will be joining the ranks of a select list of Daniel Island residents who’ve addressed TED in the past, such as publishing executive and children’s book author Kate Jerome, who took part in the 2016 TEDxCharleston event.
Manning, with her puppeteering troupe “Feral Creative,” was one of only four performers selected to approach the theme of this year’s “Shake it Up” event with an artistic performance.
Manning is best known on the island as the co-founder and co-owner of the Black Tie Music Academy, which with its eight locations across the Lowcountry (including one on Daniel Island) is the Charleston-area’s largest private music school.
On Oct. 18, however, Manning will be donning a different hat, that of puppet show creator, choreographer, director, grip, etcetera, etcetera. Manning will be bringing to life sets, costumes, music and dialogue for the performance. Her four-member puppeteering troupe will feature Becky Becker, Geoffrey Cormier, Maari Suorsa and Henry Riggs for the one-time show.
According to the TEDxCharleston folks, the phrase “Shake it Up” means “to explore new perspectives that transcend normal expectations and kickstart the future by setting invigorated ideas into motion.” No matter how you describe it, Manning is feeling confident her act will have an impact.
“This is different, it ‘shakes it up,’” she laughs. “After all, it’s a seven-minute act with three characters that will speak and a fourth that just make a lot of monkey noises.”
And while Manning’s infectious laugh is a constant when she’s describing the upcoming conference and Feral Creative, she’s preparing for her debut performance with professionalism. For Manning, correctly expressing herself during a performance she’s dubbing “an inspirational happening” is serious business. Well, kind of.
“You can be altruistic and full of namaste but you also need to have a plan and go about things with the business sense,” says Manning, a former New England sales executive and small business owner who moved to Daniel Island with her husband six years ago. “I feel like with all that very serious corporate stuff I’m able now to take all the artsy crazy stuff and kind of meld the two, so I’m trying to go about it in an intelligent way.”
Manning had to distinguish herself over 300 other applicants in convincing the TEDxCharleston selection board her medium was best to express “Shake it Up.” In the final round of vetting, she presented her idea in some detail. It paid off, as Manning left the board wanting more.
“In my head, I can see this whole thing, and it’s awesome but to translate what I’m thinking sometimes is difficult,” Manning said. “I drew some pictures, put together some of the set and costumes so they could see what kind of fabrication was involved, and that was enough. I think in the beginning I was trying to come up with an idea that would have universal appeal, an idea that everyone could relate to.”
“From the time I decided I was going to do it until the application it was five days, so I had five days to come up with a puppet show,” she continued. “If I had sat down with a piece of paper and a pen and said ‘okay I’m going to write a puppet show,’ it would not have been the best, because that’s not how I think.”
And Manning was also required to put her thought process on display in convincing TEDxCharleston hers was the way to approach this year’s theme. Simply putting her skills on display isn’t exactly Manning’s style anyway, thus her entire concept had to, in her mind, emerge from an intellectual standpoint. That concept was what she calls the “monkey mind,” and her goal was to give her audience the tools to fight it with ideas and laughs.
“The Buddha had a premise called the ‘monkey mind,’” she said. “His thought was that ‘you tell yourself all these stories about what you should be doing in life and (in doing so) you become your worst enemy.’ The stories you tell yourself stop you from trying things, exploring different parts of your personality, taking chances.”
“A lot of people play it safe,” Manning continued. “They find a comfort zone and they don’t go outside of that for various reasons, but I just love trying new things and change. Being around kids every day at Black Tie, you see your kids want to try everything, they want to touch everything and they have such curiosity, innocence, and joy. And that’s something I think adults lose when they get older. They lose the joy in being fearless.”
And that’s the fight of the marvelous, musical Kris Manning. Her upcoming struggle for the hearts and minds of the many viewers of the fifth-annual TEDxCharleston speakers’ conference will be here before we know it, and when she gets her chance, it’ll only be for seven minutes. For her part however, her message is simple, her goals modest.
“That’s the whole thing. It’s not too late to ‘Shake it Up,’ and to think differently. It’s not too late to go out there and even if you don’t know what you like run after a bunch of stuff and figure it out,” smiles Manning with a tone of finality. “If I can get one person in that audience at this TEDx event and they are inspired to do something they always wanted to do, I’ve done my job.”
The “2017 TEDxCharleston: Shake it Up” event will be held at the Charleston Music Hall, at 37 John St. In downtown Charleston on Wednesday, Oct. 18 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Although tickets are already sold out for the event, you can have your name placed on the waitlist by following the links at the event website, www.tedxcharleston.org. For more information about the TED series, see TED.com. Additionally, you can follow TED on Twitter at twitter.com/, or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TED.