Manley finds discovery in theater

Freshman Lisa Manley traveled more than most students to attend La Verne. As an “MK,” or missionary kid, as she calls herself, Manley lived in Ecuador until she came to La Verne. / photo by Rosie Sinapi
Freshman Lisa Manley traveled more than most students to attend La Verne. As an “MK,” or missionary kid, as she calls herself, Manley lived in Ecuador until she came to La Verne. / photo by Rosie Sinapi

by Enedina Perez
Staff Writer

While most first graders her age were settled in a stable home, living a so called normal life, freshman theater major Lisa Manley was about to undergo a big change in her life.

During that time, Manley’s parents began the process of becoming missionaries. It was after she had completed second grade when they first left the United States. Manley spent half of her third grade year in Costa Rica.

When she was 9 years old, they moved to Ecuador.

“I lived five years in the eastern jungle and five years in the city of Quito,” she said. “This is my third time back, but this is the longest I’ve been back at once.”

One of those times that she came back was for one semester of her 11th grade year. She remembers spending time in the library with her father researching colleges. She was interested in California colleges with theater majors.

Manley liked the University of La Verne, but also considered Colorado College, until she began having bad dreams about Colorado. She dreamed about iceboxes and getting trapped in refrigerators.

“That made me decide to come to ULV instead,” she said. “I just figured that I belonged in California for a while. Besides, the more I heard about ULV, the more I liked it.”

Now that Manley is at ULV, she loves it. “The people that I have run into here are wonderful,” she said. “I also think the Theater Department here is very remarkable in the fact that it is very small and yet it is extremely active.

“It is like the best of both worlds,” she said. “I get a lot of experience, but I have the support of the community at the same time.”

During her stay here at ULV, Manley has been very active in the Theater Department. She has been in five different school plays, including “The System,” “Romeo’s Garden,” “The Dream Play,” “Loveliest Afternoon of the Year” and “Mum.” She is currently working on her sixth play, “Approaching Simone.”

“I adore the feeling of live theater,” Manley said. “I love the whole connection with the audience.”

Manley feels that the entire process of acting causes dual discovery.

“You have discovery in your fellow human kind, which drives you closer to other people, and you have discovery in what makes up your own person and your identity,” she said.

“She is a remarkable actress, combining directness, sincerity and mischievousness,” said Jane R. Dibbell, associate professor of theater arts.

Unlike many others, Manley has never gotten stage fright. On the contrary, she feels “an impatience to get on stage,” especially after having prepared so much.

“My moment of terror probably comes right after I step on stage,” Manley said. This is when she fears forgetting her lines, or even what character she is playing.

“She has an incisive intellect, and a gift for articulating her ideas with clarity and truthfulness,” said Dibbell.

Manley, who lives a busy life with school, work and rehearsals, often asks herself at rehearsals, “Why am I here? and How can I handle this?” She gladly answers herself with, “This is what I love. This is it. This is not my purpose for life, but it’s got a lot to do with what keeps me living.”

Besides acting, Manley, who is in the Honors Program, has sang with the Chamber Singers for a semester, and went to Tecate, Mexico, during the spring break trip to restore an orphanage.

Although Manley has found fulfillment here at ULV, she misses her parents, who still reside in Quito, Ecuador.

She misses doing things that they would normally do. She remembers flying with her father, who is a pilot.

She recalls that both she and her brother, who attends Caltech in Pasadena, would get to fly with their father.

Unlike her brother, who would follow all of the instructions perfectly, she laughs as she describes herself as being a “crazy acrobatic flyer.”

Manley also has two younger sisters, who are living with their parents as well.

“I miss them talking to me when they come home from school,” she said.

Coming from a close family, Manley misses them all. As a way to feel closer, she recently went to the Business Park (airport) in La Verne. Once she got there, she climbed the hill and spent a couple of hours watching the planes take off and “feeling the sun.”

Even though she does not get to see her family as much as she would like to, Manley hopes to at least see them once a year, while she is in college.

Throughout this experience, Manley has considered herself to be a “Third Cultured Kid.” She feels that she has not been fully a part of a culture in the United States or Ecuador.

Although she thinks that the entire experience was very hard for her while she was growing up, she learned something positive.

“International is good,” she said. “We really need to look at each other’s cultures, and embrace the diversity that is in our own country. It is only when you get outside of your home town and go to some place where you may feel uncomfortable, that you can understand what it is that makes up your own community. You can learn so much from having experiences in other cultures.”

As for future plans, Manley is looking forward to summer service, and for the opening of Megan Terry’s “Approaching Simone” on May 9.

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