Mannie Manim was born in June 1941, in Cape Town. With more than 50 years’ involvement in theatre, Manim has left indelible imprints in the arts and entertainment industry in South Africa and globally. His involvement in the arts industry began as an usher at the Brook Theatre in 1955, where he worked for five years, rising through the ranks to become company manager. He left to join Leonard Schach Productions.
He worked for two years as a technical director of the Civic Theatre in Johannesburg when it opened, then moved to Theatre International for some years, eventually joining the Performing Arts Company of the Transvaal (PACT) Drama Theatre in 1967, where he was the administrative head.
In 1973, he left PACT to start a theatre production company, known simply as The Company, with Barney Simon and a group of actors. The Company was an independent outfit committed to non-racial theatre. Manim was a co-founder of the Market Theatre in 1976 and became the trend-setting theatre’s managing director. The Market Theatre was home to international playwrights who wanted to have their plays presented there because of the commitment to non-racialism and their opposition to segregation in both society and on stage.
As the work of the Market Theatre Company became known internationally, he was also the co-producer of various productions, visiting Europe, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, the United States of America and Japan, where he was the lighting designer on many of these tours. The Market Theatre Company achieved the feat of 33 international tours from its inception until 1991.
As managing director and producer of Mannie Manim Productions from 1991 he has been presenter, co-presenter, executive producer and lighting designer for many plays in various theatres locally and abroad.
Manim's association with Athol Fugard as lighting designer or producer started in 1970 with Boesman and Lena and People are Living There at the Alexander Theatre. Since then he has lit and produced all the first South African productions of Fugard's plays in South Africa. He worked with the inimitable Fugard on his international tours to London, Toronto, Australia and Singapore. He also worked with Mbongeni Ngema in Mama as a co-producer and lighting designer for its Australian and New Zealand tour.
Among the many highlights of his career as a lighting designer are the Cape Town Opera’s Show Boat in Sweden; Noah of Cape Town and the acclaimed I Am My Own Wife and The Tempest at the Baxter Theatre Centre; the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Courtyard Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon and in five other cities in the United Kingdom; and Sheila’s Day and John Kani’s Nothing but the Truth at the Market Theatre.
He was also responsible for the lighting on The Magic Flute and A Christmas Carol at the Young Vic and in the West End; Sizwe Banzi is Dead at the National Theatre, London; Nothing but the Truth at the Hampstead Theatre, London, the Lincoln Centre in New York, the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles and the National Theatre of Namibia in Windhoek; The Real Thing at the Strindberg Intima Theatre in Stockholm; Janet Suzman’s production of Hamlet in Stratford-upon-Avon; and Porgy and Bess in Umea, Sweden.
Other productions he participated in include The Island at the National Theatre and the Old Vic in London, in Toronto, at the Kennedy Centre in Washington and at BAM in New York; Carmen and The Mysteries at Wilton’s Music Hall in London, at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York, at the International Theatre Festival in Perth, at the Queen’s Theatre in London and at the World Stage Festival in Toronto; and Sorrows and Rejoicings at the Tricycle Theatre in London.
Some of the awards which he received include the Shirley Moss Award (1980) for the Greatest Practical and Technical Contribution to Theatre in South Africa, the South African Institute of Theatre Technology Award for Outstanding Achievement as a Theatre Technician, Administrator and Lighting Designer, and the first Vita Award for the Most Enterprising Producer. He was 10-time winner of the Vita Best Original Lighting Award.
In 1990, he was made Chevalier des Artes et des Lettres by the French Government, and the following year he received a gold medal for Theatre Development from the South African Academy of Arts and Science. He was also awarded the 2001/02 Dora Mavor Moore Award for best Lighting Design in Toronto.
In 2004, he was awarded the Naledi Lifetime Achievement Award by the Theatre Managements of South Africa.
On 27 April 2011, the State President, Jacob G Zuma, conferred Mannie Manim with the Order of Ikhamanga in Silver for his excellent contribution to the development of South African theatre and in the field of creative arts in general.