From Rad Hatter to TEDxCharleston! 


Island resident and resident puppeteer to perform at 2017 TEDxCharleston event next month 

By Charlie Morrison  

Some of the Holy City’s best and brightest will be coming together again this October 18 for the fifth-annual TEDxCharleston, Charleston’s 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 this year’s event, but this year Daniel Island will be showing off its creative side in addition to its intellectual.   

Two speakers who will address the 2017 speakers’ consortium are Daniel Island residents. Brian Sullivan, a clinical psychologist, College of Charleston professor and software company executive, and biology professor and fellow College of Charleston faculty member Phillip Dustan. Those two will be joining the ranks of a select list Daniel Island residents who’ve addressed TED in the past, such as island resident, publishing executive and children’s book author Kate Jerome who spoke at last year’s TEDxCharleston event. 

This year’s event though will feature a character displaying even more of the island’s living character in artist, musician, island resident and professional puppeteer Kris Manning. 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” TEDxCharleston 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 located across the Lowcountry (including one on Daniel Island) is Charleston area’s largest private music school and music instruction school. On October 18 however, Manning will be donning a different hat, that of puppet show creator, choreographer, director, grip, etcetera, etcetera. Bringing to life the sets, costumes, music, and dialogue Manning is creating for the performance is “Feral Creative,” a four-member puppeteering performance troupe that will feature Becky Becker, Geoffrey Cormier, Maari Suorsa and Henry Riggs for the one-time show. 

The group will be one of four performing artist groups featured this year joining the 14 speakers in presenting their unique take on this year’s theme, “Shake it Up.” As the TEDxCharleston folks describe it means ‘to explore new perspectives that transcend normal expectations and kick start 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 needed too as well, as to secure Feral Creative’s spot as one of the four performing artists to be selected this year Manning had to best 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, Manning had to present her idea in some detail. It paid off, as she left the board wanting more… she left them wanting a puppet performance. 


Black Tie Music Academy co-founder and owner and Daniel Island mom Kris Manning is now heading up a puppeteering troupe called Feral Creative that will be performing a Manning-directed, seven-minute performance at this year’s TEDxCharleston event, slated for October 18

“In my head, I can see this whole thing, and it’s awesome but to translate what I’m thinking sometimes is difficult. 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,” says Manning. “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 so.”  

“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. 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 too was required to put on display how she thinks in convincing TEDxCharleston hers was the way to approach “Shake it Up.” 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 concept. That concept was the “monkey mind,” and her goal was to give her audience next month the tools to fight it with ideas and laughs.  

“The Buddha had a premise called the “monkey mind.” 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,” she begins.  


“A lot of people play it safe, 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 you 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 Ted event and they are inspired to do something they always wanted to do, I’ve done my job.” 

The fifth-annual local ‘TED talk’, 2017 TEDxCharleston: Shake it Up, will be held at the Charleston Music Hall, at 37 John St. In downtown Charleston on Wednesday, October 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, For more information about the TED series, see Additionally, you can follow TED on Twitter at, or on Facebook at 


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