Ed Decker and Robert Leone, who married each other amid 2008’s feverish Proposition 8 battles, may not have realized the potential sea-changing power of their own union when they embarked on what became an all-encompassing five-year journey to co-write a play.
Now they do.
Their new work, “Rights of Passage,” making its world premiere at New Conservatory Theatre Center in The City, is an intriguing civil-rights kaleidoscope.
Played by Jomar Tagatac, the protagonist is Wayan, a young, gay Hindu man living in Bali who is coming to terms with his culture and sexual identity. Yet the play also spotlights other LGBT characters facing various challenges in settings around the globe.
Moving beyond traditional storytelling, the piece also uses puppetry, masks, dance and digital media.
Decker and Leone hope the play illuminates the struggles of many people who are trying to establish their identities and live in authentic ways.
“Because our marriage rights were granted then swept away in 2008, we realized how self-involved we were with that particular issue and not as conscious, if you will, of what was going on in the rest of the world,” says Decker, who is also NCTC’s artistic director. “We began to think that it would better for the LGBT community as a whole to have a broader understanding of the struggles and triumphs from around the world.”
To that end, the couple thrust themselves into extensive research, working with members of human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, to flesh out some of the play’s details. Members from those groups, in fact, are making post-show appearances on some nights.
“While I am sitting here talking, at this same moment, somewhere else, there is probably a gay person sitting in jail somewhere, or a gay person hiding somewhere, or a gay person in Argentina celebrating their marriage,” Decker says. “There is a whole spectrum of challenges as well as triumphs that occur simultaneously around the world.”
The play also aims to recognize what Decker calls “the very important human-rights activists’ organizations around the globe bringing important LGBT-related messages to peoples’ attention.”
“There is so much going on in our lives that it’s so hard to grab on to, and connect to — everything,” he says. “But it’s our hope that, from at least the queer and allied community’s perspective, we are shining a light on something whose time has come.”
IF YOU GOT
Rights of Passage
Presented by New Conservatory Theatre Center
Where: 25 Van Ness Ave., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays; closes Sept. 16
Tickets: $18 to $40
Contact: (415) 861-8972, nctcsf.org