The Man Behind the Curtain
In the tempest-tossed world of American nonprofit theatre, Ed Decker (B.A., '81; M.A., '84) has accomplished what many theatre professionals dream of, yet most do not achieve. New Conservatory Theatre Center (NCTC), the San Francisco arts institution Decker founded, is celebrating 25 years of operation this year. The silver season opened with the world premiere of "Crucifixion" by Tony award-winning playwright Terrence McNally.
SFSU Theatre Arts Professor Matthew Miller was lighting designer for the McNally premiere; Decker's former classmate Annette Bening (B.A., '80) welcomed the audience on opening night via a recorded greeting.
While NCTC attracts the general theatre-going public, it focuses on youth issues and gay themes.
"We have always been committed to a vision that supports many voices simultaneously," Decker says. In addition to presenting new work and offering theatre arts classes for youth, NCTC has developed YouthAware, a touring theatre-in-education program for K-12 students that addresses such topics as prevention of HIV and substance abuse, nutrition, body image and sexual-assault awareness.
Decker founded NCTC after a stint as director of the Young Conservatory at American Conservatory Theater.
"Ed's success has a lot to do with his generosity as an artist and member of the community as well as his intelligence," says Brad Erickson, executive director of Theatre Bay Area, a nonprofit arts agency. "He cultivates new talent, fosters local writers and really cares about his audience."
NCTC's home at 25 Van Ness Avenue consists of three intimate theatres and other spaces for classes and workshops. This year's operating budget is $1.5 million.
"I know that sounds like a lot," Decker says, "but no matter how small or large the budget … it never seems like enough to do all that you dream of doing." Every year since its founding, the NCTC balance sheet has boasted a healthy earned and contributed income.
Ask Decker what he is most proud of and he answers very quickly: "Surviving."
But that's Decker being modest Erickson says. "Sometimes he has as many as six productions going at the same time. I don't know anyone else in town who does that."
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