Friday, February 5, 2010

'The Play is the thing. . . ' : Deratany, lawyer and playwright

Life must be lived as a play, said Plato, and Deratany makes plays, in law and in theater.

Rhonda Mangus has been dealing with the stress which accompanies conflict - especially when that conflict becomes a matter of law - since 2005. Her then 13 year old son, Michael, was identified as gay. And that is where the trouble began: Bullying and an eventual death threat led Mangus to take the son out North Tonawanda High School.

Little did she know that she herself would be accused of "educational neglect" and placed in the state's offenders data base, due to intervention on behalf of the Niagara County Department of Social Services and the New York State Office of Family and Child Services. This winter, she went up against the State of New York's Supreme Court, but failed to have the charge amended. Now, new determination to proceed once again has come in the form of a Chicago attorney, who is offering to advise her in the process, on a pro bono basis. Jay Paul Deratany - together with his associate, Natan Polum - are advising Mangus by phone as she gets a postponement for an appeal. This act of kindness and generosity - so unexpected - was enough to bring Mangus to tears. Deratany has a strong record of philanthropy and human rights advocacy, and was playwright of the work, "Haram Iran", debuting on the Chicago stage in 2008, and exploring the theme of homosexual oppression in Iran. He has been a contributor to the AIDS cause, and to education. In 2008 he ran for Cook County commissioner but lost the seat to the GOP incumbent in a narrow margin. But perhaps this singular act of kindness regarding Mangus' case - in giving hope and the will to fight to someone who had nearly lost both - is the more stunning, for being spontaneous and without any premeditation on his part. Deratany is clearly an eclectic , and this makes him both a Renaissance man, and a counselor of law in the classical and Aristotlean sense. And that, in these times, makes him as rare as he is precious.

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