Hi there! My name is Seth Eisen and I’m a performer, visual artist and Artistic Director of the company Eye Zen Art. Our work is a hybrid of visual art and live performance that investigates the traditions of Queer history, Queer space and Queer culture. Basically, that means we combine various artistic disciplines to make riveting projects that reclaim and affirm the spirit, stories and traditions of LGBTQ life while stretching the possibilities of artistic output. I am thrilled beyond belief to tell you about my upcoming project Homo File!
Over the past year and a half I’ve been in the research phase for Homo File, the newest show in my series of Queer history performance projects. Homo File chronicles the life of Samuel Steward, a college professor who was also a prolific author of homoerotic fiction, an influential tattoo artist, and a Queer sexual renegade who lived for 30 years in the Bay Area. Earlier this year I received the huge honor of being given an artist-in-residency at CounterPULSE (a SF-based theater and arts organization) to create the first iteration of Homo File. In May of 2012 I began incubating the new show with a wildly creative cast of 6 artist/performers.
WHY IS THIS PROJECT IMPORTANT?
Homo File is important in both its form and its content. Sam Steward was instrumental in demystifying homosexual erotic activity and presenting it in all of its physical and emotional complexity, helping to pave the way for future generations of LGBTQ people. Steward’s evolution developed in part through friendships and professional relationships with author Gertrude Stein and her partner Alice B. Toklas, Alfred Kinsey, the revolutionary sex researcher, Thornton Wilder the playwright, George Platt Lynes, the renown photographer, as well as numerous other LGBTQ luminaries. Steward and his peers, who describe what they saw and felt in their world, allow us to see how our current LGBTQ community came into existence.
September’s work-in-progress performance will focus on Steward’s steadfast practice of documenting his sexual experiences, his creative life and the ongoing development of his alliances among Queer artists in an era of few civil liberties. Steward’s practice of documentation has become a record of his life and a reconciliation of his sexual orientation, identity and practice. By refusing to submit to social oppression, Steward and his circle helped shape contemporary Queer culture, in spite of the repressive climate in which they existed. Homo File will explore and contrast the lives and relationships between our contemporary Queer culture and that of the early-mid 20th century artists.
We are going to tell Steward’s life story in a unique, devised theater piece that combines physical theater, puppetry, live drawing, music, video, and aerial work. The piece also marks the beginning of a new era for my company, Eye Zen Art. Coming out of a year long collaborative project Buffet Flats and a 3-year solo project entitled Blackbird, I am now taking on the artistic challenge of writing, conceiving and directing a full-length piece in collaboration with the company I’ve assembled over the past 3 months. This multidisciplinary cast consists of visual artists, puppeteers, drag performers, musicians, actors and circus artists. We’ve been developing Homo File as a work-in-progress and the first version will premier for a two-week run at CounterPulse this September 20th-30th 2012. I intend to complete the piece and premier the full-length work in 2013.
This first step to mount Homo File cannot happen without your help.
We have applied for several grants but we still need to reach out to our community. Even with the fabulous support we’re getting from CounterPULSE, it’s always a risk to say YES to a project, to take on financial burden. We need your help to alleviate this burden.
Where does all that Money go?
The CounterPULSE residency provides essential support for this project with rehearsal space and staff for marketing and technical needs. However, the program does not cover stipends for participating artists. Resident artists at CounterPULSE must raise funds to pay performers and production costs outside of the small budget given to commissioned artists. For example, art materials specific to puppet and set building are crucial to our particular theatrical vision, fusing puppets with human performers. Your support would allow us to purchase crucial supplies as well as paying performing artist and designer fees such as scenic, video, costume designers and a musical composer. My budget of $12k for the project is pretty low for materials, designers and a cast of 10 artists. Almost a third of that has been raised but because of the current arts funding scene is so competitive sources have dried up and we are relying on our community to help us make this important work. By supporting this project, you will help us create Homo File in its first incarnation and bring our message into the larger public sphere. With your help we will remember the lives of significant LGBTQ ancestors and how they impacted our communities today. Without artists like Sam Steward there would not have been a Stonewall revolution.
You can read more about the process of creation and about the show on my CountePULSE blog: http://counterpulse.org/artists/seth-eisen/
You can see examples of my other recent work on my websites:
eyezen.org and buffetflats.org
Tickets are available at counterpulse.org
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