Over the past year I’ve been in the research phase for my next Queer history performance project titled Homo File, chronicling the life of Sam Steward, (1907-1994). I will write, create and direct an ensemble of multidisciplinary performers/artists/collaborators in my new Queer history performance project titled Homo File, chronicling the life of Sam Steward, (1907-1994). Steward was a college professor, a prolific author of homoerotic fiction, an influential tattoo artist, and Queer sexual maverick who lived his last 3 decades in the Bay Area. His artistic development and Queer self-awareness evolved through friendships with Alfred Kinsey, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Thornton Wilder, George Platt Lynnes as well as numerous other LGBT luminaries.
The performance will feature Steward’s steadfast practice of documenting his sexual experiences and the development of his alliances amongst Queer artists in an era of few civil liberties. Steward and his circle helped shape contemporary Queer culture despite the repressive climate they existed in. The threat of being outed, tried and jailed were always imminent. Steward was a Queer maverick and one of many lost LGBT histories. Homo File will explore and contrast the lives and relationships between our contemporary Queer culture and that of the early-mid 20th century artists that required significant risks for survival.
Homo File will combine puppetry, live music, video, movement and physical theater. The piece will continue Eye Zen Art’s tradition of creating visually dynamic, interdisciplinary work with a focus on Queer history, aesthetics and sensibilities. The piece will work to raise awareness about Sam Steward and his Queer and artistic milieu of the 1930s-through the 1970s. With Homo File, Eye Zen Art continues to harness and reclaim historic traditions of Queer culture to provoke community development, encourage essential dialogue, and promote social research into the lives of LGBT ancestors.
I will incubate this new work-in-progress with a small cast of multidisciplinary performers who will become part of the development of the ideas. Together we will work with the historical data, stories, music, visuals and ephemera that will become the raw material of the work-in-progress. The piece will combine puppetry, live music, video, movement and physical theater. My intention is to develop the piece in a primary phase of development for the 30-minute version to be presented at CounterPulse in mid-September. I intend to complete the piece as a full-length work with additional support at a later date.
My residency @ CounterPULSE
CounterPULSE has played a seminal role in my artistic development in the Bay Area. Early and recent projects were incubated there. Since my first solo performance at 848 in 1994 it has provided artistic roots, a creative lifeline and community. The piece I want to make will mark the beginning of a new era for my company, Eye Zen Art. Coming out of a 3-year solo project it has been my dream to create and direct a full-length piece with an ensemble. I plan to direct the piece but not play a lead role as a performer. This residency will provide the extraordinary opportunity of time, studio space and support to develop this new work that would be otherwise impossible in the current economic crisis. I am so damn excited to begin!
The residency began a couple weeks ago with my Call for Artists/Audition. It was amazing! 12 people showed up and helped me kick start the process of incubating the themes, stories and ideas surrounding Steward and his peers. It was wonderful to get into the space and with so many fun and talented folks willing to tell their own stories and jump into the process. There were some really great images that came out of that afternoon including an operatic, risqué shadow play with Emily Park, Elana Isaacs, Charlie Gibson and Rich Hutchinson illustrating Steward’s early affair with Rudolph Valentino. A powerful and eerie performance involving a dance of hands that never touch by Neon Weiss and Harold Burns was a bathroom scene depicting an erotic anonymous pen pal Steward had. He exchanged notes left in a slat in a bathroom stall for months, though they never met.
Another great scene with Lori Higa as Alice Toklas and Jason Torres Hancock as Gertrude Stein with as Jed Barnum as Frances Rose and Brian Delp as Steward was hilarious– a mad dive into their life Bilignin, France. The scene took place at country house when Sir Francis Rose brought Hemingway to dinner and he got so drunk that Steward, Stein, Toklas and Rose lead a town wide search in the car when they discovered a life size puppet on the side of the road that they bring to life.