About This Artist

Seth Eisen imageSeth Eisen (Artistic Director) is a San Francisco-based artist creating a hybrid of live performance and visual media as a vehicle to broaden human perspectives and effect social change. He performed as a member of the Butoh companies Harupin–Ha and Ink Boat from 1994-99. From 2000-10 he toured with Keith Hennessy and Circo Zero across the US and Europe. His solo performances and installation projects have been featured in the San Francisco Bay Area at The Oakland Museum of California, Yerba Buena Center, as well as being presented in art spaces on both coasts. For the past 20 years, Eisen staged performance pieces, street spectacles and installations and appeared in a number of collaborative productions created with other Bay Area artists. In 2007, Eisen founded Eye Zen Presents, a theater company that promotes social change by linking Queer history and aesthetics to contemporary Queer culture. The company’s productions have focused on recovering the lost history of Queer ancestors whose lives have been erased from the historical record. The work engenders an aesthetic that communicates across multiple genres and frameworks, blurring boundaries and expanding the dialogue between theater and visual art.


Eye Zen Presents: Mission, Vision and History

Eye Zen Presents promotes social change by employing the arts to reclaim the history, stories and traditions of Queer culture. Founded by Seth Eisen in 2007, Eye Zen creates visually dynamic, interdisciplinary devised theater productions that promote community dialogues on a wide-range of LGBTQ historical, social and political issues. All of Eye Zen’s productions have resonated deeply with LGBT audiences because they artistically examine periods when social and political repression erased most of the evidence of the nation’s LGBT community from the pages of history. In addition to artistically expressing and recapturing our community’s little-known past, our productions have explored the many self-protective disguises queer people have worn to conceal their private lives from the public.

Artistic Director Seth Eisen began creating original work in 1994 and, in 2007, Eisen founded Eye Zen Presents to raise funds to support the production of Blackbird: Honoring a Century of Pansy Divas, and became a fiscally sponsored client of San Francisco’s CounterPULSE. This production examined the lives of seven culturally diverse Queer artists of the 20th century such as disco diva Sylvester, New Wave operatic siren Klaus Nomi, film and stage star Danny Kaye and Brazil’s Ney Matogrosso, whose work subverted their era’s prevailing cultural norms by inventing innovative ways to be out, queer and vocal. Blackbird premiered at the 2010 National Queer Arts Festival and was subsequently staged 11 times in San Francisco.

In 2011-12, Eye Zen originated Buffet FlatsQueering Slow Food, a series of 5 sold-out performance events that took place in individual homes and at community sites. A racially diverse creative team of Queer actors, musicians, performance artists, chefs, farmers and ecology specialists worked with Eye Zen to stage these events. Part Queer history cabaret, part dinner theater and part environmental education program, they  informed the audience about the Pansy Craze of the 1920s, Gay history, local food sources and diverse culinary traditions within the LGBT community.


About Homo File

Homo File, a multidisciplinary theatrical production chronicling the life of Samuel Steward (1909-1993). Steward was a college professor, a prolific author of homoerotic fiction, an influential tattoo artist, and a sexual rebel who lived in the Bay Area for 30 years before dying at age 84, nearly forgotten. Homo File was developed at CounterPULSE as work-in-progress through the ARC program where we created the work during our residency (May-September 2012). In September 2012 we staged eight sold-out performances at CounterPULSE of a 40-minute work-in progress. Since then the creative team has been developing a 90-minute production that will premiere in May 2014.

Since 2007, our productions have told the stories of little known and under-recognized LGBT people whose lives contributed to the formation of contemporary Queer culture. Our current production, Homo File, presents Samuel Steward’s complex life through a devised theater piece incorporating, puppetry, live and recorded music, visual projections and other multi-media forms. It is the first full-length performance about this unique pre-Stonewall pioneer who was connected to many gay luminaries but not widely known.

 I began creating Homo File after reading a biography of Steward’s life, attending a scholarly conference about his work, and interviewing several people who knew him. In the 1950s and 60s, civil rights activists employedHomophile’ as an alternative to the word ‘homosexual.’ Samuel Steward lived for almost 85 years and meticulously described every one of his sexual encounters in his notebooks, “The Stud Files.” These prolific memoirs fill in many missing pieces of Queer history during the pre-gay liberation era (1930 through 1969), a period when the vast majority of the nation’s LGBT community lived underground in fear of being outed, fired, jailed and socially ostracized.

Homo File’s chronological narrative structure highlights the key moments of Samuel Steward’s life, as he evolves over the course of the Twentieth Century through his friendships with author Gertrude Stein and her partner Alice B. Toklas, revolutionary sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, playwright Thornton Wilder, renowned gay photographer George Platt Lynes and numerous other LGBTQ luminaries. Steward’s life story reflects the experiences of many Queer ancestors whose lives have been erased from the historical record. His writings provide a window into the life of a gay man who accepted his sexual orientation and examined his sexual impulses as sources of self-knowledge and artistic vision. Steward’s writings are a testament to how difficult it was for earlier generations of LGBTQ men and women to pursue self-empowerment and achieve self-acceptance while living inside a homophobic culture defined by prejudice and intolerance. By refusing to submit to social oppression, Steward paved the way for future generations of LGBTQ Civil Rights advocates and contemporary Queer culture.


Reading Room:

Books By Samuel Steward (Phil Andros)

As Samuel M. Steward:

As Phil Andros:

Books about Samuel Steward:

Archived Events

Rainbow Logic: Arm in Arm with Remy Charlip

Eye Zen Presents
NOV 4-6, 11-13, 18-20 // FRI-SAT at 8PM, SUN at 7PM

Homo File

Seth Eisen
May 30-June 15th FRI-SAT 8pm, SUN at 7PM

Homo File

Seth Eisen
May 30-June 15th FRI-SAT 8pm, SUN at 7PM

Blog Roll