Eye Zen Presents is a San Francisco-based transdisciplinary ensemble theater company creating new work to unearth and elevate histories of LGBTQ ancestors, founded by Seth Eisen in 2007.
The organization artistically recaptures LGBTQ stories and traditions erased from historical records to create a lasting body of evidence and to disseminate these vital legacies for future generations. Eye Zen’s productions engender an aesthetic that experimentally blends performative and visual disciplines: puppetry and live-drawing is fused with contemporary dance, drag, live music, physical theater and video.
Artistic Director Seth Eisen began creating original work in 1994: his first full-length performance, Two- Fold/One Kind (1994) blended Drag Balls and Voguing with Two-Spirit Native American traditions. For the next 15 years, Eisen staged performance pieces, street spectacles and installations at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, ’Zeum and The Oakland Museum and appeared in a number of productions he created in collaboration with other Bay Area artists. The 2007 National Queer Arts Festival presented Fagala, Eisen’s production exploring gay self-loathing and the reclamation of the queer body; that year he staged A Hishi Musical at the 2007 Puppet Love Festival.
In 2007, Eisen founded Eye Zen Presents to support the creation and production of Blackbird: Honoring a Century of Pansy Divas, and became a fiscally sponsored project of CounterPulse. The work was developed over two separate residencies at Mama Calizo’s Voice Factory in 2008 and 2010. Through puppetry and visual media this original solo performance piece explored the lives of seven culturally diverse Twentieth Century queer performers, who coped with discrimination by inventing innovative ways to be out, queer and vocal despite their outsider status. This critically acclaimed piece premiered to sold-out audiences at the 2010 National Queer Arts Festival.
In 2011-12, Eye Zen Presents produced Buffet Flats: Queering Slow Food, a series of 5 sold-out events in personal homes and cultural centers. Part queer cabaret, part live cooking show and part ecology presentation, Buffet Flats was a dinner-salon series staged by a racially diverse creative team of Queer visual and performance artists, local chefs, and ecology activists. Buffet Flats educated the audience about local food sources, biodiversity and diverse culinary traditions through puppetry and performance art.
In 2012, Eye Zen Presents became the artist-in-residence at CounterPulse and developed Homo File: Chronicling the Life of Samuel Steward (1929-1993). The show fused bunraku puppetry, shadow puppetry, aerial dance, live music, live drawing, and theater to tell the story of Samuel Steward, a English professor, tattoo artist, and queer rebel. After selling out the run during the work-in-progress showings and receiving a San Francisco Arts Commission Grant, Eye Zen went on to develop Homo File into an evening-length premiere. It went on to complete a sold out 3 week run, bridged multiple marginalized communities, and had critics saying: “[A] multi-media and cross-disciplinary show [Homo File] sports a formidable narrative arc and aesthetic vision as it explores the life of Samuel Steward (1909–1993), an amazingly well connected English professor, writer of homoerotic fiction, famous tattoo artist, and sexual rebel. . . . Eisen and his winning cast place Steward in a mise-en-scène equally as promiscuous, ranging over dramatic scenes, aerial acrobatics, shadow puppetry, and even a hilariously lewd application of the old teacher’s standby, the overhead projector.” – Rob Avila, San Francisco Bay Guardian
Meg Murray serves as the Company Manager for Eye Zen Presents. She marries twenty years experience in strategic professional services consulting and thirty years of stage production and event management expertise. She is a San Francisco based visual and performing artist. Her recent works celebrate San Francisco nightlife. Both her portraiture collection Paint:Show, and her publication San Francisco Drag - A Coloring Book, focus on the spectrum of diverse performance and character among the city’s performing community. Meg creates commissioned art in the form of stage properties and graphic design, and frequently performs as Profundity.
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♥♥ This site is a work-in-progress with additional information to be added including our Charlip Project blog, Seth Eisen's visual art, The Eye Zen Presents performance archive, and individual photo credits for our amazing photographers Gary Ivanek, Mark McBeth, Kwai Lam, Danny Nicoletta, and Phillip Ringler