The Independent Eye Closes

One of the most unique theatre entities in the North Bay has closed shop.

After 46 years traveling and entertaining the world with their unique style of performance art and puppetry, Conrad Bishop and Elizabeth Fuller have decided The Independent Eye will no longer be an operating concern. They’ve released the following statement:

“As of two weeks ago, we’re laying our theatre to rest. This is our curtain call.

Simple reasons: For 46 years, The Independent Eye has been the center of our lives (apart from kids & one another), but it’s no longer functional. We’ll continue to do some performance, but we don’t need the corporate structure to do it; it’ll save Elizabeth a bit of bookkeeping and some kerfuffle when we pass.

Elizabeth Fuller, Conrad Bishop

Intention is to do some local performing and to undertake a “Bishop & Fuller Final Tour” back East when the plague lifts.

We’ll continue the website, as a rich archive, and the sale of our DVDs. We’ll keep the records worth keeping and try to figure what to do with 20 bins of large puppets. Our lives will be devoted to writing fiction & memoir. Tune into our weekly blog at DamnedFool.com.

The long chronicle can be skimmed at http://www.independenteye.org/chronicle, along with countless photos, scripts, audio, etc.

Yes, it’s long. We hived off from our first ensemble, Milwaukee’s Theatre X (having migrated from college teaching), in 1974, moved to Chicago, focused heavily on touring. Then to Lancaster PA in 1977, grew roots; uprooted in 1992 to Philadelphia and California in 1999. From Song Stories, Sunshine Blues and Dessie (1974-76) to King Lear and Survival (2017-19), touring has always been our heart (wearing out three Dodge vans, now a Prius), along with collaborations, residencies, running multiple “seasons,” a small bit of freelance work, brief sojourns into the mainstream, and a bunch of public radio. Always doomed or blest to fly under the radar.

Nearly 4,000 performances in 38 states. 104 productions, countless workshops, two children. And the dedication of dozens, hundreds, thousands of actors & artists, trustees & donors, tour hosts & collaborators & media workers, and above all, audiences who must’ve said, “This sounds weird but let’s risk it,” and came to the show.

How do I (we) feel? All sorts of ways. Of course there’s the same grief you’d feel at the passing of a beloved, even though you’ve known from an early age that people die. There’s retroactive pride in the work, and also in living a life so counter to my cautious, guarded temperament. And there’s a sense of “Enough, already!” A completion. We’ve done everything possible to avoid becoming an institution (though I have enormous respect for those who do), and we’ve surely succeeded in that

I miss directing intensely, and an audience. I miss haggling with Elizabeth over an audio edit at 2 a.m. I have scant hope of our novels gaining traction, though I believe they’re worthy of notice. And I believe in the ocean, its gulls, its smell, its quadraphonic voices, and its endurance.”

Based out of Sebastopol since 1999, Bishop and Fuller intend to direct their energies to writing though they do hope to undertake a “final tour” when conditions allow.

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