Sat Jun 1–Sun Jun 2, 2024

Soul of The City

A live filming of Brenda Wong-Aoki's newest work

“…a defiant call that the city’s living memory, its spirit and soul, persists.”

– San Francisco Chronicle


Building on the success of the world premiere of Soul of The City in 2023, Brenda Wong-Aoki and First Voice return to the Presidio Theatre for two more performances that will filmed by Emmy Award-winning filmmakers, Emiko Omori and Wendy Slick, to be released as a feature-length production documenting the experience.

Soul of The City transcends traditional performance boundaries, offering an audience-participatory exploration of San Francisco’s multifaceted history and identity. The audience follows a storyteller who embarks on a journey to find the soul of San Francisco, weaving a narrative through the city’s diverse cultural landscapes, including Chinatown, Japantown, and The Fillmore. The production showcases a rich blend of traditional Japanese theater, contemporary spoken word, pioneering Afro-Asian American Jazz, and digital visual technology. At the heart of the experience are stories that tell where we came from, who we are, and how we can reconnect with hope, unity, peace, and identity to restore the everyday magic, transformation, activism, and heart once and forever associated with San Francisco. New elements this year include Chinese Lion dancers, Japanese demons, and contemporary dance.

The audience experience begins with a communal celebration in the Presidio Theatre’s outdoor plaza. The Sacred Tree of San Francisco, an installation by Ikebana artist Hiroko Tsunetsugu, will stand in the plaza as a beacon for attendees to hang their composed prayers, hopes, and dreams. Audiences are encouraged to come dressed in celebratory attire, embodying the spirit of the event.

Soul of The City is more than a show–it’s a communal ritual where every voice, every story, and every spirit contributes to the tapestry of our City’s soul,” – Brenda Wong-Aoki



The Creative Team

Soul of The City is written by Brenda Wong-Aoki, features original music by Mark Izu (sho & contra bass) & Mas Koga (winds & keyboard), poetry by San Francisco’s poet laureate devorah major, vocals & Afro-Cuban percussion by Kenneth Nash, natori master Jimi Nakagawa on Taiko, natori master Shoko Hikage on koto, multi-instrumentalist Sara Sithi-Amnuai on trumpet, sheng and handmade electronics, choreography by Claudine Naganuma, multimedia digital collage by Andi Wong and Olivia Ting, and costumes designed by Lydia Tanji. Originally directed by David Furumoto.


Brenda Wong Aoki
Shoko Hikage
Mark Izu
Mas Koga
devorah major
Jimi Nakagawa
Kenneth Nash
Sara Sithi-Amnuai




About Brenda Wong-Aoki

Brenda Wong-Aoki is a masterful storyteller, playwright and performer whose works are deeply rooted in the rich tapestry of her 127-year family history in San Francisco, interlaced with Kabuki legends and personal experiences. A student of the revered Kyogen master Nomura Mansaku and Noh expert Nomura Shiro, Aoki’s unique position as an American woman allowed her rare access to these traditional Japanese arts. Her performances, characterized by a seamless blend of Eastern and Western theatrical traditions, explore themes of history, identity, and mythology. Aoki’s collaborations with partner Mark Izu have brought to life a diverse array of multi-disciplinary works, celebrated on both national and international stages. As a co-founder of First Voice, her commitment to storytelling that bridges cultures has made her an influential figure in the Asian American arts community and beyond.

About Mark Izu

Mark Izu, a pioneering composer, musician, and bandleader, has made significant contributions to the creation of Asian American Jazz, blending traditional Asian musical forms with African-American improvisation. His mastery of instruments like the acoustic bass, sheng, and sho has led to collaborations with renowned artists across various genres. Izu’s innovative compositions have not only earned him an Emmy Award but have also been featured in acclaimed film, theater, and live music performances worldwide. As the Artistic Director of the Asian American Jazz Festival for 15 years, Izu has played a pivotal role in shaping this unique musical genre, earning him a place in the Grove Dictionary of Music.


About First Voice

Founded by Brenda Wong Aoki and Mark Izu in 1997, First Voice is dedicated to bringing to life the stories and music of individuals navigating the space between diverse cultures. With a mission centered on the authenticity of personal experience, First Voice has become a cornerstone in the evolution of the Bay Area’s Asian American arts scene, influencing the global arts community through its innovative fusion of Asian theatrical, musical, and spoken word traditions with indigenous American art forms. From symphonic compositions and storytelling to jazz ensembles and large-scale theatrical performances, First Voice’s work is celebrated for its exploration of identity, home, and the universal quest for understanding across cultures.




This event is ticketed by the Presidio Theatre Box Office.
Ticket prices are subject to change. The Presidio Theatre allows returns up to 48 hours in advance of a performance, as long as it is within 30 days of the purchase. Processing fees cannot be refunded. For more information, please see the theatre’s Return Policy.
If you need assistance with ticketing please contact us at or 415-960-3949.


Sat, Jun 1
Sun, Jun 2



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