A beautiful artistic performance, supported by the power of words, has been taking the stage at Club Fugazi in San Francisco since late 2021. And is here to stay.
Dear San Francisco: A High-Flying Love Story is the name of a show that intentionally brings acrobatics, arts, and reflection together and gives an experience like no other. It takes place in what used to be the artistic home of Beach Blanket Babylon, yet the vibe seems to not have changed. Starting in 1976, Steve Silver’s Beach Blanket Babylon ran for a total of forty-five years, becoming the world’s longest-running musical revue. The production played for more than 17,200 performances to over 6.5 million guests, taking its final bow in December 2019. Today, Club Fugazi puts the excitement of a live performance together with a nightclub atmosphere.
Curated to match the world-class caliber of the performances, Club Fugazi features a menu of small bites and plates sourced from local purveyors, and a wine and beer selection designed to complement its Italian roots. Guests are seated at community counters, on chairs that move to take in the full room as the performance swirls around them.
With “Dear San Francisco,” Club Fugazi brings a 90-minute ride through the city in a breathtaking aerial extravaganza, perfect for an afternoon or night out. The venue is so tiny that you’re close to the stage and the performers, no matter where you are seated.
“Dear San Francisco” is produced by The 7 Fingers, a foundation with a mission spanning from supporting an iconic creative hub and boosting innovation, all the way to inspiring communities and propelling the next generation of artists. And so it does in San Francisco, thanks to nine artists and acrobats from Mexico, China, Spain, the United Kingdom, Germany, and both coasts of the United States. As highlighted by their producers, Shana Carroll and Gypsy Snider, San Francisco is “a city of acceptance, daring, revolution and boundless beauty; the show seeks to capture its very essence within the historic walls of the Club Fugazi.”
The show has become memorable thanks to the mix of acrobatics, juggling, parkour, circus training, rhythmic gymnastics, and acting. Not only does it result in unexpected moves and landings, but also in never-trivial content: all these performers use their talents to tell the story of a city, San Francisco, that they got to know and love, while it keeps reinventing and redefining itself, and inspiring many. It opens with historical images of San Francisco at the beginning of the 20th century, a city shaken by the earthquake, where everybody and everything moves fast. That makes it easy for the performers to follow along, using athleticism, precision, and grace. Music played by a guitar kicks off a round of letters written by people in the audience and read out loud by the performers. A moment to think of the why and the how San Francisco can, and will, mark people’s lives: a long minute that brings, metaphorically, each attendee on stage for a solo letter, in which they can see themselves as both the writer and the recipient.
After an emotional start though, it becomes clear that each performer will almost run their own show while interacting with their peers, in a symphony of skills that gracefully balance each other. Enmeng Song, who has been part of many The 7 Fingers’ productions and was a member of Cirque du Soleil’s IRIS and Volta, gives his best with the diabolo, a circus prop with an axle and two cups, recalling his Chinese roots and culture. He shares the stage with his wife, Shengnan Pan, a child prodigy who started her circus training at 8. They both entertain and enchant the audience in a duet of moves and coordination.
As the artists interact and pull the strings of the performance, Michael Patterson’s voice stays across with funny gags, a reminder of his past and love for acting. An intriguing way of using words to welcome each performer on stage for their glorious moment: Carlos Francós Peré keeps everyone’s adrenaline high as he goes up and down the pole multiple times. Same for Serena Aguilar Izzo, Joëlle Ziörjen, Chloe Somers Walier, and Saffi Watson.
The scene is enriched by a conversation in an old phone booth, an aerial move on a trapeze, jumps on a teeterboard, and foot juggling with one, two, three umbrellas, almost like the blooming of a magnificent human composition. From London and China to what could be the street of any city in the world, the performers’ call for their roots engages people in a show between the past and the present. The audience gasps and laughs, enjoying the uniqueness of the up-close view and the acrobats occasionally walking among them. “Dear San Francisco” ends with a round of poems, including pieces by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Right before a big thank you, performers all sing “San Francisco” by Scott McKenzie.
For those who come to San Francisco, the time watching this show will be a love-in experience, and they will surely meet a whole generation in motion.
“Dear San Francisco: A High-Flying Love Story” will be at Club Fugazi until the end of 2022, including two performances on New Year’s eve, before a well-deserved break. It will come back in February, right on time for Valentine’s Day to celebrate the love for both people and the city by the bay.