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Dear San Francisco: Postcards from a year of performances tell the story of the city

Each night before a performance of “Dear San Francisco,” the spellbinding circus show that took over for “Beach Blanket Babylon” at the storied Club Fugazi in North Beach, members of the audience are asked to write a postcard to the city of San Francisco. 

Fond memories, love letters, meaningful experiences and complaints about city life—nothing is off-limits and everything is encouraged. During the show, the acrobats pick the best two of the bunch and read them aloud as part of the performance, immortalizing the words forever in the minds of the audience.

"Dear San Francisco. I listened for that sound every time I walked down California St., every time I visited Union Square; I loved that song you played for us. Then, the pandemic hit and it stopped. I was heartbroken. Recently I found myself at Union Square again. Something was different—the rumble-clack-slap jazz song of the cables that power the cable cars. My heartbeat is back. Thank you." | Photo by Camille Cohen/The Standard

However, for every postcard selected, many others go unread—but not forgotten. 

“I’ve been keeping them all and building an archive of it,” said David Dower, Co-Producer of “Dear San Francisco” and Executive Director of Club Fugazi Experiences.

“We’ve had over 50,000 visitors to the show already, and so there’s a lot of postcards.”

The Standard recently sat down with Dower almost a year after the opening of the first “Dear San Francisco” performance to sift through the well-worn shoeboxes containing the thousands of stored postcards. Contained in them is a complex picture of a city steeped in mystery, romance, and history that is fighting for its future—and perhaps for its very soul.

“A lot of people write about what they miss about San Francisco, and a lot of people write about, ‘you’re still you, don’t let anybody tell you you’re not,’” Dower reflected. “It says something about the resilience of people who love this city and the resilience of the city.”

"I grew up in a small 99% white town in upstate NY. Left that town quickly after graduating from high school. Moved to Italy. While in Florence, working at a tourist shop, I did an informal survey, asking many of the American tour group members their favorite city. Hands down San Francisco was it. Moved to SF. Had never seen an Asian person before, never saw a Latino person, never saw gay people before either—but being African-American I knew immediately the diversity in this town was for me. Been here for decades and I can truly say: MY HEART IS IN SAN FRANCISCO" | Photo by Camille Cohen/The Standard
"I love walking in the outer avenues, on a foggy day, when you can only hear the sound of your own footsteps and the ocean." | Photo by Camille Cohen/The Standard

Conversely, many submissions questioned whether the city can ever return to its imagined glory, and whether it’s worth holding on as it transforms.

“It’s a ‘Dear San Francisco’ letter, so it could also be a breakup letter,” explained Dower. “Some people went right [to] the messiness.”

"Dear San Francisco, I need you to let me go. Your mist is suffocating me, my legs feel heavy as I walk through you. I don't belong with you. I need you to let me go. I won't forget the way you smell when I wake up on a hungover Sunday afternoon. I won't forget your crisp blue skies & soothing sun. You are imprinted in my mind forever. But I ask you. Let. Me. Go." | Photo by Camille Cohen/The Standard
"Dear SF, I came to you young, beautiful & idealistic. I gave you my love, my tears, my longing. You rewarded me with cold wet summers and deep carefully crafted wounds. I miss you everyday." | Photo by Camille Cohen/The Standard

Dower himself maintains that the city in itself is just that—a city. What makes it a success or failure, beautiful or broken, is the people who choose to call it home.

“It’s letters like this that remind me that we have to choose it every day. The city can’t do it for us. We are stewards of the thing we want, and if we aren’t going to live it every day, it’s not going to be.”

Jesse Rogala can be reached at