Club Fugazi, the historic North Beach theatre that hosted Steve Silver's Beach Blanket Babylon through a remarkable 45 seasons and 17,200 performances, is busting out of the pandemic with a new residency by Montreal-based circus troupe called Dear San Francisco: A High-Flying Love Story.
The production, intended like its predecessor to be a long-term residency, is an intimate and immersive tribute to the beauty, legendary personalities, and the incredible tenacity of the City by the Bay. Each performance will feature acrobatics, choreography, spoken word, original music, and video projections.
"Coming out of the fog of 2020 and the litany of calamities and challenges that had befallen our city in the years leading up to that, we wanted to offer a story—and an experience—that reawakens our collective sense of joy among those of us who have loved San Francisco all along, and reveals its enigmatic gifts to people discovering San Francisco for the first time," said David Dower, Club Fugazi Experiences Executive Director. "Circus is the perfect storytelling mode to deliver that sense of unstoppable resilience at the heart of the matter for all of us."
Bay Area natives Shana Carroll and Gypsy Snider, who have extensive backgrounds in theater and choreography, started The 7 Fingers in 2002. Since its inception, the modern circus troupe had performed for nearly seven million people across the globe when they toured 672 locations in 54 countries. Now the duo’s focus is on filling Club Fugazi’s seats with “Dear San Francisco.”
The show tells a series of stories covering historical moments in San Francisco. One of Snider’s favorites, a dance number called “Fire,” tells the story of the 1906 Earthquake and the ensuing conflagration that destroyed much of the city.
"San Francisco became symbolically this idea of a Phoenix rising from the ashes," Snider told Here/Say. "And that became a kind of secular thing that developed in the city of sort of everything being destroyed and then being rebuilt."
To add to the experience, Dear San Francisco guests will be able to order eats from a curated menu of small bites from local purveyors, paired with a selection of wines and beers to complement Club Fugazi's Italian roots. Guests will also have the option to mingle with the cast post-show. When asked if she feels the pressure of delivering a new concept to Club Fugazi even as San Franciscans still mourn the loss of Beach Blanket Babylon, Snider told us that the experience will be incomparable.
"I do believe that what we are trying to create could be a spiritual successor to Beach Blanket Babylon, said Snider. "I think there is something about this neighborhood and the fact that this jewel box theater has a space for people to come and congregate around art, joy, and connectivity. We want to capture that feeling that the ‘Beach Blanket’ brought to the city and the neighborhood."
Club Fugazi, founded in 1913 and located in the center of San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood, has an illustrious artistic history. Jazz pianist Thelonious Monk used to record his famous 1959 solo album, "Thelonious Alone in San Francisco." The theater hosted readings for Beat poets during the 1950s and early 1960s, including the late Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Jack Kerouac, and Alan Ginsberg. The Grateful Dead had their debut album's release party at Club Fugazi in 1967.
"Club Fugazi has had many iterations—even different names—throughout the years, but it has always been a social club, and always celebrated its Italian roots," said General Manager Eric Eislund. "We are leaning into the word 'Club' in our name and creating an experience we hope people will want to return to over and over."
Tickets are on sale for “Dear San Francisco: A High-Flying Love Story,” with the first preview show premiering tonight. For more information, visit Club Fugazi's website.
Meaghan Mitchell can be reached at [email protected]
Jesse Rogala can be reached at [email protected]