There’s a new act in town with some pretty big shoes (or should we say hats?) to fill. Taking over the former home of “Beach Blanket Babylon” in the heart of North Beach, the cast of the city’s hottest new show “Dear San Francisco” is equal to the challenge.
The team behind “Dear San Francisco”, an art collective called The 7 Fingers, seamlessly blends spoken word poetry, high-flying circus acts, live music, and contemporary dance in a love letter to the city by the bay. They’ve created a show that brings together awe-inspiring acts from around the world for an evening of immersive entertainment. Think Cirque Du Soleil meets Pina Bausch.
GayCities had a chance to catch up with cast members of “Dear San Francisco” inside the newly renovated Club Fugazi. They share a little about their lives off stage and where to buy them a drink after the show.
Ruben Ingwersen (he/him)
Skills: Unicycle, Acrobatics, Static Pole
Stomping Grounds: Telegraph Hill
Post-Show Hangout: Vesuvio’s Cafe
This acrobatic Aussie began his circus journey in 2009 at the Flying Fruit Fly Circus, Australia’s leading youth circus. Before moving to San Francisco for the show, he was working as a barman in Melbourne. Like many performers, Ruben had to find another line of work to support himself during the pandemic. Hanging up the towel—literally—he left his bar job and ran away with the circus, saying, “ I was really looking forward to going back to performing and being able to look into the eyes of the other performers I share the stage with.”
When he’s not on stage, Ruben likes to hang out at the spa, meet up with friends at the basketball court, or hike to one of the city’s incredible panoramic views. He tells GayCities he favors “the view from Coit Tower or from Ina Coolbrith Park.”
Bella Diaz (they/them)
Skills: Gymnastics, Ballet, Martial Arts, Stunts
Stomping Grounds: Bayview
Post-Show Hangout: Columbus Cafe
Bella became intrigued by circus arts while working as a professional stunt-double. Training as a competitive gymnast since age 3, studying ballet, and dabbling in martial arts, Bella found a harmonious mesh of all those worlds in “Dear San Francisco.”
When The 7 Fingers cast Bella, they jumped at the idea of performing again. Since moving from the East Coast, they have found solidarity within the Bay Area queer community that reaffirms their own gender identity.
“I identify as non-binary,” Bella tells GayCities “I would like to make it clear, a non-binary gender expression is not the same as being trans, though I am a strong ally of the Transgender community. There are many nuances in the gender spectrum. Labeling someone as either masculine or feminine, assuming their gender identity based solely upon physical appearance, is heteronormative. I feel like the queer community in San Francisco and beyond tries to tear down and shatter these cultural biases.”
On their days off, Bella enjoys relaxing at Archimedes Banya, a Russian spa in Bayview with all the amenities. In addition to its full menu of spa services, this co-ed facility offers guests a dry and wet sauna, a hammam, jacuzzis, hot communal baths, cold plunge baths, a rooftop terrace, and a bar. After some much-deserved relaxation, they like to hit Polk Gulch, a hip ‘hood known for its eclectic second-hand shops and rowdy dive bars.
Maya Kesselman (she/her)
Skills: Hoop Diving, Acrobatics, Trapeze
Stomping Grounds: North Beach
Post-Show Hangout: Chief Sullivan’s
This San Francisco native has been pursuing a life in the circus since she was 10 years old. She first discovered her love of high-flying arts at SF’s Circus Center, a non-profit circus training and performing arts center overlooking Golden Gate Park. She’s traveled the globe with Cirque Du Soleil and says her homecoming is like a dream come true. “Being able to live in the city where I grew up, where my family is, and do what I love with amazing people, I feel very lucky and so thankful. Dreams come true.”
Currently residing in North Beach, Maya loves the vibe in her ‘hood. She says, “It always feels like fun things are happening. People are out and about grabbing drinks, dinner, or gelato! I also love to watch people playing with their dogs at Washington Square Park.”
Dominic Cruz (he/him)
Skills: Acrobatics, Hoop diving, and Pole climbing
Stomping Grounds: the golf course
Post-Show Hangout: The Boardroom
Born and raised in the East Bay, this part-time grad student has been immersed in the performing arts his whole life. Following in his family’s footsteps, Dominic started his training at Circus Center at a very young age. Another Cirque Du Soleil alum, he feels grateful for the opportunity to return from abroad and share his work with his community here at home.
Dominic likes to lie low off the stage. “One of my favorite things to do is play sports,” he tells us. “Golf has been my new go-to sport since we’re doing a lot of shows and I want to save my energy. Also, I’m going to school for psychology, so my days off are mostly spent studying and going to class.”
Jérémi Lévesque (he/him)
Skills: Parkour, Tumbling, Acrobatics
Stomping Grounds: Mission District
Post-Show Hangout: His dressing room
Originally from Montreal, this adrenaline junkie wasn’t the best at sports growing up, but he loved climbing and jumping off tall structures on the playground. After attending Montreal’s National Circus School, he joined 7 Fingers in 2016. He’s excited to live in SF and tells us he wants to explore the city as much as possible. “It’s an honor to perform here and build upon the legacy of Circus that exists in San Francisco,” he says.
He’s already found a favorite hangout spot in North Beach. When Jérémi’s not defying gravity on stage, you can find him channeling Jack Kerouac at The Poet’s Corner, a hidden lookout at the top of Ina Coolbrith Park. The park gets its name from the prominent San Francisco writer, Ina Coolbrith, who was the very first Poet Laureate of California.
You can catch these fine folks, and the rest of the “Dear San Francisco” cast, at Club Fugazi five nights a week.
All photos by Kevin Berne and The 7 Fingers.