How I See San Francisco: Devin Henderson of "Dear San Francisco"
"Dear San Francisco," the high-flying, awe-inspiring new show currently in residence at Club Fugazi, is a love letter to San Francisco. Among the talented singers, dancers, acrobats, and circus performers in its cast are a number of San Francisco natives. We spoke with Devin Henderson, a cast member who was born and raised here, about the show, what it means to him, and what fun things he likes to do around the city. This is how Devin sees San Francisco.
Photo by Tyler Parks
How did you come to be part of "Dear San Francisco" at Club Fugazi?
I grew up in Noe Valley. My older siblings were attending circus classes in Potrero Hill with a great acrobatics master trainer. Before I could walk, I was already introduced to the circus. Along with that, I was introduced to members of the famous Pickle Family Circus, Gypsy Snider and Shana Carol.
I moved away and followed my dream to travel the world while performing. I have worked professionally in the circus for 12 years now, on many different projects, most of which were with The 7 Fingers, Shana and Gypsy's company in Montreal.
When I heard that they were doing a show in San Francisco, about San Francisco, I was thrilled. When I found out they wanted to have SF natives in the show, and one of the SF natives was going to be me, my heart lit up.
This show is all about the allure and impact that San Francisco has had on people from all walks of life, across time. What is it about the city that keeps you coming back to it?
For starters, it is where my family, friends, and community is. I think the thing I like the most about San Francisco is that it is ever-changing. It rolls with the punches and keeps its finger on the pulse. Although San Francisco will always have its ideals, it is able to adapt and morph. It is like seeing a best friend from your childhood that you haven't seen in 10 years—they may dress differently and listen to different music, but they still make you laugh 'til it hurts.
You have San Francisco roots, and Club Fugazi has been an institution in this city for decades. What does it mean to you to be performing at such a historic local venue?
Every time I step into the theater, there is a notion of pride. Knowing what came before "Dear San Francisco" is enough to make any person want to step into that building. Being able to perform a show that speaks about the history of this amazing city and all its chapters adds a layer of excitement and emotion on top. Not to mention that the renovation of the theater itself makes it easy on the eyes. I think of the theater like an older individual whose bones and markings tell an amazing story, and that person received a new colorful heart that is glowing and pulsing. I feel those reverberations while I’m performing with the audience’s laughter and applause and excitement.
When you're not on stage, what are your favorite places to go in San Francisco for live performances?
Ocean Ale House has a great lineup of local musicians that play most Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Also I have some friends who started BATCO (Bay Area Theater Company). I always love going and seeing what they come up with.
Where else do you indulge your artistic side in San Francisco?
I like to ride my bike down Valencia Street and in and around the Mission District and look at all the amazing murals and street art. 24th Street is always lined with papel picado hanging between the trees. It's so colorful and lovely. Often there will be street musicians who are fun to listen to.
Sometimes I ride my bike under the freeway or to La Raza Park and watch the skaters. I wish I could skate like them; it truly is an art form. If all that was not enough, sometimes I'll head over to the Alamo Drafthouse and catch a new release.
What does a typical day in San Francisco look like for you?
Wake up, make some breakfast with Kalani in our 39th Ave. apartment, drive down to the beach, jump in the water, come back, check emails, and finish any computer work I may have. I don't like being on the computer for too long during the day.
I might call up my family to see what they are up to. Both of my older siblings have kids under 3, so I like to take them around and watch them experience the places I love in San Francisco through their eyes. Then I will probably get a sandwich from one of the many awesome sandwich shops around the city: Yellow Submarine in the Inner Sunset, Sub Center at West Portal, or Gene's in the Sunset (pastrami swiss, center cheesesteak, or turkey avocado, respectively).
Head to the theater, and get ready for the show (warm up, training, make-up, costume, goofing around with the cast). And after the performance, I enjoy going out on the town, grabbing some cocktails and maybe even going out dancing at the bars in the Mission. I get home tired, shower, and sleep.
Which neighborhood, other than your own, do you like to explore?
I have been totally excited to explore North Beach since beginning this show. I didn't explore it as much as a kid for some reason. Hard to believe that living 30 years in a city that is only 49 square miles there are still so many places I have yet to explore.
What's your favorite annual event that happens in San Francisco?
The Chinese New Year parade. I remember going there with my family as a kid. I loved the lion dancing and the drums and lines of firecrackers. So much energy. We even got to perform in it one year with the San Francisco School of Circus Arts.
Where and what would you choose for your last meal in San Francisco?
I am a pizza guy—always have been, always will be. And I always liked Escape from New York pizza. They have so much variety.
Which restaurant is still on your list to dine at in San Francisco?
Hook Fish on Irving Street.
Where do you like to view sunrise and sunset? What are some of your favorite views or vantage points around the city?
On top of Bernal Hill for the sunrise, maybe with a Pinhole coffee in hand. And sunset at Ocean Beach, of course, with an IPA in hand.
I also love Billy Goat Hill. They used to have a rope swing that was pretty bad-ass. There is a somewhat secret spot to see the Golden Gate Bridge on the 17th tee at the Lincoln Park golf course. Also, standing at the top of the hill on Hyde Street and looking down the steep hills waving all the way to the Bay Bridge.
What are some of the San Francisco experiences you can't wait to have again?
Run Bay to Breakers. Catch a Giants or Warriors game. Be a part of Carnaval. Sit at Dolores Park with my friends from high school having a few beers. Playing volleyball in Golden Gate Park. Skating with my bro along the Embarcadero.
Tell us about a time you felt most at home in San Francisco.
Running up to the park with my friends on Saturdays to play basketball. Upper Noe was the place to be.
What should every visitor to San Francisco do at least once?
Walk the Crosstown Trail. Or even just parts of it. You really see different parts of the city.
What’s one part of San Francisco that you wish visitors knew about?
Probably the Embarcadero. It has so much to offer.
Any final advice for visitors coming to San Francisco?
Enjoy it, and leave it better than you found it.