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Fugue: The Immersive Performance that Wanders Through the Mission

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fugue fyo͞oɡ (noun) (noun: fugue; plural noun: fugues)

1.
MUSIC
a contrapuntal composition in which a short melody or phrase (the subject) is introduced by one part and successively taken up by others and developed by interweaving the parts.

2.
PSYCHIATRY
a state or period of loss of awareness of one’s identity, often coupled with flight from one’s usual environment, associated with certain forms of hysteria and epilepsy.

***

The J Church was supposed to get there in plenty of time for me to arrive at the Holy Innocencts’ Episcopal Church for my scheduled departure to The New City, “a place almost identical to San Francisco, but better.” Unfortunately I was still in the deeply flawed fascimile where MUNI remains unreliable. Despite having charged my phone before leaving, it had mysteriously sank from 45 to 1 percent in the short time I had been waiting. There was magic in the air, but it was not on my side. I was late.

It was opening night of Fugue, the newest installment from Detour Dance. A unique experience billed as an “immersive performance through San Francisco’s Mission District” produced by Eric Garcia + Kat Cole. The web site, which I  — of course had never visited — had warned not to be late.

1) There is absolutely NO LATE ENTRY. Please arrive 15 minutes before your schedule showtime. Any unclaimed tickets will be released at the start of the performance.

20 minutes till show time and I was still over a mile away, so I did what any San Franciscan would. I walked. I headed down Church Street following the tracks, looking back every block for the train that would never appear.

By the 8 p.m. show time I was still two blocks away, but by the grace of god I made it to the church on time. Well not on time, exactly, but I think they were kind enough to wait for me. Because no sooner was I handed my number, we were directed to assemble in the pews by number with our fellow travelers before beginning our journey together to the New City.

As we headed out of the church to receive instructions for where we would find our guide, I glanced down at a bag of props and quickly grabbed a lime green bandana that I tied around my neck before heading outside.

Our hosts provided us with an envelope containing directions and instructed us to choose a new name for our identity in The New City.

“I’m Bandit,” I said. And for the rest of the night that would become my new name.

***

I first dreamt about moving to San Francisco when I was a toddler. I was still learning to walk, but I was ready to run to the big city.

It took twenty years to before my dream came true, and for a while San Francisco truly felt like a magical place. But that city that once beckoned the artists and misfits of every color and sexuality like some sort’ve West-Coast Statue of Liberty is gone.

In its place is a new field of dreams, a technological renaissance fueled by denim-demigods with dollar signs in their eyes. Which wouldn’t be so bad if San Francisco could just grow to accommodate this latest gold rush. But it can’t.

***

Leaving that reality behind, we wander around until we met K, our guide to The New City. Along the path to our destination, K recounts tales of San Francisco’s past and the experiences of how our city by the bay once cradled its queer people of color in a blanket we could all call home.

We wandered through the cold night sharing our personal experiences as we wormed our way to The New City. Upon arrival, we were greeted with love and treated to a dance performance unlike any I’d seen before. An invocation.

And with the final step of the spell cast, we walked through the gates and into the night and poured into the familiar streets of the Mission. As I walked back to the Lower Haight, everything looked almost identical, but better.

___

Fugue runs through December 10. Tickets are still available for some performances.

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Josh Wolf

Josh Wolf

Josh Wolf is a freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker who teaches in the Journalism Department at San Francisco State University. He is also the founder of Breaking Bread, a web site that creates friends out of strangers by sharing a meal.