Artistic director and founder of Juggerknot Theatre Company, Tanya Bravo, had her first brush with immersive theater in New York City when she met director Tamilla Woodard. Working on the play “Broken City,” Bravo and other actors led audience members on a theatrical journey through the streets of the Lower East Side. “I was so blown away by the concept and the lines that were crossed between audience and actor,” says Bravo. “This to me felt like the future of theater.”
Bravo returned to Miami in 2011, excited to produce immersive theater in the 305.
When Juggerknot received a Knight Arts Challenge grant, Bravo enlisted playwright and Miami native Juan C. Sanchez to write “Miami Motel Stories: Little Havana,” an interactive theater piece whose subject, the Tower Hotel in Little Havana, also serves as the stage. Juggerknot partnered with developers Bill Fuller and Martin Pinilla of the Barlington Group to produce the play on-site at the hotel. When it opens for business in 2018, the Tower will be Little Havana’s first boutique hotel.
Inspired by his 2010 play “Paradise Motel,” the fictional account of a Miami motel on Calle Ocho from the 1950s to the present, Sanchez researched the Tower Hotel and wrote stories to bring the structure and its inhabitants to life. Woodard would direct.
We spoke with Bravo and Sanchez about this groundbreaking piece.
What kind of research did you do to write “Miami Motel Stories: Little Havana”? Sanchez: I researched the history of the building -- it wasn’t always a hotel – and spent time at the research/archive center at the HistoryMiami Museum, looking through their collection of photographs; I spoke to historians, interviewed people connected to the building, went on several walking tours. And, of course, I read a lot of books.
You grew up in Little Havana. What surprised you about the neighborhood you know so well?
Sanchez: There’s so much that’s interesting and unexpected about Little Havana. I went further back in time with “Miami Motel Stories” than I did with “Paradise Motel.” I was fascinated to learn about the Seminole camps on the northern bank of the Miami River, the homesteaders, and the Jewish population that thrived here in the 1930s. We want to show people not only what is recognizable about the neighborhood, but also what you might not know, talk about, or see.
What was it like writing a play for an immersive theater experience as opposed to the stage?
Sanchez: Thankfully, I was paired with Director Tamilla Woodard. … We spent a lot of time figuring out the concept and asking questions like, ‘what is the building saying? What are the stories?’ It’s about understanding that the audience is always going to inform and change the play.
What will audience members experience?
Sanchez: On the first floor, each actor has been given a character, a premise and in some cases a monologue, but there will be improvisation involved. The first floor is more fluid. Audiences can come and go as they want.
The blue, pink, and yellow rooms on the second floor are designed to be an intimate experience. Audiences are allowed to enter each room, two people at a time. Each scene is about 12 minutes, but doesn’t include the moments that take place in the hallway when the entire audience will experience the same thing at the same time.
How did the building, constructed in 1920, influence your writing?
Sanchez: The history of the building dictated the stories on the second floor, which we call the “close-up.” It’s about the people who lived, visited, or worked there.The “wide shot” is the first floor and that’s about the neighborhood, the music, the recognizable characters.
How does “Miami Motel Stories” fit into Juggerknot’s 19-year history?
Tanya Bravo: Juggerknot’s first home was Drama 101 off of Biscayne Boulevard, in an old motel opened by Teresa Pooler. She gave us one room and we turned it into a black-box theater for several seasons. This really feels full circle – the idea that theater can truly be executed anywhere.
Gentrification is an issue in Miami. Developers are known for capitalizing on the arts to attract high-end commercial and residential investors, often pushing out or displacing the local population. Does this project differ?
Bravo: I love answering this question. Michele Antelo, our managing director, always says it right, “The Barlington boys are ‘conscious developers.’” They aren’t into erasing the history of the neighborhood; they are interested in preserving it.When we came to them with the concept of “Miami Motel Stories,” they said, “We have the perfect building for you.” They sat with us for over an hour with huge smiles on their faces, giving us details about the history of the Tower Hotel and everyone who had lived and passed through it. It gives me goosebumps every time I think about it. They were so excited to tell these stories and we are so honored that they have allowed us to do so.
“Miami Motel Stories: Little Havana” presented by Juggerknot Theatre Company, Thursday through Nov. 12. Tower Hotel, 1450 SW 7th St., Miami
Info: Three ticket types: All Access Check In: access to first and second floors, $35. Thursdays, shows at 7:00 and 7:45p.m.; Friday and Saturdays, shows at 8:00 and 8:45 p.m.; Sundays, shows at 3:05 and 3:50 p.m.
Nightcap: access to first and second floors and live music after the show.
Exclusively for the last show of the evening, $40. Thursdays at 8:30; Friday and Saturdays at 9:30 p.m.; Sundays at 4:35.
Check In: access to first floor, $25. Thursdays at 7:15 and 8:30; Friday and Saturdays at 8:15 and 9:30 p.m.; Sundays at 3:20 and 4:30.
Tickets at completeticketsolutions.com; 877 504 8499; http://www.juggerknottheatrecompany.com. Ticket holders must arrive 15 minutes before show time or tickets will be released. Must be 15 years or older to attend.
Great friendships can nurture and prod an artist to make greater work. Think Pablo Picasso and Wifredo Lam, James Baldwin and Toni Morrison, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Such is also the case fo..
It’s a tall order to present a season as surprising as it is moving, as disturbing as it is delightful. Miami-Dade College’s Live Arts 2017-2018 season -- Ojala/Inshallah: Wishes from the Mu..
It was only a few decades ago that finding a professional, locally produced performance was an aerobic dance in itself. But after the Miami City Ballet (established 1985), the New World Schoo..
A 50th anniversary calls for gold in celebration. But Balanchine’s “Jewels”—a sublime marriage of music and choreography from 1967—brings Emeralds, Rubies,and Diamonds. Those pre..
When the Limon Dance Company returns to Miami-Dade this weekend, it brings with it the powerful vision of founder José Limon. He was a man deeply concerned about and connected to the humanity..
When Cardi B, with her trademark no-filter attitude, raps in her recent hit “Bodak Yellow” – Now I don’t got to dance/I make money move – she has something to sing about, with her smash hit N..
Despite a packed show schedule, including performing with the Frankfurt Opera in “Rinaldo,” Sarasota native, dancer and choreographer James McGinn had a chance to discuss the upcoming dance-opera ..
Anniversaries usually celebrate the success of a partnership with symbolic gifts of crystal, china, silver and gold. For the Arts Ballet Theater of Florida, the company celebrates 20 years of..
The songs are familiar; the love story is also familiar but made fresh in “On Your Feet!,” the musical biography that comes to Miami this week. The narrative of Emilio and Gloria Estefan meet..
Dance lovers in Miami know that for the past two decades the International Ballet Festival of Miami (IBFM) has made the city in September a magnet for the brightest stars in the world of bal..
Orlando Taquechel, dance critic for two decades at the El Nuevo Herald (and now a contributor to Artburst), will have a book signing and discussion of his new book, “La danza in Miami (1998-..
The name Flamenco conjures the machine-gun snap of heels, arms arched overhead, the flick of red fabric and laser-like glares from beneath the starched black brim of a Cordobes hat. At the ed..
Watching Neri Torres rehearse is a study in focus and concentration. She demonstrates each step with an ease developed from years of immersion in the study and performance of Afro-Cuban ..
Miami-based organization Delou Africa has been the ambassador of African dance and drumming in South Florida for the last 30 years. It started as a performing company, and has since expanded..
Miami Beach’s old city hall on a Thursday evening in June made a surreal set up for anyone familiar with tango’s broody scene -- a large cozy room full of cheerful, laughing, and smiling..
When Ballet Flamenco La Rosa takes to the stage this weekend, it will present a program based on traditions which were handed down through the ages. A program filled with the mysteries of fl..
With every great new love, the beginning is a crucible of extremes – will it endure for decades or permanently scar?The program for Dimensions Dance Theater of Miami’sJuly 8show, “Fiebre: A N..
With a heightened emphasis on “Noise” as an innovative musical genre, this sixth installment of the Miami Performance Festival International (M/P’17), running June 23 to 25, challenges South..
After 17 years as a principal dancer with the esteemed San Francisco Ballet, dancing every major role and style possible, Lorena Feijoo is retiring from that company to embark on a new journe..
Miami choreographer Marissa Alma Nick is a storyteller. Her company Alma Dance Theater brings a particularly female inner world to the stage, through lush and sensual choreography. Nick’s..
Pools are ubiquitous in Miami. They dot the landscape like Jackson Pollock drip paintings. Residents swim or idle the hours away by or in the pool – and dancers of Momentum Dance Company also perf..
May’s “Mujeres” series of strong, multi-faceted, women-focused productions, commissioned for Miami Theater Center’s SandBox space, concludes with Spanish-born dancer-choreographer Carlota Pr..
One could say that Bistoury’s 305 & Havana International Improv Fest, which debuts this Saturday at Miami Theater Center, has been in the works for almost 20 years. In 1999 Cuban-born cho..
The process of creating “Shade,” choreographer Augusto Soledade’s latest full-length work, has been one of remembering and reconfiguring memory to discover new ways of talking about identity ..
Upcoming this week, Tigertail presents choreographer Myriam Gourfink and musician Kasper Toeplitz. Hailing from France, the two will be present for a 3-day residency at Subtropics’ South Beac..
From her home base at 6th Street Dance Studio in Little Havana, longtime Miami dance figure Brigid Baker has been slowly crafting a new performance piece. It’s not conceptual or political like con..
Karen Peterson is the artistic director of Karen Peterson and Dancers, a company that brings professional dancers with and without disabilities together in the same piece of choreography, and..
Ira Sullivan has been a musician for a long time. His father, part of a large musical family, was in the restaurant business. But he played trumpet for fun and stored his horn behind the couch, Su..
The music of Thelonious Monk has been a source of endless fascination and with good reason. Monk’s universe has its own laws. Beautifully constructed and quirky, soulful but also paced by br..
The first time the Amernet performed “The Seven Last Words of Christ” during Holy Week – the week leading up to Easter -- the string quartet played in darkness. Just hours before, cellist Jas..
Drummer Dafnis Prieto and pianist Omar Sosa closed this year’s Global Cuba Fest at the Light Box in Wynwood, Miami, with shows on Friday and Saturday, March 16-17 that suggested a sort of mus..
Mention flamenco and the immediate associations are with dancing, singing and the guitar. The piano has a rather tentative history in flamenco. While some scholars include the instrument in p..
The ancient Japanese art of Taiko drumming comes to Miami this Friday, with Tao: Drum Heart, which premiered at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and has gone on to tour internationally, getting ..
It’s not by chance that the music of Cuban drummer, composer, educator and bandleader Dafnis Prieto unfolds with such purpose. An accidental immigrant in 1999 — he was living with ..
In the music of Las Cafeteras and Orkesta Mendoza, presented by Fundarte at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center Saturday, the border is no place for walls but rather, a moveable feast. ..
Performance Hall at New World Center was packed Saturday, Feb. 3 for the New Work program, which NWS conductor and artistic director Michael Tilson Thomas introduced as “one of the more adve..
"Nosotros sentimos, y pensamos que Jennifer y Carlos sienten igual, que Miami finalmente ha llegado a posicionarse como una verdadera ciudad cultural donde continuamente se presentan compañías imp..
El grupo de danza contemporánea Brazzdance dirigido por su fundador, el coreógrafo Augusto Soledade, se presentó el sábado 31 de marzo en el Carnival Studio Theatre del Arsht Center de Miami...
La undécima edición del Flamenco Festival que se desarrolló del jueves 8 al domingo 11 de marzo en el Arsht Center resultó ser un hermoso reencuentro con el Ballet Nacional de España (BNE), u..
Arts Ballet Theatre of Florida (ABTF) y su escuela de ballet adjunta, ambas bajo la dirección de Vladimir Issaev, se encuentran por estos días entregadas de lleno a la celebración del bicente..
El lugar privilegiado que ocupa Miami hoy en día en el mundo de la danza no tiene discusión. Además de contar con una vibrante oferta local de proyección internacional que dura todo el año y ..
Después de una serie de actuaciones muy exitosas en varias ciudades del Este del país, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (AAADT) llega a Miami para ofrecer seis presentaciones del jueves 22 ..
La ofensiva espontánea protagonizada por BalletBoyz y Cie. Herve Koubi el fin de semana pasado en teatros de Fort Laudedarle y Miami, con dos propuestas artísticas absolutamente fuera de seri..
La atracción principal del tercer programa de la temporada 2017-2018 del Miami City Ballet (MCB) que se presentó el fin de semana pasado en el Arsht Center fue el estreno mundial de One Line ..
Llegados en vuelo directo desde Inglaterra, BalletBoyz (Premio Nacional de Danza 2013 a la Mejor Compañía Independiente) ofrecerá el sábado 10 de febrero una función patrocinada por Culture Shock ..