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.
Carlotta Grisi, the legendary ballerina who originated the role of Giselle in 19th-century Paris, must be smiling down on Lauren Fadeley from dance heaven.Portraying the eponymous heroi..
On Saturday, October 22 the dance community unites on one stage to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of New World School of the Arts and its founding dean of dance, Daniel Lewis, in a program o..
Celebrated Zimbabwe-born, Brooklyn-based dancer/choreographer Nora Chipaumire returns to Miami for a third time with her latest work, Portrait of Myself as My Father. Presented this week by M..
One of the highlights of Tigertail’s fall season, The Way You Look (at me) Tonight comes to the Miami stage this weekend. It runs Friday and Saturday, October 14-15 at the Miami Dade County A..
On Sunday, September 18, a small crowd gathered on the beach around 92nd Street and Collins Avenue in Surfside. With the backdrop of a perfectly clear blue sky, sweltering sun, and endless oc..
The fist view of Titus Kaphar’s The Vesper Project at the Lowe Museum of the University of Miami elicits questions: What catastrophe happened here? What awful force created this destruction? ..
For its 31st season Miami City Ballet will serve up a hearty and flavorful dance sandwich. Held together by the bread-and-butter basics of a Romantic heirloom and repertory standards, in the ..
“Of course you can be a prince on stage, but you can be an animal as well? Can you move like a snake, move like a tiger?” With that, a wiry, energized Miao Zong -- guest choreographer with Ar..
When Kathryn Garcia, MDC Live Arts executive director, took the helm at the organization 5 years ago, she revitalized the 26-year-old organization and strengthened its commitment to not only ..
Daniel Lewis and Sheila Womble sit at cafe in Coral Gables. Both are excited to speak on behalf of Arts for Learning, the encompassing and growing organization they are passionate about. ..
On the surface, rising sea levels and dance seem to be worlds apart. Unless you’re Marissa Alma Nick, who grew up in Surfside -- going to the beach and watching such movies as Waterworld and..
Artburst recently sat down with Miami City Ballet dancer, Nathalia Arja, on a Friday afternoon at the MCB studios. Bubbly and relaxed in pale blue leotard and hair drawn tight in a bun, Arja discu..
If there is a place in Miami where original work can get its due – particularly in the children's theater genre – Miami Theater Center in Miami Shores is the space. Stephanie Ansin, co-founde..
Siempre Flamenco’s Festival de Cante opened Friday, Sept. 2 at the Arsht Center’s Carnival Studio Theater to a small but generous audience, who responded warmly to singers Nano de Jerez, Migu..
This September, the International Ballet Festival of Miami celebrates its 21st year. Companies from around the world will converge in Miami, giving local audiences a chance to see top-class b..
DanceAfrica, a celebration of African dance and culture, appears annually in New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C. Last seen in Miami in 1997, the festival returns this year thanks to the ef..
This month, Sophia Michahelles and Alex Kahn from Processional Arts Workshop (PAW) will light up Vizcaya’s grounds with giant fantastical lanterns and moving sculptures. PAW’s experiential an..
It’s perhaps the most exotic dance music to hit Miami in recent memory: contradance -- it’s Americana, the real thing, a far more sophisticated version of the square-dancing you may remember ..
Juan Carlos Lérida’s performance Bailografía, part of the seventh season of the Out in the Tropics festival, is not the story of a man’s trajectory as a flamenco performer over the course of ..
Okay, it may still be a stretch to call Miami the artsy-est city in the United States as some news outlets have proclaimed. But we are no longer that sleepy provincial town, even in summer. ..
Ballet has long held a special place in Cuban communities -- both in Cuba and in Miami. The National Ballet of Cuba has a reputation of being one of the foremost ballet companies in the world..
Imagine, it’s February 7, 2013, and you’re leaving Miami after a month-long visit with family and friends, resuming your dance career in Israel. At MIA, TSA agents repeatedly search and inter..
There aren't many festivals that can boast true diversity in their lineup, but Out in the Tropics has made that its mission and it is arguably one of the best. In its seventh year and pr..
This Thursday, after 13 years of incubation, Miami dancer and filmmaker Tiffany “Hanan” Madera’s documentary Havana Habibi will debut on the big screen. A collaboration between Madera and Bro..
Ilisa Rosal founded Ballet Flamenco La Rosa in 1985 and the company soon cultivated a renowned reputation for presenting flamenco, in all its forms, to local, national and international audie..
Singer and songwriter La Flaka, The Skinny One, aka Jessica Cánovas, was born and raised in Triana, a historic neighborhood of Sevilla, Spain, surrounded by flamenco music and dance. La Flaka..
Joffrey Ballet choreographer, dancer and Hollywood, Fla., native Edward "Eddie" Stierle will return to South Florida with Lacrymosa, performed by Dance Now! Miami this Thursday through Friday..
People often imagine new artwork is the product of the solitary artist genius slaving away in lonely studios. The South Florida Symphony’s 20th anniversary program foregrounds a different vis..
At an age when many are winding down their working lives, Ignacio Berroa eagerly anticipates a new stage in his career. It would be understandable if the 64-year-old drummer, recognized a..
We know it’s the holiday season when trees light up, menorah candles start to burn, ubiquitous Christmas carols pipe through drugstores, “The Nutcracker” plays on every stage – and in recent ..
Late last year, on Dec. 20, 2016, Romero Britto and Mark Bryn hosted the Great Artists Series Cocktail Reception at the Britto Fine Art Gallery to celebrate the legendary impresaria, Judy Dru..
Everyone remembers a lost weekend, binge reading a novel whose ending had to wait because the body just gave out. No matter how compelling the story somewhere around the 30th hour the brain s..
Globalization has produced many stories —not all inspiring. But having a Pakistani ensemble become a worldwide sensation by playing Paul Desmond’s immortal “Take Five,” which pianist Da..
When the management of New York’s iconic Apollo Theater approached drummer Gregg Field last year about organizing a concert there in honor of the 100th anniversary of Ella Fitzgerald’s birth..
They’ve opened a Chanel fashion show in Havana and been featured in Beyoncé’s visual album for “Lemonade.” The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has danced to their music. Their Florida debu..
There are few artists who have had the impact in their disciplines that guitarist Paco De Lucía had in flamenco. There is a before-and-after De Lucía in flamenco. He expanded the harmonic voc..
El segundo programa de la temporada 2017-2018 del Miami City Ballet (MCB) dedicado a los 100 años del nacimiento de Jerome Robbins (1918-1998), el gran coreógrafo norteamericano que triunfó ..
2017 fue un buen año para la danza en Miami. El Flamenco Festival nos permitió volver a ver a Jesús Carmona, el Internacional Ballet Festival of Miami (IBFM) sobrevivió al huracán Irma, Dance..
El Miami City Ballet (MCB) presentó por fin en el Arsht Center la nueva producción de su gran espectáculo navideño, el “Cascanueces” de Tchaikovsky y Balanchine, ahora con diseños origin..
La tradicional temporada de Cascanueces del Miami City Ballet (MCB) tendrá algo nuevo este año. La compañía que dirige Lourdes López ha decidido renovar los diseños de la superproducción que..
El programa que Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami (DDTM) presentó el sábado pasado en su exitoso debut como compañía en residencia del South Miami Dade Cultural Arts Center (SMDCAC) y a solo ..
Hay pocos artistas que han tenido el impacto en sus disciplinas como el guitarrista Paco De Lucía tuvo en flamenco. En este género, hay un antes y después de De Lucía. Expandió el vocabul..
Dance NOW! Miami, la Florida Dance Education Organization (FDEO), Miami Dance Futures y la New World School of the Arts (NWSA) colaboraron el fin de semana pasado para presentar la Daniel Lew..
Esta es una gran noticia para el público amante del ballet en Miami. Tras un paréntesis de diez años en los que solo nos visitó de manera esporádica, la Primera Bailarina mexicana Katia Carra..
Solo hay que aplicar el concepto “seis grados de separación” a uno de los artistas que se han presentado en las Galas de Estrellas del Festival Internacional de Ballet de Miami (IBFM por sus ..