“Miami Motel Stories: Little Havana” written by Juan C. Sanchez, directed by Tamilla Woodard, and produced by Juggerknot Theatre Company, is a site-specific, immersive theater experience that interweaves narrative, performance, history and architecture. Nine short plays take place in nine hotel rooms on the second floor of the Tower Hotel, right off Calle Ocho on Seventh Street. Sanchez, a Miami native, researched the building and its inhabitants, and the magnetic characters and heartbreaking storylines he has created span the building’s almost 100-year history.
In 2018, the Tower Hotel will be renovated and repackaged as Little Havana’s first boutique hotel, but for now the unfinished walls and rough-hewn structure serve as the site of one of the Magic City’s most singularly rich and innovative theatrical experiences.
Theatergoers who purchase “All Access Check In” or “Nightcap” tickets have access to the first floor, a vibrant maze of neighborhood characters, and the second floor where the intimate theater experience occurs. “Check in” tickets allow access to the first floor only.
The second-floor performances are divided into three tracks. Blue, pink, and yellow motel keys are given to “guests,” the ticketholders, who then find the colored track markers in front of a closed-door room. Each track consists of three short plays that run about 15 minutes each.
Woodard and Sanchez, and movement director Octavio Campos, have ingeniously sculpted the intimate theater experience to be led by Gilbert, the second-floor guide. Superbly portrayed by Luckner Bruno, Gilbert exudes the charisma of an old-school master of ceremonies with the lyrical edges of a haunting Greek chorus. Theatergoers enter each room in pairs. Before each performance, Gilbert instructs guests to stand on the doormat facing each other, and place a hand on the doorknob. When Gilbert gives the word, each pair of guests enters a motel room. Kudos to set, costume and prop designer Marina Pareja, who imbues each room with the exactitude of a particular era.
On Friday night, we saw the yellow key performances. In “Iosef” (1931), an Orthodox Jew obsessively writes and revises letters to his beloved in New York, trying to reconcile their dream for a better life in Miami with the harsh reality of the city’s institutionalized anti-Semitism. Adam Crain expressively mimes Iosef’s frustration as we listen to the recorded voice of his letters.
In “Barmaid and the Convict” (1995), Vivian and Crystal (Vanessa Elise and Carey Brianna Hart) scratch and crawl their way around the rabbit hole of addiction before falling in. On an emotional seesaw of manipulation, Crystal crumples from a tough-as-nails barmaid to a defeated mother overtaken by the vertiginous force of Vivian’s character.
Johnnie (Jim Gibbons), in “Taxi Driver” (2011), imagines his life as the blank white screen of his imagination, but hopes for the remote possibility of companionship.
When the second-floor plays have concluded, participants are allowed to wander the first floor. Populated by actors who portray characters from the neighborhood and exquisitely coordinated by Campos, the first floor has the pulsating vibrancy of a carnival with room for improvisation.
On Sunday afternoon, we were given the blue keys, which featured three riveting storylines -- one, a heated exchange that takes place during the segregated 1930s between a Jewish jazz club owner and a black trumpet player; a 1980s cocaine-infused showdown between three immigrant drug dealers with Rod Stewart as the soundtrack; and a compulsive gambler and hoarder who faces the reality of losing her motel room and her only friend, a cat.
Sanchez’s stellar writing and Woodard’s gutsy direction could not be more spot on or timely. Hurricane Irma underscored Miami’s tale of two cities that has long existed between the haves and have nots. As one witnesses the inhabitants of the hotel up close, the “olden days” of bigotry, poverty, and marginalization don’t seem so far away. “Miami Motel Stories: Little Havana” doesn’t ask us to suspend disbelief; it begs us to believe in our humanity – and that of the stranger in the room next door.
“Miami Motel Stories: Little Havana” presented by Juggerknot Theatre Company, 7:15 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Thursdays; 8:15 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 3:20 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Sundays, through November 12; The Tower Hotel, 1450 SW Seventh St., Miami. Cost: $25-$40
Info: three ticket types: Nightcap: access to first and second floors and live music after the show; All Access Check In: access to first and second floors; Check In: access to first floor; 877 504 8499 or www.miamimotelstories.com.
Must be fifteen years or older to attend.
Promising a night of airiness and ardor, Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami will bring “Ballet’s Pointe of Passion” to the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center, where the company joins an att..
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..
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..
Yoli Mayor is a 22-year old Miami native who won over the judges of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” with her power voice (think Adele mixed with Etta James). This weekend, Miami audiences will h..
You might expect something a tad unusual from a jazz band comprised of Bulgarians and Cubans that’s led by the principal percussionist of the Miami Symphony Orchestra. And that’s what you’ll ..
Not everybody who begins a musical career at age three singing in his grandfather’s Pentecostal Church finds his way to the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Soloman Howard did in two short decades...
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 ..
El debut de Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami (DDTM) en noviembre del año pasado fué un acontecimiento artístico y un descubrimiento sumamente agradable. Una sola función en el Miami-Dade Cou..
El festival “Out in the Tropics”, patrocinado por Fundarte en conjunto con el Centro Cultural Español y el Miami Book Fair International, normalmente trae artistas del mundo LGBTQ e hispanoha..
La Gala anual de Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami (CCBM) es un evento que esperan con ansiedad los aficionados al ballet en Miami y, sobre todo, los admiradores del estilo cubano. Desde su deb..
El 11 y 12 de mayo próximo tendrá lugar en el Miami -Dade County Auditorium el estreno en Estados Unidos de Scrutiny: The World Gone Astray(en español,Escrutinio: El mundo se ha ido a la deri..
Para el pianista y compositor cubano Omar Sosa la noción de una cultura global, sin fronteras, no es un concepto abstracto sino un tema personal. En su música, elementos de hip hop y rumba, ..