“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.
Grand Opera Moments featuring The Opera Atelier accompanied by the Arts Ballet Theatre and original choreography by Vladimir Issaev...
In these days of Facebook, YouTube, and television on demand, the opera, ballet, and symphony are all struggling to fill concert halls. So the Knight Foundation stepped in to bring classical arts to t..
For someone who placed extraordinary value on silence, and famously incorporated it into his musical compositions, John Cage is making quite a bit of noise. And deservedly so. Because, it would seem a..
Across four nights, traditional and contemporary music from: Germany, Cuba, Spain, Russia, and Argentina will be performed by various classically trained groups, starting with the opening performance ..
The unique two-day festival that highlights Jewish origins in a wide a array of music, from African-American spirituals and jazz to Latin dance, kicks off with a performance "Of Essence & Time/De La E..
A disco dance extravaganza a la Studio 54, with choreography from Rosie Herrera and dancers from the Rosie Herrera Dance Company...
SFCA [isaw + subtropics] hosts a four day 100th anniversary party for the seminal composer with a series of free concerts, installations, and events...
Across four evenings, the traditional and contemporary music of Germany, Cuba, Spain, Russia, and Argentina will be performed by classically trained groups, starting with the opening performance from ..
As one of the most pluralistic cities in the country, Miami is home to diverse enclaves from Haiti, Argentina, Cuba, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Nicaragua and others. Aptly, Miami is called..
Soulé was a transformative experience whose news needs to be spread like a testament. This one-night only performance of contemporary flamenco, blues and rhythm -- presented by Art Works for Us -- on ..
Davey Williams is rubbing a kitchen whisk across the strings of his black headless electric guitar as Jill Burton speaks in tongues into a microphone sandwiched in between two plastic cups. Parts of t..
The avant-garde describes the foremost part of an army advancing into battle. Davey Williams and Jill Burton are leading a charge of the musical avant-garde into South Florida this weekend and they ar..
The original, real trance music, not just the kind that you zone out to in any hip SoBe disco or downtown club, but the type that makes you feel as if the spirits are moving you, finds its roots in th..
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 ..