Written By Josie Gulliksen
February 7, 2024 at 12:44 PM

Octavio Campos, choreographer and longtime collaborator with Juggerknot Theatre leads the March 16 and 17 workshop “The Power of Audience Transitions in Immersive Theater.” Photo by Jeffrey Salter.

Tanya Bravo of Juggerknot Theatre is on a mission to propel immersive theater forward by providing the training necessary to actors, producers and creatives who hold the future of this art form in their hands.

Tanya Bravo, Juggerknot Theatre Founder. Photo courtesy of Tanya Bravo..

As first an actor in, and now producer of, immersive theater projects, Bravo has called on the expertise of three friends and fellow experts in the field to present “LABS: The Art of Immersive Theater” presented with Miami Dade College’s Live Arts Miami at Little Havana’s Koubek Center.

“The Koubek Center is perfect for site specific presentations such as these, especially with their mansion and backyard area. This type of non-traditional space is ideal for this type of workshop,” said Bravo. “Additionally, Koubek is a venue that regularly presents non-traditional work and with Juggerknot bringing in outside directors to do immersive theater it all works beautifully.”

Bravo first approached Live Arts Miami Executive Director Kathryn Garcia in summer 2023 and she was immediately onboard with being part of the project. Garcia was familiar with all the workshop leaders Bravo had chosen and with all of Bravo’s work in Miami’s arts community.

“We’ve made creative decisions with Live Arts Miami and they’re also generously providing scholarships for the series,” said Bravo. “It is a continuing and ongoing discussion as we plan these, creating unique workshops so attendees have a different experience at each one. With Live Arts’ experience presenting their labs this was just the perfect match.”

The first workshops were held Jan. 27 and 28 and led by Ana Margineanu, co-founder of Pop UP Theatrics in New York City , which has a longstanding relationship with Juggerknot Theatre.

“Ana directed our Juggerknot productions “Blues Opera,” Miami Motel Stories North Beach and North Beach MMS “Long Distance Affair,” said Bravo. “She is also directing our upcoming production “Conjuring the King.” The latter is Juggerknot’s newest immersive production which they’re calling An Immersive Elvis Fan Club Experience..

Jennine Willett co-founder of ThirdRail Projects leads the February workshop ““Engaging the Senses: Developing Multi-Sensory Content” on Feb. 10 and 11. Photo by Andrew French.

The second workshop “Engaging the Senses: Developing Multi-Sensory Content” on Feb. 10 and 11 will be led by Jennine Willett, co-founder of ThirdRail Projects in New York. When Bravo asked, Willett was excited to come to Miami and teach the art of immersive theater to eager students.

“The first day will be dedicated to idea mapping and brainstorming and then the second day we’ll take the first day’s work and create an immersive scene. It will give us something to talk about and drive home some of those concepts and ideas,” said Willett.

The workshop aligns with Willett’s goals at ThirdRail Projects of “immersive storytelling being a skill builder and tool for young performers,” said Willett. “It’s a great educational tool for crafting stories in this environment. It’s also impactful and beneficial in other ways.”

Willett’s goal in Miami, just like with ThirdRail Projects is to teach the students about multisensory performance concepts and engaging all the senses.The immersive site specific non-traditional space will allow participants to tap into all those senses as well as move through the world in a different way by looking through all these lenses in a different space.

Bravo, who met Willette through the workshops at ThirdRail Projects and became a big fan of hers, said “we have a wonderful mutual relationship with regards to our goals of immersive theater and I thought it would be a great opportunity to have her come and teach a workshop in Miami.”

Leading the final workshop “The Power of Audience Transitions in Immersive Theater” March 16 and 17 is Choreographer, Dancer and longtime Juggerknot Theatre collaborator Octavio Campos. Campos and Bravo have been connected since before Juggerknot was founded.

“I adore Tanya and love working with her so whenever she asks me to become involved in a project I don’t even question it,” said Campos.

And Bravo asked him to lead the workshop because “I feel Octavio is a legend in Miami, we’ve worked with him on Miami Motel Stories and many other times,” said Bravo.

Campos has more than 40 years of experience curating performances both in Miami and internationally and has produced shows for groups at Miami Theater Center, the Adrienne Arsht Center, New World Symphony and Miami Light Project. He has also consulted for the Knight Foundation, Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs and National Endowment for the Arts.

In his workshop “The Power of Audience Transitions,” Campos will teach about working with audiences and bringing them through a space and working within certain architectural elements in that space.

“There really is a magic to bringing people through a space and he is perfect for this. His workshop will lend itself well to actors and dancers as well,” said Bravo.

Campos will be focusing on audience interaction and examine why audiences want to come to the theater and he cautions that it will be a rigorous lab.

“It’s going to be an experiment really, specifically for makers that want to lure people out of their homes and away from their screens and be fully immersed in a theater experience,” Campos said.

Participants in his workshop will role play between audience and maker and Campos plans to incorporate the Octalysis methodology known as the eight principles of gaming.

“Gamers use this methodology which includes creating tasks in a certain room and even the philosophy of escape rooms, to name a few. All of it will be similar to the gaming experience,” he said. “I want to raise the question of our theaters perhaps incorporating this technology.”

Group photo of the participants from the January workshop led by Ana Margineanu who runs Pop UP Theatrics in New York City. Photo by Tanya Bravo.

The workshops are a way to expand and nurture the great immersive work being produced in Miami and a way for Bravo to provide continuing education and more training offered to our local artists. Ultimately, a way to give back to Miami’s arts community.

WHAT: LABS: The Art of Immersive Theater
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 10 and Sunday, Feb. 11 and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, March 16 and Sunday, March 17.
WHERE: Koubek Center, 2705 SW 3 St., Miami, FL
COST: $65 for the weekend, classes are limited to 45 students and scholarships are available.
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