Imagine you make your way to a theater performance only to discover, upon arrival, that you’re part of that very production. That your presence is necessary for its running smooth and that your deepest dreams of an entertainment career are about to begin. That’s how the curtain rises on Miami Motel Stories‘ latest production in North Beach. And after only one week of satisfying every creative urge in its enthralled audiences, they’re extending their run until the end of March.
It all started as an interactive way to educate locals about Miami’s history by activating historical motels and bringing them back to life through the stories of accurate neighborhood characters and key personalities. First came Little Havana, then MiMo, then The Wynwood Yard. They even brought their now beloved performances into the PAMM during last year’s Currents concert series, adapting to every space they’re given–transforming every corner into a stage, or in this case, a soapbox.
But back to the current production in North Beach. For the first time in their short but electrifying history, Miami Motel Stories themed each of their tracks after key pillars in Miami’s identity. Theater-goers could curate their own experience by sifting through options like Glamour, Crime, Outsiders, and Home–each one featuring a distinct cast of characters and riveting stories. The audience meets at the retro Broadmoor Hotel, where, after receiving their necessary keys, they are greeted by a surely yet slightly barbaric “Film Director” who informs everyone that they are there as volunteers on a film set for North Beach: The Movie. We couldn’t put it past Juggerknot Theatre Company for planting a plot twist upon arrival.
As you enter the derelict motel that would serve as the stage for the evening, it’s instantly inspiring how the company was able to transform the space into a portal through time. Each room, each hallway, every corner has been completely dressed to serve as both way-finding spaces (color-coordinated per track) or a set piece for Miami’s many colorful historical decades. The production and lighting is impressive to say the least. From the outside, you could never tell that this next-level interactive experience is creating a paradigm shift for how we connect with our city in a deeper, more cultural level.
Like their past productions, each of the characters and the storylines are carefully selected and written to represent key periods of the surrounding neighborhood’s past. A Hasidic Jewess in search on an identity. A loud Argentinean couple hoping to accomplish the American Dream. A snarky-yet-conservative reporter in aw of our speakeasy culture. And while half of the experience is, of course, watching these characters come to life, the other half is an even bigger treat: getting to see the actors dive into a high-stakes parallel performance. Throughout the night, the audiences returns to their respective sections to work on menial tasks that PAs on film sets are usually asked to do. But while you’re focusing on one thing, these very actors walk into break rooms and interact with the audience in between scenes as actors playing actors playing characters in a much bigger performance that’s “so meta.”
Whether you’re a theater fan or not, anyone with any ounce of Miami pride can’t miss these Miami Motel Stories productions. Hats off to Juggerknot Theatre Company for once again doing the heavy lifting in representing every angle of Miami’s weird, yet colorful past. Now that you’ve been given more time, make sure not to miss it. Get your tickets.
Photos by: Daniella Piantini