The next telling of Miami Motel Stories – the critically acclaimed real-time immersive theatre experience from the Juggerknot Theatre Company – is all about North Beach. The series, which brings the history of Miami’s neighborhoods alive through different storylines, plays out in the area’s old hotels and motels. This time the setting is the Broadmoor Hotel on Ocean Terrace and the script, written by Miami playwright Juan C. Sanchez, tells the stories of the people who live, worked and made significant contributions to North Beach through the years.
Sanchez worked with HistoryMiami and local community members to tell the stories of the “wide variety of people who left their mark on the 24 blocks that make up the neighborhood: domestic workers, squatters, snow birds, observant Jews, the Mob, the very wealthy of Normandy Isle, Biscayne Point and La Gorce and the community’s newest residents seeking refuge from violence in their home country" according to a description of the play.
RE:MiamiBeach spoke with Sanchez about this version of Miami Motel Stories.
Why North Beach?
Sanchez: Specifically, why North Beach, the hotel became available to us. That’s number one. We go from neighborhood to neighborhood and we identify a building that we feel has history and we go into neighborhoods that are undergoing change and what we do, we try to really, really tell the story in a kind of homage to what has been here before it goes away in a sense.
North Beach to me is a really, really interesting place. It really is one of the last few places that has remained and still feels a little like a hometown. I was really attracted to that.
It was a little tough getting information about this place because so much is focused on South Beach. There wasn’t a whole lot I could find in print… A lot of what I was able to sort of put together had to come from oral interviews that I did from the community.
I talked to at least 15 people from the community that had history there. Former Commissioner Joy Malakoff, former Commissioner Nancy Liebman, architect and visual artist Robert Swedroe and his daughter Lulu, and [historians] Jeff Donnelly and Paul George, and I partnered with the Miami History Museum.
We go through the timeline, the stories. As a playwright – and because it has to be interesting and exciting for audience members – I try to mine stories that have some appeal, universal themes. Conflict. Things like that. Through that we weave in a lot of the history of the neighborhood dating back to 1875 and the Biscayne House of Refuge… We talk about President Harding’s visit in 1921 supposedly… We weave in a little bit of a history of the banning of the signs that said “No Jews” in the hotels. It really is about the history and the evolution and we try to get in as much as we possibly can in a way that doesn’t sound or feel like a history class.
Tell us about the audience experience.
Sanchez: First of all, it’s a different kind of theater. It’s an immersive theater performance meaning it happens around the audience. The audience is integral to the piece itself. They’re asked to come as close as they want to…They’re not asked to perform… but made to feel that you’re part of what is happening and what is taking place right now.
How do our stories compare to the others you’ve told (Little Havana, MiMo, Wynwood)?
Sanchez: The topics are very different. It has a different feel. The people were different. The biggest difference is the structure that we’re working with… that’s really part of how it unfolds. We’re telling the story in a very different way than we have in the past. [For fans] that will be really obvious. It’s still Miami Motel Stories but it’s a very different sort of conceit and approach that we’re taking.
There’s a lot of stories in there… We have a young pair of Jewish honeymooners from Brooklyn who in 1956 discover the neighborhood and make a decision on the last night of their stay. We have a scene where we’re dealing with Andrew Cunanan when he was on his houseboat [after killing Gianni Versace], an Argentine couple in the ‘90s who are trying to figure out how to live in this new place as they navigate a rocky marriage, squatters who have set up home in the Ocean Terrace hotel in 2015, a Hasidic woman who has left her community and is now living in the hotel as a way of staying close to her children who she left behind, and two teenagers in 1972, one Jewish, one black during the integration of high schools, Overtown kids bussed to Beach High.
We’re really focusing on the different areas of the neighborhood, too… The hotel or the motel really signifies – or is a stand-in for all of the different parts of North Beach, an apartment on Harding Street, a house in La Gorce, a scene in North Shore Open Space Park, so the breadth of what the scenes are, the different spots that they highlight is also a little different than what we’ve done in the past… We’ve stayed mostly with motel stories and, in this case, we said let’s tell the story of the neighborhood.
Sanchez: There’s always surprises when you go into a neighborhood. It’s really interesting to find how other communities overlap in the history. They run into each other. You think this place is this, but then you begin to find all of these connections and stories that connect North Beach and Overtown, for example. So we explore all of those things and we put it out there. One of our missions is to also find a way to create community so we don’t feel like this neighborhood is isolated from the rest of Miami. It would be wonderful if we could sort of create these threads that connect people and communities and how to move forward.
As Sanchez said, one of the main catalysts behind this version of Miami Motel Stories is that the hotel became available to them. Sandor Scher, one of the partners in Ocean Terrace Holdings which owns the Broadmoor, said, “We’re constantly looking for ways to bring arts and culture to Ocean Terrace and North Beach.” Ocean Terrace Holdings is developing a large block of Ocean Terrace between 74th and 75th Streets. The project, which will include hotel, residential, and commercial uses, includes restoration or partial restoration of several existing buildings on the site including the Broadmoor and Ocean Surf hotels.
From hosting an Art Basel satellite fair to providing support for the Ground Up Music Festival, Scher said, “We’re always trying to find ways to positively impact the community and do that through arts and culture.”
After meeting Tanya Bravo, founder of the Juggerknot Theatre Company and attending a Miami Motel Stories play, Scher said, “When the discussion occurred to explore maybe doing it up in Ocean Terrace, we were really excited about it.” It took about a year to work through the complicated nature of using the old, vacant hotel but Scher said, “We used that extra time to plan for this. [Juggerknot] is just amazing. It’s going to be an incredible thing for the public to come to enjoy.”
“[The Broadmoor] is one of the hotels that we were not able to get into rentable condition to use for guest occupancy,” he explained. “They’ve taken that over. They have a screenwriter who writes these really neat stories about the area and what happens, it’s an immersive theater experience. As you move through the hotel rooms, you’re experiencing the actual performances.”
“I’m going to go to opening night. I’m very excited!” he said.
“I cannot begin to tell you the time, the planning, the meetings, the money, the coordination that’s involved to take a building that’s not really being occupied presently. It’s just such a phenomenal, phenomenal effort and I’m very grateful to Tanya, how resourceful she is. I think there were plenty of times she was just ready to throw in the towel. I’m just really happy we’re here.”
“I think it’s very important that we set an example as developers in terms of giving back to the community,” Scher said. He hopes the community can appreciate the time and energy that went into this to create a public benefit that enhances the local quality of life through arts and culture.
“We’re all trying to do something really great together,” he said. “We need the community to come and love this. We need people like Miami Motel Stories to invest their passion, their time, and their energy.”
“We have the resources and desire to get this done and we’ll work together to create something that’s really, really beautiful,” he said.
Miami Motel Stories: North Beach is directed by NY-based immersive theater directors Ana Margineanu and Tai Thompson.
Juggerknot Theatre Company was founded in Miami in 1998, showcasing and developing works from local and national playwrights. Since 2001, Juggerknot has made it a part of their mission to facilitate talent exchanges between Miami and New York, pushing the boundaries and expectations of its audience by delivering alternative, experimental, and non-traditional theatre works to audiences in Miami and New York City. In 2017, Juggerknot launched its first edition of Miami Motel Stories in Little Havana at the historic Tower Hotel, followed in December 2018 by a sold-out run on Biscayne Boulevard at the Gold Dust Motel by Selina and another two-weeks of sold-out performances in Spring 2019 at Wynwood Yard.
Photo by: Daniella Piantini
Director: Tai Thompson (red dress)
Playwright: Juan C. Sanchez
Director: Ana Margineanu (black and red dress)
If you go
Location: Broadmoor Hotel, 7450 Ocean Terrace, Miami Beach.
FREE Parking after 6:30pm at the following locations: all along Ocean Terrace and Collins Avenue, in the lot next to the Hotel off 75th Street, and across from the North Beach Bandshell.
Showtimes: 7:30 and 9:30 pm, Thursdays through Sundays until March 29 [Extended run]
$69.99 each and can be purchased via www.juggerknottheatrecompany.com
Note: There are four different storylines… choose tickets by key color (pink, blue, orange, and yellow)
Go multiple times for a completely different experience!
Groups of 10 or more get 15% off
All reservations are final
You must be 18 years old to enter
*It is suggested you arrive 25 minutes before your show time
*Wear comfortable shoes. You may be standing/walking/climbing stairs.
*Leave bulky items at home.