Q&A with Miami Motel Stories

Pérez Art Museum Miami’s (PAMM) second edition of CURRENTS, presented by DEFY, is just a week away! Enjoy drinks and a performance by indie rock band TOPS along with a flash theater experience by Miami Motel Stories, featuring ALL NEW characters from their recent Wynwood Stories production, written by Juan C. Sanchez and directed by Jennifer De Castroverde. Grab your tickets to CURRENTS here.

We were able to chat with Juggerknot Theater Company’s resident playwright Juan C. Sanchez to share some details about Miami Motel Stories.

mmotelstoriesjcsbus2879_by_pportal.jpgPlaywright Juan C. Sanchez. Photo by Pedro Portal, courtesy of Juggerknot Theater Company.

What was the inspiration behind Miami Motel Stories?
This city, Miami, my home—is the main inspiration behind the Motel Stories project. Going into different neighborhoods, discovering its history—from the moment it was created to present time—and getting to know the people from the communities we visit and then sharing their stories with an audience is the driving force and inspiration behind the project.

As a kid—and now as a playwright—I’ve always been interested in seeing the “guts” of things. That’s what I consider these projects: getting into the guts of Miami and seeing what’s inside. As I write these immersive plays about each neighborhood, I discover the city and its mysteries in the same way that audiences learn about and discover the place at the show. Whenever someone comes up to me after a show and says they didn’t know that about this place or that a particular thing happened there, my reply is usually, “neither did I until I did the research.”

I love discovering how each neighborhood became what it is today. I particularly love discovering how the different communities are connected either by people, events, or movements. Miami is such a quick-changing city, it always has been, and the face of a neighborhood can change overnight. So these projects give us an opportunity to honor not only the past but also the present. It’s important to remember, to reflect—and some of us have forgotten how to do that: to remember.

DSC00012Photo by WorldRedEye.com.

How do these stories represent the people of Miami?
Miami Motel stories is a history-based project. It involves months of research about each neighborhood we explore, interviews with people from each community, conversations with historians, and they’re all incorporated, and provide fertile ground, into the stories in the shows. Depending on the project, some of the pieces might be docudrama style, meaning they are oral histories performed verbatim as they were relayed to us by a person. Sometimes, there might be a more fictional element depending on how much story or history needs to be within that one character, short play, or moment, but nothing is made up. Everything comes from a truth that took place there. We are committed to telling the story of the building the play takes place in and also trace the evolution on the neighborhood. Everything about each piece is about Miami and the people who lived and/or are still living here.

What is it like to move Miami Motel Stories experience into PAMM’s exhibition galleries?
Our Motel Stories projects are always about a specific building or structure—and they were written to take place inside that particular structure. When we take the play, this immersive play, and set it in another space, we have to do some tweaking, some revising and editing to accommodate the new space. The productions are dependent on the space that we create the play for; space dictates how the audience moves, where scenes will take place, and how the story unfolds. So it’s always a little bit of a challenge to reconfigure how the play will travel. Because PAMM is such an open space with serpentine hallways and hidden nooks and rooms, it does give us an opportunity to play with space in the same way that we would play in a motel or similar structure. Also, in terms of revising, and because we perform only a portion of the whole play in the museum, there is some editing of the pieces to accommodate time and so the challenge is that we’re giving actors new pages to relearn and perform a little differently than in the original show.

DSC00073Photo by WorldRedEye.com.

What can the audience expect from the Miami Motel Stories showing at CURRENTS?
This time we’re doing a shorter version of our latest project, Wynwood Stories. As most people know, Wynwood, often referred to as the arts district of Miami, has been the center of many conflicts related to art, gentrification, and displacement, amongst others. Our immersive 25-minute play will introduce audiences to some of the individuals involved in this conversation—from the past to the present.

Audiences will travel the environs of the museum and meet characters such as the Gallery Owner, who houses the history of the evolving art scene in the neighborhood; the Graffiti Artist from the early 90s, who went into the place and started writing on the walls when the place was mostly a Puerto Rican enclave; Joe, a working class man who lived through some of the racial strife of the time; the Cuban Seamstress from 1978, who toiled in the warehouse factories; and Tia Oneida, a longtime Puerto Rican resident, who is about to lose her house. These characters share their personal story about living or working in Wynwood, what the place means to them, and their struggle to be acknowledged for their contribution to the area.

What can we expect from Miami Motel Stories in the future?
Miami Motel Stories will continue to tour and unfold the history of Miami neighborhoods. We are currently working on next two productions which will be announced shortly. In the meantime, you can catch us at the next CURRENTS event on September 19, featuring characters from past Miami Motel Stories.

Make sure to keep up with Juggerknot Theater Company by visiting their website and following @JuggerknotCo.

Don’t miss out! Buy your tickets to CURRENTS here.

DSC00244Photo by WorldRedEye.com.
Written by Hilda Delgado


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