A journey into the past is always exciting for history fans. But if the adventure takes place where the events occurred, it’s that much better.
This is the case of Miami Motel Stories, a sort of a trip through a time machine presented at the newly revamped Tower Hotel from Oct. 26 to Nov. 12.
The production by Juggerknot Theatre Company is directed by Tamilla Woodward with a script by Juan Carlos Sánchez.
“The work is inspired by ‘Paradise Motel,’ an original piece by Juan Carlos about the lives of residents of Little Havana between 1950 and 2012 that takes place in a motel room. And since we had been looking for what to present for our next season, we took that as a starting point,” said Tanya Bravo, producer and founder of the company. She considered Sanchez’s text ideal for developing into an “immersive” concept.
“Our interest is to let the public know the history of the Tower Hotel, a local icon, but in the same rooms that were used by important personalities,” added Bravo.
The Tower Hotel opened in 1920 and hosted jazz legends like Billie Holiday and Count Basie. It is currently undergoing a restoration process that will restore its original glory.
“Tanya’s proposal interested me from the outset, since I’m in love with Little Havana,” said Sánchez, who enjoys tracking the evolution of Miami neighborhoods and documenting their transformation over the years.
During the “immersion,” visitors will learn a page from the life story of Henry Sheckman (1916-2008), who bought the hotel in the 1940s when it was still called Tower Apartments and renamed it.
In his scene, Sheckman, who also owned jazz club Ball & Chain, holds a dialogue with a black musician who he allows to stay at the hotel during a time when African-American artists had to seek accommodations in Overtown.
Along the route, one of Sheckman’s great friends, singer Billie Holiday, makes an appearance. Meanwhile, in one room, a neighbor pours Cuban coffee. In another room, a Marielito will give the history of Domino Park.
“Among the surprises of the show, the audience will meet a lady obsessed with the crime stories that occurred in the area,” added the writer, recalling that the Tower Hotel became a hospital during World War II.
At one of the stops, visitors will meet a young bohemian musician who “discovers” the music of Celia Cruz and Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine in the hotel.
The characters are played by the 23 actors of the Juggerknot Theatre Company. The vignettes are in English but may include phrases in Spanish.
The ground floor will present an exhibition by El Nuevo Herald photographer, Pedro Portal, with popular characters from the book “Little Havana Memorial Park” (1999), written by poet Eduardo Campa. In the background, visitors will hear recitations of poems by Campa, Esteban Luis Cárdenas and Néstor Díaz de Villegas.
“Miami Motel Stories is a way to rescue the history of Little Havana and give a voice to its neighbors,” said Bravo. “You do not always have the opportunity to travel to the past with the perspective of the present.”
IF YOU GO:
What: Miami Motel Stories
When: 7:15 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Thursdays; 8:15 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays; 3:20 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Sundays, Oct. 26-Nov. 12
Where: Hotel Tower. 1450 SW Seventh St., Miami
Info: 877-504-8499 or www.miamimotelstories.com