Miami Motel Stories Will Transform a Little Havana Hotel Into a Performance Space

Credit Pedro Portal: Juan C. Sanchez (right) wrote the play that inspired the series Miami Motel Stories.

Little Havana’s first boutique hotel is getting its own play.

This fall, Miami Motel Stories will use immersive theater to narrate local history at the historic Tower Hotel in Little Havana.

Inspired by Paradise Motel, a play written by local playwright Juan C. Sanchez, Miami Motel Stories is a spin on the original piece. The story followed the lives of people who stayed in the same room at the motel from the 1950s to the present day. The idea was to create a timeline of the evolution of the neighborhood and the people who helped shape it.

“We are telling the story of the history of the neighborhood through the decades,” Juggerknot Theatre Company founder and artistic director Tanya Bravo says.

“And we’re telling the story of the building and how important that has been to the community through time," Sanchez adds. "It’s about the people and the building itself and what it’s been throughout time. It’s been a hospital during World War II. It’s been home to the Young Women’s Christian Association. It’s been apartment buildings and even hosted some of the greatest jazz musicians.”

The project began when Juggerknot was awarded a Knight Arts Challenge grant last year. Later, Chivas Regal joined the project as a presenting sponsor. The Barlington Group, the developer behind several projects in Little Havana, also joined the cause.

Because of the elements in Sanchez’s play, the aspect of an immersive and site-specific theater was a natural fit for the team. Barlington has been renovating the space since last year and will be ready to host the first production in October in honor of the renovated hotel. The play will allow “guests,” or audience members, to walk throughout the first floor of the hotel as they explore the rooms, each of which will have a different theme inspired by stories of real people who lived in Little Havana. There will even be a cafecito room where the neighborhood chismosa will dish the latest gossip while sharing a colada with the “neighbors.”

Upstairs, a three-track story line will engage two guests at a time in each room for ten minutes. Each room will tell a story that will be tied together with the others in the final room.

Little Havana will kick off the three-neighborhood series of productions. Miami Motel Stories plans to stage its next production in Overtown, and a third location is still under wraps.

“It’s a great way to disrupt the way we think of space and theater, developing this different conversation between the artistic community and these developers we’re feeding into one another,” Bravo says. “We’re telling the story of these neighborhoods, and we’ll tell the stories of these buildings, and, in turn, developers are giving us the space. It’s a beautiful turn of energy. It’s quite magical.”

Miami Motel Stories: Little Havana. Friday, October 27, with more dates to be announced, at the Tower Hotel, 1450 SW Seventh St., Miami. Tickets cost $25 to $35.