How a theater show, a development company & city government plan to revitalize Ocean Terrace, North Beach
by Samantha Schalit
If you’ve ever walked into an old room, or down an empty hallway, and felt more than the age of paint peeling or the texture of scuffed floors, you’ll vibe immediately with Miami Motel Stories. It’s what drew Miami playwright Juan C. Sanchez to North Beach in the first place: to tell the stories of the people who may have passed through or lived here — from 1933 to the present.
Written by Juan, directed by Tai Thompson and Ana Margineanu, and produced by Juggerknot Theatre Company, this fourth run of the popular interactive theater series is set in the historic Ocean Terrace Hotel in North Beach.
“It really struck me that as far back as 1876, this neighborhood has been offering and open to refuge, accepting shipwrecked sailors who were coming from everywhere,” Juan told Miami New Times. “…this is a place that has opened its arms to people. This is a place where you might actually have a shot at being, maybe, happy.”
It’s that research and sentiment that turned the Ocean Terrace Hotel into a theater set where the audience never stays in their seats. If you’ve never been to an immersive, interactive theater performance, Miami Motel Stories are carefully crafted experiences set in specific locations that tell the stories of Miami’s developing neighborhoods.
Exploring the rooms behind the 1950s facade, viewers peek in on the lives of people trying to find their way. From Argentine immigrants adjusting to a new life in America to a young, Hasidic Jew questioning his identity, the stories invite interaction with our past and deeper thinking about our own roles in our communities.
The City of Miami Beach and real estate development company Ocean Terrace Holdings, who secured use of the building for Miami Motel Stories: North Beach, have been grappling with a similar line of questioning: How do you preserve the history in the architecture yet build for a modern city?
Since the hotly contested project to redevelop Ocean Terrace was approved by the city, there’s been a constant tug between the past and the present.
“Ocean Terrace Holdings is committed to preserving the heritage that existed in the 1950’s and 60’s along upper Collins Avenue and Ocean Terrace, and is looking to the past to inspire our future redevelopment plans for the block,” said Sandor Scher of Ocean Terrace Holdings. “Miami Motel Stories: North Beach is the perfect opportunity to share our neighborhood’s story and provide the community a venue to engage in this unique immersive theatrical experience, while underscoring our commitment to promoting the arts.”
Whether you’re optimistic or skeptical about redevelopment, the architecture and design of our neighborhoods is often taken for granted. We don’t always think about why our communities are built as they are, and what opportunities or obstacles that design provides. And the stories we tell each other, give us the context for our place in our communities.
“Through our work with immersive theatre, we hope to better connect our communities while highlighting Miami’s rich multicultural landscape,” said Juggerknot Theatre Company executive director Tanya Bravo. “This experience has been pure magic, and we can’t thank Miami enough for allowing us to tell her story.”
If you’d like to experience it for yourself
WHEN: The show has two start times 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. from February 08 to the 29th, Thursday - Sunday.
WHERE: Meet at The Broadmoor Hotel, 7450 Ocean Terrace, Miami Beach
GET TICKETS: Separate orange, yellow, pink and blue story tracks cost $69.99 each (orange track is accessible to theatergoers with disabilities). Visit miamimotelstories.com or call 866-441-9962.
Photo Grid Credit: Pedro Portal.