Meet Playboy Bunnies, 1950s tourists at ‘Miami Motel Stories’
A tourist couple arriving in their 1950s Chevy checks into the Gold Dust motel on Miami’s Biscayne Boulevard, and watches TV commercials touting South Florida’s exotic beaches and flamingos. In the motel room next door, a gay Cuban boxer overdoses and dies on his bed.
These are “Miami Motel Stories: MiMo,” a series of nine short, immersive plays that take place inside the real-life, 61-year-old Gold Dust at 7700 Biscayne Blvd. Written by Miami playwright Juan C. Sanchez and produced by Juggernaut Theatre Company, these playlets revisit the sordid history of Miami’s MiMo neighborhood through characters who once visited the Gold Dust.
Visitors who buy tickets (called “room keys” by motel staff ) to “Mi- ami Motel Stories” are first transported back in time to the tikithemed 1957 grand opening of the Gold Dust. From there, actors portraying bellhops and bartenders escort audiences to three of the
motel’s nine upstairs rooms, where they can witness intimate scenes between characters.
The whole experience is designed to feel more “in-your-face” than black-box theater, says Mia Rovegno, who is directing all nine “Miami Motel Stories” plays.
When visitors enter the motel rooms, “You’re stepping into a time warp and everything in the room conjures that moment in time, whether it’s 2016 or 1957 or 1986,” Rovegno says. “The motel is kind of peeling back its layers of history to show you a glimpse of how Miami evolved.”
To keep each vignette intimate, only four guests at a time will be allowed in each motel room, where they can encounter a 1990s runaway teenager paying by the week, a reflection of the neighborhood when it was overrun with drug dealers and prostitutes. Or visitors may encounter a Playboy Bunny ordering a nightcap at the bar downstairs, a nod to when the Gold Dust sat across the street from Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Club restaurant in 1964.
Tanya Bravo, artistic director of Jug- gernaut Theatre Company, says “Miami Motel Stories” is paid for by a $30,000 Knight Arts Challenge grant, and debuted last fall at a motel in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood. To create the stories, Bravo says Sanchez pored over the history of the MiMo area with researchers from HistoryMiami Museum. To re-create the hotel, Bravo worked with developer Avra Jain (the Vagabond Hotel), who is currently renovating the Gold Dust, formerly known as Motel Blu.
“All of these stories come with a seed of a real experience that happened at the motel,” Bravo says. “By playing these characters, you’re giving the people of this neighborhood a voice to tell their stories. These stories might not be glamorous, but they deserve to be told.”
“Miami Motel Stories: MiMo” will run Nov. 30-Dec. 23 at the Gold Dust Hotel, 7700 Biscayne Blvd., in Miami. Showtimes are 7:45, 8:30 and 9:15 p.m. Thursday and Sunday and 8:45, 9:30 and 10:15 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Admission is $45-$75. Go to MiamiMotelStories.com and JuggernautTheatreCompany.com. [email protected] or 954-356-4364