Aesthetic Drift #21 by Rose Lopez
I Am Wynwood: Juggerknot Theater Company’s Wynwood Stories
I’ve never been to the Wynwood Yard before, though I’ve heard about it. So when I go there the evening of April 18th to see Juggerknot Theatre Company’s Wynwood Stories, I’m not sure what to expect.
I know it will be an outdoor space, and I know there will be food trucks. I’ve also been told to “go to the box office” prior to the show. Before I get there, though, I’m wondering, Where in the Yard is there a theater?
Answer: it’s tucked away in a corner, just as you pass into the Yard. The box office is like an old shipping container-turned-office.
Beside it is a small, tented courtyard.
I give my name and am handed a tag to clip some place visible. The tag reads, “Route 2.” I am also given two tickets like the kind you use for raffles—a red one gets me Coconut Cartel Rum and a white one, Drake’s Organic Vodka. I am advised to use one before the show, and save the other for when I get inside. I go with rum, wishing I’d had time to eat dinner before I came.
While I sip my drink, I talk to a girl named Rolanda, a model and actress who joined Juggerknot last year during their Miami Motel Stories. She’s not acting in Wynwood Stories, she tells me. “I’m just getting my foot in the door.” Instead, she spends the time pre-show chatting with everyone in the courtyard.
I ask Rolanda about the route tags and Metrorail route map above the theater doors. “There are two routes,” she says, both on the Metrorail and in the show. She doesn’t want to give anything away (and neither do I), but depending on which route your tag says determines which “route” you’ll take through the show.
At its most basic, the show tells the stories of different people who have helped make Wynwood what it is today. “They’re all real, too,” Rolanda said. “Some of them are here tonight.”
My husband and I used to perform at a bar just south of Wynwood all the time. I think of the bar’s owner, an old friend I haven’t seen in years. The bar is closed now. I wonder if he’s one of the “stories”represented. I wonder if I’ll see him here tonight. (Incidentally, I do, after the show.)
There are no seats in the theater. The theater is actually an extension of the courtyard. We are split into groups based on the route number on our tags, and led from space to space: an industrial kitchen, a clothing factory, a bar, the inside of a woman’s home.
Each character talks to us in their own space and tells us their own story. We learn some of the people were here before Wynwood was bars and restaurants, art galleries, curated graffiti walls. The other people are the ones who brought all that stuff in. Either way, there’s a common theme: “Wynwood would not be what it is without me. I am Wynwood.”
If it weren’t for the earpieces each actor is wearing, I would forget these people talking to us and to one another are actors. In the woman’s home, she offers coffee and folds her laundry. “Do you mind helping me with these?” she asks, handing a pair of clean underwear across her kitchen table to one of the show-goers. It’s not like any theater I’ve ever been to.
And there’s high drama. At one point, when we’re all gathered in the main courtyard, I step back to avoid getting pummeled.
“The one thing you don’t do is you don’t write over someone else’s name,” one actor says. But, it’s not just recognition everyone’s fighting over. They’re worried about being erased. “There’s a thing called progress and a thing called change,” says another actor. “I’m hip,”says another. “I’m relevant.”
As everyone’s arguing I realize, these aren’t just Wynwood gripes. These are universal gripes. How do you move forward while acknowledging the past?
And we, the spectators, aren’t ‘out there’in the audience. We’re part of the story, too.
Wynwood Stories runs through May 4th, which is also the Wynwood Yard’s last weekend in the neighborhood. After that, they’ll be moving to Doral, and a high-rise will go in its place.
Rose Lopez is working toward her MFA in creative writing from Florida International University. She also contributes content for the Miami International Book Fair. Her first short story was published with Big Muddy earlier this year. She lives in Miami with her husband and two children.
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