A Toast 2011

Marco Ramirez

A toast to Miami, bro.

Marco Ramirez created this film as the intro to Borscht 7.

ESSAY

by Lucas Leyva

Marco Ramirez, a Miami native, returned to the city after he graduated from NYU until 2008, when he enrolled at Juilliard's postgraduate playwriting program. During this time in Miami he wrote no less than two classic short plays that both won the Heideman Award (the highest honor a short play can receive) and founded to the ill-fated Foryoucansee Theater project. Foryoucansee was created around the same time as Borscht, and similarly sought to create a specifically Miami theater. The company's first production was the reggaeton musical Toners in Time, about two Turkey Point nuclear reactor employees who inadvertently go back in time and take credit for inventing reggaeton. The show had two completely sold out runs at New Theater's old space in Coral Gables, and the company also put out a book of popular Hialeah Haikus (now in its third run, I believe).

Toners in Time was among the first wave of media created by 80's babies to depict Miami as not being defined by nostalgia (either for another country or time) or the glitzy sheen that attracts tourists. It was one of the first works, and definitely the only play, to address and engage a uniquely Miami culture. Not Cuban-American, or Puerto Rican, or Southern, or Haitian, but Miamian- with its own set of specific references, slang, and mannerisms. I think the term that was used to define those with a sense of irony about Miami culture was 'spicster," best exemplified by musician Jose El Rey (RIP), a brilliant parodist who did it first and better than anyone since.

Based on the success of Toners in Time, Foryoucansee planned two more plays. However, this was in the days before Wynwood Art Walk was Santa's Enchanted Street Fair. The Arsht Center was still the floundering Carnival Center and did not yet truly support locals, and the audience was generally much smaller for these things. This was the reality of Miami B.K. (before the Knight Foundation's Arts Challenge democratized artistic creation in the city): funding was scarce and there was no infrastructure to support an upstart organization like Foryoucansee.

Foryoucansee Theater fell apart (some members of the Foryoucansee Theater still create work under the name, but it is mostly in service of the Hialeah Haiku project.) Marco moved to NY, Jose El Rey was murdered, and the promise of 'spicster" media was replaced by brown-face entertainment that perpetuates the worst kind of stereotypes without commenting on them, all while hiding behind the idea of parody.

Marco currently lives in Los Angeles, where he writes for the Starz series Da Vinci's Demons and Orange is the New Black on Netflix, but A Toast hints to what we hope will one day be a return to his hometown to create the Hialeah nerd version of Mean Streets.

Marcos Ramirez's autobiographical paean to his specific brand of Hispanic suburban nostalgia was commissioned as the opening of Borscht 7 in April 2011.

It's boldly un-ironicβ€”deftly skirting the line between precious and dark while exploring personal Miami experiences in a universal container. Marco's Hialeah is seen through the eyes of a dreamer who maintains his innocence in spite of being aware of the true villains in his world.

Part spoken-word poem, part melodrama, it sort of put images to a lot of the ideas behind Foryoucansee and the genesis of Borschtβ€”albeit in a much different tone.

I guess what I am trying to say is, A Toast is essentially echoing Trick Daddy's Born n Raised or Pitbull's 305 till I die or Rick Ross's Bitch I"m From Dade County, and may or may not be in conversation with Will Smith's Welcome to Miami. It's the articulation of a largely misrepresented culture from a fresh perspective. If Borscht had a flag, it might look like this film.

CREDITS

writer/director: Marco Ramirez<
narrator: Alejandro Rodriguez
editor: Matthew Berkowitz
executive producer: Lucas Leyva
producers: Jonathan David Kane, Andrew Hevia, Matthew Berkowitz
director of photography: Daniel Fernandez
additional photography: Dannel Escallon, Chris Hill, Andres Meza-Valdes, Diego Meza-Valdes
special thanks: Alberto Meza, Milo Pfeffe, Daniel Rosenberg, Julian Yuri Rodriguez, imfamous88, Manny Ramirez, Eric Anderson, Escallon Family, DJ Laz

commissioned by Borscht Corp.

2011 Miami, FL, USA

Made possible by the generous support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

GIFS