The Wynwood Police shut down NO PICTURES PLEASE before we could start the Play. We rehearsed for about five hours, then walked a few blocks and found a promising location. We were almost set up, struggling to erect the makeshift stage against a major wind, when the officer pulled up and demanded to see the person in charge. When I walked over to talk to him he insisted on seeing my film permit.
I told him we were not doing a film, that we were doing a stage play, and that we didn’t need a permit.
“You can’t block the streets,” he said.
“We’re not blocking the streets,” I pointed out. “It’s just on the corner on the dirt where nobody goes.”
That really pissed him off.
“It’s the streets! How are you not blocking the streets!”
I pointed to the street right next to us and said: “Those are the streets. This is not a street.”
Now this argument about what constitutes a street did not seem funny at the time.
“Take that thing down right now or show me a permit.”
“I have a permit,” I told him.
“Show it to me.”
I told him it was on its way, that someone was bringing it. In fact, my brother had driven back to the rehearsal location to get it and was on his way.
“You have a permit?”
“It sort of a permit.”
“Do you have a permit or not?”
He kept looking over at the tent getting battered by those heavy winds. He looked worried, like it might blow away and kill someone.
He kept telling me to either take it down or show me a permit. He was pretty furious at that point.
I told him it was only twenty minutes longs, so come on, dude, just be cool and let us do it. Then we’ll take it down and be gone. I tried to appeal to him as one human being to another.
That really set him off. He pointed to the farmer’s market across the street and told me that those people had paid money to rent their space, and I wanted to do the same thing for free.
I told him that we were not selling anything, that it was completely free. We weren’t even asking for donations, so it wasn’t the same thing.
He said it didn’t matter, and to show him a permit or take it down now.
My brother showed up then with our “permit,” which I had laminated and made to look as official as legally possible. I handed it to him. I told him that I had spoken with a representative of the city of Wynwood and gone over the application for a permit and that she said we didn’t need one, since it was only a one-time event for about twenty minutes, and we weren’t blocking any streets. Not to start that argument again.
He was not impressed. His exact words were: “This is nothing. Some city clerk can’t give you permission to do this.” He shook it at me. “Take it down now.”
I made one final attempt. I pointed to the grassy area to the right of the Farmer’s market.
I asked him: How about over there by the Palm trees? Is there someplace around here that you would suggest?
“There is no place you can do that in Wynwood without a permit. I’m already getting calls. If I let you do that anywhere and someone objects you are going to say: Officer So & So told me it was okay.”
He held up my permit, like it was evidence and said: “I know you will. This tells me you will.” Then he handed it to me. “This is the last time I’m telling you to take it down.”
The only thing I can say is that after recalling and reading this recap, which I’ll swear on a polygraph, I’m probably lucky I didn’t get arrested.
My friends at Storycrafter Studio, a charming black box theater in North Miami, have offered to host the Play. More on that later.