"Cocaine Cowboys" Doc Being Adapted For Live Theater In Miami

By Victoria Kim 12/28/17

The play is slated to debut in the spring of 2019.

Image: 
Billy Corben
Billy Corben directed the "Cocaine Cowboys" documentary Photo via YouTube

Cocaine Cowboys is returning to theaters—but not the big screen. The director of the 2006 documentary is teaming up with Miami New Drama to adapt the film for a live stage and a Miami audience. 

“It will still feel like a documentary, but told through fewer, more centralized characters,” said Michael Hausmann, artistic director of Miami New Drama and a good friend of Cocaine Cowboys director Billy Corben. “We like to take the idea that theater is immediate and necessary art and part of the conversation, especially within the local community.”

The 2006 documentary, directed by Corben, chronicles the violent epidemic of drugs and crime in Miami during the ‘70s and ‘80s. Interviews with law enforcement, journalists, and the drug traffickers themselves paint a “blood-drenched” picture of Miami drug culture at the time, according to a New York Times review.

“The movie overflows with cops and coroners, snitches and smugglers, reporters and importers,” reads the review. “Most resemble refugees from Scarface, and all talk a mile a minute—except for the dead bodies, of course.” 

The play is so far a concept, but it’s slated to debut in the spring of 2019, according to the Miami New Times.

The stage version will focus more on the characters who make the story; according to Corben and Hausmann, they plan to focus on Jorge “Rivi” Ayala, a complex character who is serving life in prison for three murders, and is a suspect in dozens more. Ayala reportedly served as a hitman for “The Cocaine Godmother” Griselda Blanco, who was a notorious drug lord of the Colombian Medellín Cartel during Miami’s bloody cocaine heyday. 

“Rivi feels like the kind of guy you can have a beer with but also the guy who’ll kill you and your family with no change of emotion,” said Hausmann. “This idea that monsters are human is really captured in Rivi in a very frightening way. Someone with 30-plus kills seems like a guy you can hang out with? How can we explore humanity through that duality?”

This past spring, authorities caught up with the last of the cocaine cowboys, Gustavo Falcon, in the last place they had thought he’d turn up—living with his family in the Orlando area, just hours from Miami.

Falcon had disappeared in 1991 to avoid facing charges that he’d conspired to distribute 75 tons of cocaine valued at around $2 billion. Now after 26 years on the run, living as “Luis Andre Reiss,” Falcon will stand trial for his past crimes. He pleaded not guilty in court this past June. According to the Orlando Sentinel, his July trial date was “likely to be delayed” to give the defense more time to scour the evidence.

Others, like Mickey Munday, who was instrumental in transporting the drugs to Miami by boat and plane, have hung up their old life for a quieter, more peaceful existence.

Munday made the news in August 2016 for establishing a community park in his Miami neighborhood to spread the message that “love has no labels.” Munday said he now lives a “frugal existence” as an actor, writer, speaker and storyteller.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr

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