The mission of Motus Theater is to create original theater to facilitate dialogue on critical issues of our time. We aim to use the power of art to build empathetic alliances across diverse segments of our community and country.
Motus Theater was founded in Boulder in 2010 by award-winning theater director, Kirsten Wilson. Motus creates 2 types of original theater: multimedia performances exploring the histories of communities who are marginalized; and autobiographical monologue performances, written and performed by people whose experiences are underrepresented on stage and in the media.
Motus' first multimedia history performances, "Rocks Karma Arrows" (RKA) (2009-2012) and "It's Only a Paper Moon" (2017) were commissioned with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2012, '14 and '15. For RKA, Wilson received the Arts Innovation Award from CU's Alliance for Art Technology & Society.
Since 2013, Motus has been focusing on the issue of immigration. In "Do You Know Who I Am?" (DYKWIA?) (2013), undocumented young people perform their experience of living without papers. DYKWIA? was seen by over 4,000 people and won 5 major awards. In "SALSA Lotería" (2015), a co-production with Programa Compañeras of El Centro Amistad, Latina immigrants perform stories about holding their families together across the divide of countries, cultures, and deportation injustice.
In 2017, Motus premiered an unprecedented performance in which the Boulder County (BoCo) DA and Sheriff, 5 Police Chiefs and the CU-Boulder Vice-Chancellor for Safety stood in solidarity with DREAMers by reading their autobiographical monologues. 250 people saw the performance live, 13,000 watched it online, and thousands more tuned in on KGNU. The performance was featured on NPR, USA TODAY, American Theater Magazine and in local newspapers.
In 2018, Motus created the "UndocuAmerica Performance & Media Project", which has 3 components: 1) An autobiographical monologue workshop in which young leaders with DACA artfully crafted their monologues. 2) Live performances featuring the monologists reading their own stories, as well as "allied leaders" reading their stories. Musicians including Yo-Yo Ma, Grammy-winning Arturo O'Farrill, the Flobots, and jazz great Robert Johnson provide musical responses. 3) 2 podcasts featuring the first season as the "UndocuAmerica Series." In the "Shoebox Stories" podcast, prominent Americans such as John Lithgow, Gloria Steinem, and Nicholas Kristof, read the stories of our monologists. In the "Motus Monologues" podcast, monologists read their own stories. Podcasts feature musical responses by Yo-Yo Ma, Arturo O'Farrill, Ozomatli and others.
Since 2018, Motus has been collaborating with the Boulder Weekly to create performances about sanctuary. In "Women of Resolution" (2018), Colorado State Representatives read the stories of 4 Colorado women who sought sanctuary to prevent deportation and the separation of their families. The stories are woven with photography by Joel Dyer and acapella music, and conclude with a poetic response by world-renowned slam poet Dominique Christina. "Invisible Lines" (2020) focuses on stories of immigrants in sanctuary across the country through improv theater, audience engagement, live music, photography, and poetry.
In 2019, Motus began working with formerly incarcerated people to develop autobiographical monologues about the criminal justice system for the "JustUs Project", which premiered at the National Association of Community & Restorative Justice for an audience of 1,600 and was presented as a plenary at the Grantmakers in the Arts Conference.
Shoebox Stories Podcast:
" I think that if people in this country would listen to stories like this, and really just take a couple of minutes to digest everything that you said, it'll be a different story." - Jorge Ramos, journalist and Anchor for Facebook's Real America
"We're in a moment of crisis, a crisis of empathy in this country. And it seems to me that the whole thrust of this project is to address that crisis... I think it's a wonderful thing to partner you and me and to make my reading of your story a companion piece to yours. It's my way of walking in your shoes." - John Lithgow, Actor and Writer
"There's nothing on earth more supportive than people sitting in a circle, telling their stories. Telling the story you think only you feel, three other people who say, "Oh, you feel like that? I thought only I felt like that?" Then we discover that it's in some way about power or injustice or something. And together, we can change that." - Gloria Steinem, Author and feminist activist
"We're all saying, "Y'all had been sleeping while we've become dehumanized." You've been sleeping, and everybody was just like, "Oh, it's just immigrants. They're illegal, anyways." So, our mutual call is to say, "You need to wake up and take part in your democracy." So, it's not just you, it's not just me, it's not hundreds, it's tens of thousands of us, hundreds of thousands of us." - Maria Hinojosa, anchor and lead producer of Latino USA and founder of Futuro Media.
"[the UndocuAmerica workshop] transformed me, helped me feel more human. It helped me feel that I'm not alone in my trauma and suffering. It helped me feel stronger and more confident in my own skin. It helped me feel less apologetic towards the world and more connected to my own humanity in its purest form. I found through this process a new sense of self confidence that came from the process of deconstructing the lies that I had internalized about how I should feel about myself." - Anonymous UndocuAmerica Monologist
"This monologue workshop helped me process some of my traumas in a productive fashion, which helps me be a better advocate for immigrant rights. Getting out the trauma using a positive medium has been great for my mental health as well as my general wellbeing. Now I have another tool to help me process the world around me." - Anonymous UndocuAmerica Monologist
Immigration is such a big part of my life but I rarely take the time to look into my past given that the present always has politics that draw my attention. So it was very helpful to look into pieces of my life that I often push aside (it reminded me of things to tell my therapist!). More importantly, we were able to build a community which is always helpful for my wellbeing." - Anonymous UndocuAmerica Monologist
"Motus Theater has provided a voice to those who were voiceless. And as a result, a lot of people are speaking about things that they weren't speaking about: the injustices of the justice system, and it's punitive damage." - Juaquin Mobley, JustUs Monologist
"It brings me to a place where I am fulfilling my destiny, where I'm beginning to walk into the purpose for which I was created, and that's empowering. Yeah, that's, that's very empowering."- Daniel Guillory, JustUs Monologist
"We're changing how we are being seen in the community from thugs/criminals to thespians, just like that." - Astro Allison, JustUs Monologist
"I love these monologues because they shift the narrative that has enabled systems of oppression in the U.S." - Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative at the 2019 Grantmakers in the Arts Conference