The story behind Motus Theater.
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 alliances across diverse segments of our community and country.
Storytelling is at the heart of what makes us human. We focus on bringing marginalized voices or silenced histories to the stage. We support inclusion by expanding our audiences’ experiences of the variety of stories that make up our country. By using theater to learn and listen across the gaps of difference we weave tighter, stronger and more connected communities. We hope you will gather around the fire with us: share your stories and learn new ones.
Shocked by several hate crimes in the Boulder community in 2005 and 2006, Kirsten Wilson created Rocks Karma Arrows (RKA), a multimedia theater work exploring Boulder history through the lens of race and class. The critically acclaimed production premiered at the Boulder’s Sesquicentennial in 2009, and it explores the tragic relationship between the Chief Niwot and the settlers who flocked to this territory seeking gold. Her aim was to allow people to see the patterns of bias in our past, so that we might be better prepared to come together to work towards a more inclusive future.
A group of community leaders were inspired by the RKA performance and envisioned using the show to spark further community discussion about setting Boulder on a new, more equitable path. This led to the formation of Motus Theater in 2011, whose mission is to create original theater to facilitate dialogue on critical issues of our time.
Supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts In 2012, Motus developed One Action: One Boulder collaborating with 50 arts and civic organizations to encourage people to learn about the history of immigration, talk about current immigration issues, and take an action to create a stronger community. Over 18,000 people participated in the project. This project solidified Motus as a leader in the community for bringing people together to take on critical issues in a thoughtful and impactful way.
Motus Theater’s work was initially focused on issues of race and class, but shifted primarily to issues concerning immigration as national and local policies began to have a daily and direct impact on members of our community. Motus Theater’s first step into this issue was with the award-winning production of Do You Know Who I Am? (DYKWIA?) (2013), where undocumented young people performed their experience of living without papers. In Salsa Loteria (2015), Latina immigrants perform stories about holding their families together across the divide of countries, cultures, and deportation injustice.
“I went to an AMAZING, sold out performance last night called Do You Know Who I Am? where five brave Latino immigrant youth tell their compelling stories. Equal parts cheering and crying. If you ever had doubts about the need for immediate immigration reform, you won’t anymore.”
—BOULDER COUNTY COMMISSIONER ELISE JONES
After the 2016 presidential election, community leaders called upon Motus to develop more programs that encouraged conversations about immigration. In response, Motus created the Creative Courage Initiative with 21 programs presented in universities, theaters, museums, churches, and synagogues. The most ambitious program within the Initiative was a performance that brought to the stage the Boulder County DA, Sheriff, Police Chiefs and the CU-Boulder Vice-Chancellor for Safety to stand in solidarity with DREAMeRs by reading their autobiographical monologues. The powerful performance influenced the national and local conversation about immigration and was featured on NPR’s Here & Now, USA TODAY, American Theater Magazine and in local newspapers.
In 2017 & 2018, Motus premiered the multimedia performance on immigration history, It’s Only A Paper Moon Hanging Over an Immigration History, which is the first of three parts of the project Let’s All Be Americans Now. They also developed the unprecedented UndocuAmerica Performance & Media Project. The pilot performance of this project, launched at E-Town with Colorado State House Representatives reading the stories of women in sanctuary in Colorado.
The platform of having allied leadership voices read aloud the stories of those whose voices often go unheard in the media has been a powerful model. Motus is preparing to take this model to a national level in 2019/2020 with Shoebox Stories, a national podcast. Season One: The UndocuAmerica Series is set to launch in June. This groundbreaking podcast series invites national leaders to “stand in the shoes” of a person who is marginalized or whose character is frequently attacked and read their autobiographical story aloud to see the world through their eyes.
Motus has a long history of social action theater and will continue to look to the critical issues of our time for inspiration in the future.