Regardless of the discipline, artists use their work to reveal — and connect — us all. Melody, color, symbols, and allegories are a few of their tools, yet each is most effective when rooted in something personal.
Motus Theater, based in Colorado, puts that philosophy front and center, harnessing the potency of autobiographical storytelling as a vehicle for social change. The company works with members of marginalized communities to craft personal monologues that challenge the audience's preconceived ideas.
“This is a performance in which people's humanity is uplifted and celebrated and shared and the diversity of that humanity,” explained Kirsten Wilson, Motus’ founder and executive artistic director.
For the company’s newest production, TRANSformative Stories, a group of transgender and nonbinary leaders followed the same months-long process established by Motus for its other programs. They met as a group to help each other edit and refine the monologues.
“I prayed and prayed like a good Catholic boy, for God to fix me,” Rev. Nicole M. Garcia wrote in her monologue. Garcia, who identifies as a queer, transgender Latina, currently serves as the Faith Work Director at the National LGBTQ Task Force.
The process of crafting her story with Motus helped Garcia understand her unique role in the community better.
“You know what Kirsten (Wilson) really brought forth is that I need to own the fact that I'm a trans elder,” said Garcia. “I've been out for 20 years now and navigating the process of transition, and then earning master's degrees and becoming a therapist and then a pastor and working with trans people around the country. And my fellow monologists are much younger than I am, and I really needed to take my place as a trans elder and walk with the younger generation as they come to terms with who they are.”
At the top of his monologue, CU Boulder’s Pride Office director Morgan Seamont drew a strong connection between a vivid childhood memory and his early gender identity awareness.
“I'm on a grassy field, with two boys. We're nine or ten years old. One of them is standing next to me,” Seamont tells the audience in his monologue. “Everything's right — beautiful, sunshiny day. The ball feels like it was made to fit my hand. I still remember the way the ball spins and spirals and arcs into the distance and the catch — complete, perfect.”
Seamont believes this kind of storytelling is the most effective way to connect with others.
“It allows people to get that deeper sense of who you are, what makes you the person you are, everything that's contributed to the makeup of you,” said Seamont. “And so telling those stories I think creates those deeper connections and lets people get beyond the stereotypes they may have learned about transgender people or any other set of marginalized people. It gets people to learn about what that experience is truly like.”
The show is anchored in human voices, but the experience goes well beyond that. Motus enlisted Tona Brown, a renowned violinist, mezzo-soprano, and transgender activist, to provide musical reactions to each monologue. Brown is often celebrated as the first trans woman to headline a Carnegie Hall performance.
“I think that so many people assume that they've never come across a trans person just because a lot of us don't share our personal lives with just everyone if you're not an activist or if you're not a media professional or something,” said Brown. “But even if you have not come across a transgender person, try your best to go and hear stories about our lives, because we're more similar than we are different. And those differences is what makes us amazing.”
Personal narratives, like the ones showcased in TRANSformative Stories, Brown believes, have the power to foster empathy and break down barriers.
”Once a person who has never had any experience knowing anything about transgender (people) actually get involved with our artistry, I've always noticed a difference in the way they see us.” Brown said.
A National Endowment for the Arts grant allowed Motus Theater to develop the TRANSformative Stories project and produce the first performance at e-Town in Boulder. Now the company is seeking partners to support a statewide and national tour.
Upcoming performances in Colorado:
TRANSformative Stories at CU Boulder’s TRANSforming Gender Conference
- Koelbel Business School, CU Boulder.
- Saturday, March 16, 2024, 2:45 p.m. - 4 p.m.
TRANSformative Stories at the Longmont Museum
- Longmont Museum
- Thursday, April 11, 2024, at 7 p.m.
- Co-presented by the Longmont Multicultural Action Committee.
Queer Immigrant PRIDE! Empowering Performances of LGBTQIA+ Immigrants
- Saturday, June 22, 2024
- 7 p.m. Art Reception 6:30 pm - 7:30 pm.
- Performance 7:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.
- Evan’s School, Denver, CO.
- Performances feature monologues from Motus’ TRANSformative Stories and UndocuAmerica projects by LGBTQIA+ immigrant monologists.
- Featured monologists include David Brena (he/him), Cristian Solano-Cordova (he/they), and Ruby Lopez (she/her).
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