A hundred pounds lighter

Motus Theater honors Immigrant Heritage Month with performances, music and announcement of a new podcast

Reydesel Salvidrez-Rodriguez

Everytime 27-year-old Reydesel Salvidrez-Rodriguez shares his story, he’s filled with a sense of relief.

“No more secrets, no more lies,” says Salvidrez-Rodriguez, an undocumented immigrant who moved to the U.S. with his parents when he was 10. Telling his story for the first time, he says, “I felt a hundred pounds lighter.”

On June 29 at eTown Hall, Salvidrez-Rodriguez and nine other artists from Motus Theater will perform a series of monologues in honor of Immigrant Heritage Month. The series, called UndocuMonologues, is an ongoing event featuring the powerful accounts of undocumented individuals and community leaders sharing their stories, including their fears, hopes and dreams. 

Salvidrez-Rodriguez grew up traveling between Mexico and the United States, but in 2002 his parents decided to stay in the U.S. to give him a better life with more opportunity. 

Salvidrez-Rodriguez attended East High School in Denver. In 2012, he applied for college and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the Obama-era program that protects eligible immigrant youth from deportation. He was accepted by both. 

Salvidrez-Rodriguez went on to earn his associate’s degree at Denver Community College and then attended the University of Colorado Denver, where he stepped into his role as a leader for other undocumented students by serving in the student government and becoming the first student director of Undocumented Student Services. Salvidrez-Rodriguez recently graduated with dual bachelor’s degrees in communications and ethnic studies. 

Through it all, however, Salvidrez-Rodriguez struggled with depression and with finding educational resources — both common experiences for undocumented youth. 

After being hesitant to trust people with understanding his personal experiences for years, Salvidrez-Rodriguez finally found a home at Motus Theater, a place where he can confidently share his hardships and his accomplishments with others. 

“Motus Theater works with leaders on the front lines, in this case immigration, to create autobiographical monologues aimed at the heart of a pivotal issue that’s happening in each person’s life,” says Kirsten Wilson, artistic director at Motus Theater. “The audience has the opportunity to hear a story that you wouldn’t otherwise hear unless you knew that person very intimately.”

The month of June is Immigrant Heritage Month and across the United States, immigrants come together to honor diversity and to explore their own heritage. 

“The beginning, the culture, the tradition, their grandparents, where they come from,” Salvidrez-Rodriguez says as he lists off what he finds important for people to discover during this time. 

This iteration of the UnDocuMonologues series will be accompanied by a musical performance by Robert Johnson, a jazz musician who has performed with renowned artists such as Stevie Wonder and Stan Getz. Johnson will be accompanied by local pianist Adam Bodine. 

“It’s one thing to hear the actual person telling the story,” Johnson says, “but then if you are able to put a song along with it that people know or have heard, it seems to move the cord a little more because every song tells a story.”

“Every ritual, every tradition, has music to help us strengthen our spirits and connect with deeply who we are,” Wilson says. “Hopefully the audience leaves inspired by the courage of the performers and more in touch with their own lives, their own bodies and what’s important to them existentially.” 

On June 29 Motus Theater will also share exclusive content from its new podcast, Shoebox Stories, featuring nationally known influencers — such as Jorge Ramos, Nicholas Kristof and Gloria Steinem — reading the stories of undocumented leaders. 

“The podcast was a way for us to scale and export the awesome things that are happening in Boulder across the country,” Wilson says. “The people who don’t live here can benefit from hearing the stories of the undocumented leaders that are in Colorado and learn from these stories and hopefully also shift policies to those that are more humane.”

At a national level, Wilson says she hopes the podcast will generate an emotional response and encourage listeners to take action. 

“See the world through someone else’s eyes,” Wilson says. “You don’t have to agree with everything they say, but you learn a lot by just being willing to be like, ‘Wow, if I was in their shoes, what would I have done myself?’” 

On the bill: UndocuMonologues — with Robert Johnson. Saturday, June 29, eTown Hall, 1535 Spruce St., Boulder.

Family friendly performance: 5 p.m. 

‘Showbox Stories’ podcast announcement: 6:30 p.m.

UndocuMonologues Unplugged: 8 p.m.