Truth to power

World premiere storytelling event shines a spotlight on trans experiences in Boulder and beyond

Rev. Nicole Garcia is one of eight monologists who will share their personal experiences on stage as part of ‘TRANSformative Stories’ at eTown Hall on Nov. 12. Credit: Chris Cleary Media

Despite the progress won by LGBTQ advocates in recent decades, it’s a dangerous time to be a trans person in America. This year alone, state legislators have introduced 586 anti-trans bills in nearly every state. While 125 have failed, including two in Colorado, 85 have passed and 376 are still active

“We never really think of Colorado as a state that would have bills like this introduced in our legislature, and thankfully legislators’ hateful efforts failed, but many haven’t,” says Cristian Solano-Córdova, a queer DACA recipient who serves as communications director for Motus Theater, a Boulder-based social justice performance group. “In light of that environment, which is characterized by discrimination and exclusion, Motus must assist our community members. The political discourse is so tainted by misconceptions, falsehoods and unfounded claims that we as a community have to stand up against these derogatory tactics.”

Through a day of music and storytelling, the world premiere of Motus Theater’s TRANSformative Stories aims to do just that. Debuting on Nov. 12 at eTown Hall in Boulder, the spoken-word event features eight trans and nonbinary leaders from the Front Range and around the country, alongside musical accompaniment by renowned violinist and mezzo-soprano Tona Brown

Known for being the first trans person to perform for a sitting U.S. president and the first Black trans woman to play at Carnegie Hall, Brown will provide musical responses to each monologue.

“Music is the foundation of all things, but a lot of the time people don’t think about how important it is to have music at your event until the last minute,” Brown says. “When you read the monologues, you kind of get a feel for the music that would best support what they’re saying. … I’m not composing; I read their piece, paid attention to what I was feeling, and then selected a piece of music to reply to the story the monologist shared.”

The upcoming Motus Theater storytelling event will feature musical accompaniment by renowned violinist and mezzo-soprano Tona Brown, the first Black trans woman to play at Carnegie Hall. Credit: Cathi Stetson

‘People are people’

Motus Theater has been leading the way in the production of autobiographical monologue plays since 2011. TRANSFORMative Stories builds on the company’s previous work with artfully crafted autobiographical monologues featuring queer people on the frontlines of violence and oppression in the United States.

“Motus Theater has always been a space where art and activism intertwine,” artistic director Kirsten Wilson told Boulder Weekly in a previous interview this fall. “Our theater serves as a transformative vehicle for societal change, igniting critical conversations through storytelling.”

Through a National Endowment for the Arts grant, Motus was able to bring TRANSformative Stories to the stage. Wilson initiated the project by meeting with leaders in Colorado and nationwide to inform them about the new Motus initiative, along with David Breña, who in addition to serving as a Motus board member also worked as a strategist for TRANSformative Stories and will contribute a monologue to the show. 

While many people helped in the search for monologists, the team says Mardi Moore of Out Boulder County was an invaluable advisor who made connections between different people and organizations. After the eight performers were selected, Motus began meeting with monologists as a group via Zoom to polish the stories they would be presenting on stage. 

“We have been meeting for two hours on Saturday mornings for several months to write the monologues and build community,” Rev. Nicole Garcia says. “By reading my monologue to them, I found the story that I wanted to tell. I’m in my 60s, and I transitioned 20 years ago when attitudes were very different. I transitioned because I needed to go from one gender to another, male to female, but it is wonderful to work with people who have not had that intensive socialization with the binary. As a trans elder, hearing stories about the younger generation truly carving out a new space for themselves has been so life-giving and life-affirming.”

Another monologist and the director of the CU Boulder Pride Office, Morgan Henry Seamont, credits the event’s resonance to the universal power of storytelling. He believes that sharing their authentic experience in front of a crowd is one of the best ways to help people understand their perspectives and develop empathy for trans people. 

“I work at the university, so I have had exposure to a lot of trans stories, but these stories were even a broader set of diversity than I had encountered,” Seamont says. “TRANSformative Stories goes beyond the typical story of trans people going through a difficult transition with their families and blah-blah-blah.I really enjoyed being a part of this group because the stories are so rich with nuance about what it has been like for these people to identify as trans that people may not be aware of.” 

The storytelling experience is divided into two sessions, with Seamont, Alison Reba, Shauna Brooks and Garcia performing at 2 p.m. and Ruby Sofia Lopez, Jahmil Roberts, Raye Watson and Breña performing at 5 p.m. Attendees can attend one or both sessions to listen to speeches designed to challenge societal norms, break down stereotypes and celebrate our shared humanity.

“This is the type of event that will bring out the humanity in all of us,” Brown concludes. “If you listen to the fear-mongering about trans people in our politics, it is very dehumanizing and makes trans people appear evil. Hearing the words of transgender people read aloud gives you a sense of the humanity of who they are and who we all are. That is what I want people to take away from the theater: the understanding that people are people. We are all human beings who have faced many challenges, and we’re far more alike than we are different.” 

ON STAGE: TRANSformative Stories. 2 and 5 p.m. Nov. 12, eTown Hall, 1535 Spruce St., Boulder. Tickets here.


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