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Motus Theater performance to explore mass incarceration

A capella singers from Spirit of Grace singing at Motus Theater’s JustUs performance of “Boundless Truth.”
Michael Ensminger.
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Motus Theater
A capella singers from Spirit of Grace singing at Motus Theater’s JustUs performance of “Boundless Truth.”

“JustUs: Stories from the Frontline of the Criminal Legal System” will be performed at Knox College’s Harbach Theatre at 12:45 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 27.

A performing arts group that uses theater to build alliances across diverse segments of the country is coming to Galesburg.

Colorado-based Motus Theater uses performance and storytelling to facilitate dialogue about a number of social issues, such as mass incarceration.

They will perform “JustUs: Stories from the Frontline of the Criminal Legal System” at Knox College’s Harbach Theatre at 12:45 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 27. The performance is free and open to the public.

Leanne Trapedo Sims, a professor of peace and justice at Knox, said the performance is meant to expose audiences to new perspectives on the criminal legal system.

She has done a substantial amount of work within the prison system.

Recently, she has been working with Knox students on an Inside-Out Prison Exchange program at Henry C. Hill Correctional Center in Galesburg.

That program uses courses inside prisons to educate students across profound social differences.

“Once you get to hear these stories and you get to hear the profound trauma, I think you have to have compassion and understand there’s something wrong with our culture and our society and the system, and you know it’s about systemic injustice and not personal injustice,” she said.

Motus Theater member Dereck Bell
Michael Ensminger
/
Motus Theater
Motus Theater member Dereck Bell

At the Motus Theater event, Knox College President Andrew McGadney and Knox County State’s Attorney Jeremy Karlin will co-read monologues of Dereck Bell and Daniel Guillory. McGadney and Karlin personally selected these stories based on what resonated with them the most.

Other performers scheduled include Juaquin Mobley and Colette Payne with their JustUs stories, and the Chicago based a cappella group, Spirit of Grace.

The performance will cover themes including racial profiling, human rights abuses in prisons, and inequities in the bond and bail system.

A question-and-answer panel is planned after the performance.

First-year students at Knox have been studying the United States justice system in their preceptorials.

This year’s common reader book was “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption” by Bryan Stevenson, a memoir about the author’s experiences as an attorney working with wrongful convictions and life sentences.

Students will attend the performance as part of their classes.

Sims said she hopes the Motus Theater performance will open up discussions about the justice system, both at Knox and in the Galesburg community.

“Unless we look at these things and are willing to talk about things that are very vulnerable and very difficult, things will not change,” she said.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Ro Ivaniszek is a Knox College senior majoring in theatre and English literature.