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Motion Theater


Improvisation as Art Form

and Transformative Practice

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Motion Theater


Improvisation as Art Form

and Transformative Practice

Seriously Fun | Curiously Addictive

Founded by Nina Wise

A program of Motion Institute

An original form of autobiographical improvisation, Motion Theater® is simultaneously performance art and a refreshingly authentic spiritual practice. Created by award-winning Bay Area performer Nina Wise, Motion has been described by both participants and audiences as funny, moving, liberating and transformational. Motion is playful, mindful self-expression where you’re likely to experience a freer more spontaneous you.

Discover more about Motion Theater

"When you become addicted to what frees you instead of to what keeps you unhappy, your life changes."
Nina Wise

"Doing Motion Theater was one of the most transformative experiences of my life."
— 
Halya, Filmmaker, CBC Canada

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Take a Workshop


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Take a Workshop


Take a workshop

Become part of the welcoming, growing Motion community. Motion has a strong movement component, so we teach movement as part of the training. It also has a strong narrative element, so we teach what we call writing on your feet, as the narrative is spoken rather than written for the page. Combining these elements, the body as well as the voice is used for a full out form of improvised autobiographical expression. Move like you’ve never moved. Sing, growl, chant. Tell the stories only you can tell and experience a bone-deep, soul-deep liberation. Feel lighter, wiser, sweeter, and, yes, hungry for more Motion.
 

"FABULOUS! Absolutely the best thing on the planet for grown ups- to have fun and be spontaneous and open their hearts."
— 
Rhys, Professor of Psychology 

"One of the most transformative experiences of my life."
 — Nancy, Attorney

"It was absolutely the BEST workshop of my entire life (and I'm old!!).  I felt inspired to stretch myself, give myself to the process, and LIVE!" 
— 
Judy, Psychotherapist

In a Motion Theater® class, you’ll: 

In a Motion Theater class, you’ll learn to tell your stories on your feet, utilizing language, sound and movement as your tools of expression.

In each workshop you’ll:

  • Warm up and free up your body and voice
  • Move in response to your inner impulses
  • Play theater games that open you up and generate creativity and well-being
  • Hone your writing and storytelling skills 
  • Embody your personal narrative
  • Engage in uplifting adult play

Motion Theater practices are designed to raise your spirits, inspire personal insight, deepen intimacy, create community, expand awareness, enhance  self-confidence and develop presence and craft as a leader or performer.

 

Motion Theater Workshops: Levels 1+2

Our stories live in our bodies, in our cells, so we move from the inside out, giving voice and form to our personal characters and realities. We unwind, we engage in gentle and vigorous movement, we vocalize, we tell stories. Expect to surprise yourself, to become more playful and at ease before an audience, to enhance your use of language, and to gain greater insight and appreciation of your stories, your life, yourself and others.  

Motion Theater
Romps

Motion Theater romps are a weekly drop-in class for people to play Motion style together. The least formal version of Motion Theater, these classes emphasize the fun, playful, and lighthearted aspects of the form.  We promise your mood will be lifted, and you’ll leave feeling invigorated and connected (to yourself and others).

Advanced Lab

Advanced Lab meets once a week for three to six months and is intended for people who’ve already taken a Motion Theatre workshop. You’ll hone your Motion Theater skills practicing solo, duet, trio and ensemble forms with other trained improvisers. Advanced Lab culminates in a public performance. Through this expressive, transformational practice, you’ll cultivate presence, advance your artistic craft and develop your leadership and presentation skills.

MOTION IMPROV THEATER WORKSHOP

In this daylong workshop, experience the joy of moving, chanting, and spontaneous storytelling with your whole being, and liberating what lies hidden. Find your natural ease of expression and reside in authentic presence. All levels welcome. 

Motion Theater Immersion

Immerse yourself in both the therapeutic and performance aspects of Motion as you hone your skills in the solo, duet and ensemble forms that are the essential building blocks of the practice. Through this intensive practice with a group of committed colleagues, you will unleash your creativity, discover an innate freedom of being, gain insights about your past and present, and develop proficiencies in self-expression that are likely to spill over into all aspects of your life. Motion Immersion consists of six weekend workshops and one five-day retreat. There are no pre-requisites for Immersion.

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Upcoming Events


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Upcoming Events


nina at marin sangha

Nina Wise will lead a silent meditation and give a dharma talk.

Sunday August 2nd
6-8pm

By donation
St. Luke Presbyterian Church | Bayview Room | 10 Bayview Drive | San Rafael, CA 

nina at Napa valley insight meditation

Nina Wise will lead a silent meditation and give a dharma talk.

Tuesday August 11
7-8:30 pm

By Donation

Napa Valley Unitarian Universalist Church | 1625 Salvador Avenue| Napa, CA

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Become a Teacher


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Become a Teacher


Motion Theater® Teacher Training

If you’re ready to go more deeply into the art of Motion Theater and teach others this liberating practice, take Motion Theater Teacher Training. Motion Theater Immersion or the equivalent Motion Theater training is a prerequisite to the Teacher Training.

Motion Theater Immersion

Immerse yourself in both the therapeutic and performance aspects of Motion as you hone your skills in the solo, duet and ensemble forms that are the essential building blocks of the practice. Through this intensive practice with a group of committed colleagues, you will unleash your creativity, discover an innate freedom of being, gain insights about your past and present, and develop proficiencies in self-expression that are likely to spill over into all aspects of your life. Motion Immersion consists of six weekend workshops and one five-day retreat. There are no pre-requisites for Immersion.

Motion Theater Teacher Training 1

Gain proficiency in the core Motion Theater forms and become certified to teach beginning and intermediate levels of Motion.

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Meet our Teachers


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Meet our Teachers


We’re thrilled that Motion Theater® is making its way out into the world through our widening circle of certified teachers.

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Nina Wise

Performance Artist and Motion Theater’s Founder

Nina Wise has given solo performances and taught Motion Theatre in prestigious venues in the U.S., South America, Europe and Asia. She’s won awards for playwriting, innovative design and new theater, including three NEA fellowships and seven Bay Area Theater Critics’ Circle Awards. After having many shorter writings appear in magazines and anthologies, Nina wrote “A Big New Free Happy Unusual Life” (Broadway Books) to give people who aren’t able to take a Motion workshop a way to move their stories out and live freer happier lives.

“Since I was a student, earning degrees in religious studies and the aesthetics of movement, I’ve been dedicated to understanding the relationship of body, mind and spirit. I’ve sought out everyone from great choreographers such as Twyla Tharpe, Anna Halprin and Margy Jenkins to spiritual teachers such as Jack Kornfield and HWJ Poonjaji to chaos theorists, neuroscientists, cosmologists and economists in an endlessly fascinating journey. Early on, I discovered that the body holds knowledge the mind knows nothing of and, that if given voice, those understandings can fuel and free the spirit. This is why I created Motion Theater. I wanted to give people a way to transform their lives through self-expression.”   — Nina Wise

Nina lives in San Rafael, California. She teaches workshops and performs worldwide.
Book Nina for a Solo Performance  •  Visit Nina's Website  •  Email Nina

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Maria Freebairn-Smith

Sebastopol, CA

Maria Freebairn-Smith is a Master Motion Theater® Teacher, performer and public speaking coach. She co-leads Motion Theater Immersion and Teacher Training. Maria has taught at Esalen Institute, Spirit Rock Meditation Center, Joe Goode Studio and other transformational hubs. She’s led groups for twenty-plus years in her private practice, teaching workshops in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. With a degree in psychology from Columbia University and a lifetime commitment to body and breathing practices, she infuses her teaching and coaching with compassion and wisdom.

"I love watching my students come to life—seeing eyes brighten, minds set free, bodies enlivened and hearts nourished by the playful communion that is Motion."   
— 
Maria Freebairn-Smith

Visit Maria's Website  •  Email Maria

 

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Marianna
Seger

Marin County, CA

After many years working in high tech, Marianna rediscovered her artistic soul at a Motion workshop in 2006. Since then she’s been exploring ways to cultivate freedom of being, both in herself and others. Fluent in several languages, Marianna brings worldly experience to her work. She’s an artist, a certified Co-Active Coach and a somatic facilitator. In this lifetime alone, she’s been a yoga teacher, a massage therapist, graphic designer, voice-over artist, project manager and technical writer.

“Motion let’s you set yourself free! And while Motion can be a brief rejuvenating escape into fun and play, it’s also a profound ongoing practice that cultivates ever-expanding discovery.”   
Marianna Seger

Visit Marianna's Website  •   Email Marianna

Annie
Kunjappy

NYC

Annie first trained in Motion Theater with Nina Wise in 2000 and 2001, a period that coincided with her father's illness and death, which gave Annie particularly immediate and profound evidence of the power of this work to excavate and illuminate one's experiential life. Until moving to Brooklyn in 2004, Annie performed with Nina and assisted her in teaching Motion workshops. Now living in the hamlet of Milton in the Hudson Valley, Annie continues to teach and perform Motion Theater. She’s also co-director of Woof Nova, a Theater collective that creates ensemble-devised performance works.

Visit Annie's Website  •  Email Annie

 

Davida
Taurek

Sebastopol, CA

Davida Taurek has a diverse background in the creative arts and body-centered therapies. A certified instructor of Watsu, Waterdance, Motion Theater, and the 5Rhythms, Davida is known for her bright sense of humor, fiery passion and evocative devotional teaching style. She believes in the transformative healing powers of laughter, of self-expression and of gathering in community. Davida loves nothing more than inspiring a room full of people to offer their unique individual and collective dance of life.

Visit Davida's Website  •  Email Davida

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Annabelle
Berrios

Berkeley, CA

Annabelle Berrios, whose name literally translates as "kind neighborhoods" is a facilitator of transformative learning spaces for embodying wisdom in leadership.  She has a JD from Boston College Law School and an MA in East West Psychology from the California Institute of Integral Studies.  She is a faculty member at the New York Open Center, and a graduate of the Motion Theater Teacher Training program. She has performed at the Esalen Institute, at Open Secret as part of an opening act for Nina Wise, as well as at Harbin Hot Springs with fellow Motion Theater Artists. 

Email Annabelle

Deborah
Whitehurst

Phoenix, AZ

During Deborah’s decades-long career in arts administration, she served as the founding Executive Director of the City of Phoenix Arts Commission, established artists fellowships, arts grants, artists-in-schools, and percent for art programs at the state and local levels, and co-owned a national public art consulting practice. She has since turned her focus to her own creativity, embarking on a path of intensive studies in various movement-based art forms and methodologies. In 2013, Deborah became certified to teach Motion Theatre, and established a Phoenix-based teaching practice dedicated to expanding and reintegrating creativity in her student’s lives.   

Email Deborah

 
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Sybil Meyer

San Francisco East Bay

Sybil Meyer is a licensed psychotherapist (LMFT) and expressive arts therapist. She has studied, performed and taught various disciplines of dance and movement arts for most of her life. As a therapist, she has brought the healing and expressive aspects of those disciplines to clients and students in colleges, private studios, and clinical settings. Practicing Motion Theater since 2006 has strengthened her belief in the value and necessity of creative self expression. She sees the Motion art form as a way of addressing the profound need people have to be seen, heard, and witnessed in their efforts to make sense of our increasingly chaotic world; and to articulate their personal stories.    Visit Sybil's Website  •  Email Sybil

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Private Coaching


Writers, Actors,

Dancers and Presenters

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Private Coaching


Writers, Actors,

Dancers and Presenters

Motion is great for everyone—from therapists to teachers to couples to athletes, and it’s particularly great for creatives who are already practicing a form of self-expression. We offer one-on-one coaching and group workshops for actors, speakers, dancers and authors. Nina has even coached fine artists looking to break through a creative ceiling.

For Writers and Authors

Preparing for a book tour and want to spellbind your audience? Need a creative jumpstart? Whether your write fiction or non-fiction, Motion Theater® can help you uncover a trove of narrative material, more wholly embody your characters, paint more vivid scenes and delve more deeply into the heart of your stories. Motion Theater frees up the creative imagination, inspiring a flow of language unhampered by the censoring mind. Writers often refine material they generate in class into works they go on to publish.

Motion also offers essential skills in vocal warm up, relaxation, projection and articulation, making it easier for you to imbue readings with the kind of authenticity that conveys the emotions inherent in the narrative rather than any unsettled emotions you might feel while performing. 

For Actors

Want to embolden your work with a vital physical presence? Want to feel at home on stage? The body of the actor expresses as much as the voice, so the ability to move with ease essential to your craft as a performer. In a Motion Theater workshop, you’ll learn to feel at ease in your body, to respond to physical impulses as they arise, and to develop a strong and relaxed physical presence on stage and off.  

You’ll also learn how to warm up your voice, integrate language with movement, and expand your vocal range of expression. Like Jim Carey and Robin Williams, you can free the voice to express in sound what language cannot reveal—and the process is truly pleasurable.

For Dancers

Use your voice as expressively as you use your body. Speak with clarity and authenticity. Develop narrative content that is not only interesting but also moving. Motion Theater teaches skills essential to dancers who utilize spoken word in their performances. You’ll learn how to warm up your voice, expand your range of vocal expression, integrate movement and text, project your voice and, most important, express language in a way that feels fresh, authentic and free of artifice.

In a Motion Theater workshop, you’ll discover new narrative material through your body and learn to craft it in a way that is simple and direct. In a private session with Nina, you can pinpoint specific challenges and receive directorial guidance in the most effective way of integrating narrative and movement.

For Speakers

Speak from your heart as well as your mind. Learn to relax while you’re on stage, so that your best and most authentic self can emerge. Learn to rely on what you know more than on your notes. Get help with crafting a talk that has strong beginning, middle and end and integrates stories that are moving as well as informative. Enhance your trust of spontaneity, your ability to be funny on the spot, and most important, develop a presence that will serve you from the podium to the boardroom, and just walking through life.

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Book Nina


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Book Nina


 

Nina Wise is internationally renowned for her spontaneous performances that address the most relevant issues of our time. Described as a blend of Lily Tomlin, the Dalai Lama, and Jules Feiffer she is known for her quirky humor, her wisdom, and her startling physicality.

As a teacher, Nina has helped thousands discover the insights and pleasure that emerge  from spontaneous self expression. As a coach, she has helped individuals break through creative barriers, self-limiting habits and facilitated teams to source their greatest creative potential. 

Book Nina for a custom-designed performance for your theater or event and a workshop for your staff, your friends and colleagues, your community – or yourself. 
 

"Nina is an empowering, joyful, and celebratory guide to a fuller life. Creativity is enhanced when we learn to play, dare to break the rules. Nina teaches us to expand our senses and to connect body and soul while having fun."
— Isabel Allende

See Nina at TEDx  •  See Nina at Sister Giant

WHAT JUST HAPPENED

Nina Wise’s What Just Happened is an improvisational performance based on personal and political events which have transpired over the previous twenty-four hours. 

What Just Happened played at The Marsh Theater in San Francisco and Berkeley in 2009 and 2010, and was met with sold-out shows, standing ovations and great reviews. Since then she has performed at venues in  New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Big Sur, Marin County and more to audiences who are consistently moved by the immediacy, humor and depth of the work.

"Nina Wise joins great talent with spiritual understanding. No one else I know so intimately joins the sublime and the absurd, surface and depth, the high and the low. Her range is enormous."
— Natalie Goldberg, author

Relevant Event Entertainment

Need conference and event entertainment that is inspirational, intelligent, and funny? Want uplifting and comic entertainment that also engages meaningfully with the core themes of your event?

Book Nina Wise for custom-crafted entertainment, melding scripted performance with improvised content. Nina creates an elevating show that integrates intellectual information with heartfelt stories providing attendees an unforgettable experience. Performances are customized to fit your time slots, from 15 to 60 minutes.

"Sometimes an artist comes along and you say to yourself, “I am so lucky to be alive to witness this moment."
— Marianne Williamson, author, producer Sister Giant conference

"I can only say one word about Nina Wise’s performance... WOW!!!!!! She came highly recommended so I decided to give her a shot. She blew me and the whole audience away. Such an amazing show— fun, intelligent, beautiful to watch and to listen to. I am now the one highly recommending her to YOU like my friends once did to me."
— Maurizio Benazzo, producer, Science and Non Duality Conference

"I have been producing a series of benefits to bring water to villages in Africa. Nina Wise has concluded the evenings with one of her signature, startling and deeply moving performances. Each time I have seen her perform, I have been convinced that this is the best of her work and yet the next time, she surprises me yet again. It is the brilliant combination of art, spirit, text and movement that makes Nina’s work so unique and so powerful."
— Roger Housden, producer, Poetry for Water, and author

Team Building for Creativity and Productivity

Need your team to work together with more trust and ease, so their self-censoring mechanisms fall away and their creativity thrives? Know that taking the risk to make mistakes and look foolish allows your team members to express their innermost brilliance?

Nina Wise offers team building workshops in improvisation and self-expression that guide participants to relax, engage and play. Creativity explodes. Team bonds solidify. Work becomes more fun. Workshops range from 2 hours to a multi-day series.

Executive Coaching for Authentic Leadership

Want to develop presence, clarity, and the ability to tell stories that move your audience to laughter and tears as you inspire and educate? Need to reduce on- the-job stress so that you feel refreshed, renewed, rejuvenated at work? Want to develop spontaneity and access your deepest intelligence?

Coaching sessions with Nina Wise will help you relax into your natural ease. You will find that you think more clearly, have more fun, attract the trust and respect of others. As you learn to tell moving and funny stories about your own life, you will inspire others as well as teach them about the principles dearest to your heart.

"Nina is a terrific teacher, encouraging, challenging. She helped me work through a lifelong problem."
— Brian, IBM, Menlo Park

Clients

Wells Fargo
Kaiser Permanente
Zen Center of California
Antenna Group
National Natural Foods Association
Hospice of Northern California
Board of Directors, Headlands Center for the Arts
Marianne Williamson Sister Giant Conference
Spirit Rock Meditation Center
UC Berkeley, Extension Center Conferences 

 

California Institute of Integral Studies
Isabel Allende, author, speaker
Steve Ellis, VP Wells Fargo
Mollie Katzen, cookbook author
Science and Non Duality Conference
Shivas Iron Society
International Transpersonal Association
BJ Miller, Executive Director Zen Hospice
Jeff Greenwald, Author

Bio

Wise’s original performance works have been produced in prestigious venues in the US, South America, Europe and Asia and have won awards for playwriting, innovative design, and new theater including three NEA fellowships and seven Bay Area Theater Critics Awards. She is the author of A Big New Free Happy Unusual Life and her stories and articles have been published in numerous anthologies and journals. 

Her immersive theater piece The Kepler Story, created for planetarium domes, played to sold out crowds at California Academy of Sciences Morrison Planetarium and is the first theater piece ever created about an astronomer designed for planetariums.

As an artist and teacher who specializes in innovation, she has coached numerous individuals and teams in creativity, stress reduction, communication and leadership.