Shedding light on life through stories

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Storyteller Betty Goldstein was a former orange-picker and mortgage banker, who began writing just two years ago. Some of Goldstein's stories focus on her pet parrot, Papagana II, one of nine birds she has rescued.

In a departure from its usual venue at Malibu United Methodist Church,

Tales by the Sea will host the performance of four local storytellers

at a private home on Saturday.

By Carla Fischer / Special to Malibu Times

Eighteen years ago, Malibu resident Ann Buxie attended the national storytelling festival in Jonesboro, Tenn.

“It’s an unbelievable affair,” Buxie described. “It lasts for three days. When I was there [18 years ago], five or six tents were set up. Now there are eight tents, each holding 1,000 people, making it close to 10,000 people in this little, old town in Tennessee.”

During that first visit, Buxie fell in love with storytelling.

“Stories let you in on how someone has weathered their life,” she said. “It’s really a precious thing when people share a portion of their life. It could be entertaining, profound and it might shed some light on the listener’s life.”

A decade ago, Buxie made a decision to bring a little bit of that ancient, age-old tradition of storytelling to Malibu in the form of “Tales by the Sea,” in which performers from around the country gathered in Malibu to tell their stories.

Some nationally known tellers from Tennessee have also appeared at the Tales by the Sea venue.

“It’s just amazing! You can just call them on the phone and talk to them. There’s no agent,” Buxie said. “They say, ‘Sure!’ They forgo their normal fee and figure it out when they get here.”

This fall season, Tales by the Sea is premiering its first home concert Sept. 29, using local performers.

And, in a departure from venues in the past hosted by Malibu United Methodist Church, audience members will gather in a private home to enjoy the storytelling entertainment.

“A home concert,” Buxie explained, “allows the performers more freedom to work with edgier material.”

On why she chose the four Los Angeles storytellers for Saturday’s performance, Buxie said, “Sometimes we feel so alone … These performers distill critical life moments into stories that we can all identify with and laugh at together. And that offers us a huge comfort.”

Saturday’s storytellers’ backgrounds vary from actors to former orange-pickers to a CBS executive.

Elizabeth Payne, an actor who has a recurring role in the television series “Ugly Betty,” will be telling a few stories she has written. With titles like “Does This Qualify as a Gift?” and “The Yoga Nazi,” Payne said, “They’re personally based and meant to be funny. Maybe they’ll give some insight into modern life.”

Storyteller Betty Goldstein was a former orange-picker and mortgage banker who began writing just two years ago. When Goldstein was in high school in Piru, Calif., ambitious and needing money, she applied for a job helping to pick an upcoming orange crop. While working the crop, Goldstein developed a soft spot in her heart for migrant workers. She would listen to their stories and began journaling with the idea that one day she would write. She began taking writing classes at the Skirball Cultural Center and UCLA.

“I’m inspired by my wonderful, 13-year-old son Jesse who sometimes edits my work and is also my photographer,” Goldstein said.

Some of Goldstein’s stories focus on her pet parrot, Papagana II, one of nine birds she has rescued. Saturday she will tell a story called “Hot.”

Jason Micallef, a writer for film and TV, will present his story “Timmy, Hand Momma Her Gun.” Micallef comes from a small town in Virginia, that has fueled some of his stories from those early experiences.

And Charles Freerick, who spent 20 years as a TV executive with CBS and NBC, will be presenting two stories from his collection, “My Imaginary Friend Was Too Cool to Hang Out With Me.”

Buxie recalled what Donald Davis, a nationally known storyteller once said, “A story happens when your life is turned up- side down and the story is that moment when your life comes right side up again.”

Saturday’s performance, which begins at 7 p.m. is free to the public. Refreshments will be served. Reservations and location can be obtained by calling 310.457.2385.