Tales by the Sea offers a home concert


Six storytellers, including Malibu resident Jo Giese, will take part in “Heroes, Loves and Other Primal Matters” at a private residence.

By Melonie Magruder / Special to The Malibu Times

In a ritual going back thousands of years, Malibu resident Ann Buxie will present a special home concert of her professional storytelling group, “Tales by the Sea,” this Friday.

Since the hunter-gatherer era of human development, oral history passed from generation to generation, surviving by memory, with the best storytellers revered within communities whose sole means of entertainment and information came from the spoken word.

Indeed, ancient Hawaiians, as other indigenous peoples, had no written history and passed down genealogies of astounding complexity entirely through memorization and ritualistic performance.

Even with the advent of writing and record keeping, storytelling preserves a singularly human form of communication. One that Buxie believes is in danger of anachronistic demise.

“If you give up and just sit in front of the TV, you slowly die,” Buxie said. “You have to get out and reveal what makes us tick. Otherwise, the stories you don’t share will be gone when you are.”

Buxie has been involved with a nationwide storytelling community for years and sits on the board of the group that produces the Los Angeles Storytelling Festival each year.

“Storytelling nowadays is different from other kinds of performances because it doesn’t come from rote memorization but from the heart,” she explained. “By its spontaneous nature, it’s affected by audience reaction, mood, temperament. In a sense, it’s a dialogue with the audience, so they are involved in the performance.”

While Tales by the Sea has performed in different venues around Malibu, the Saturday night show titled “Heroes, Loves and Other Primal Matters” will take place in a private home.

“Storytelling is not just for children,” Buxie said. “This evening’s performances will include some more adult themes with tellers speaking about profound moments in their lives.”

Friday’s lineup will include professional tellers from throughout Los Angeles, including Malibu resident Jo Giese, a radio journalist and community activist who premieres a wacky and erotic story from her new story collection, “Fumbling Towards Ecstasy.”

“At its best, storytelling is about making connections with the audience and opening up everyone’s experience and vision,” Buxie said. “This concert features all very different and excellent performers.”

Storyteller Ellaraino, who goes by the single name, said she likes slave narratives and historically accurate tales.

“I started out working at the Compton Center for Artistically Talented Students and got bored with the plays we were teaching,” Ellaraino said. “I came across an old Caribbean tale that I had the children act out. It clicked and I decided to start do something meaningful with our history.”

Ellaraino plans to speak about her great-grandmother. “She was an emancipated slave but she never felt free, because she couldn’t read,” she said. “At age 85, she learned to read and lived on to be 116.”

Joe Herrington, the “Cowboy Poet,” said that storytelling was a natural for him.

“My Grandpa and uncles always told stories. It was something that we looked forward to at the end of the day,” he said. “As a scoutmaster, I started telling stories to my boys and somewhere along the way, I realized people would pay me to do this!”

Although he was born in the Bronx, Padraic Keohane’s Irish ancestry means storytelling is in his blood. A class in New Mexico nudged his latent talent and he works with several storytelling groups now.

“I do a little of everything,” he said. “Folk tales, stories I’ve written myself, even personal stuff. Saturday I’m doing one about my very first date.”

Ellen Switkes came to California in 1980 from Washington DC where, she joked, “My father was the only guy in DC who didn’t work in the government.”

She was cast in a play titled “30 Lies in 30 Minutes” that featured 30 one-minute, self-penned monologues and got hooked on storytelling.

“It’s a challenge to bring this art into the 21st century,” Switkes said. “My stories are personal, but they are not flat, two-dimensional speeches. It’s more like a braid. You weave different stories. You try to go for a universal experience.”

Also performing Saturday is Vicky Juditz and Lupe Placencia. Juditz has performed her original stories at theaters and festivals across the country, and has been nominated for an L.A. Weekly award for solo performance and for an Ovation Award for best writing of a world premiere. Placencia will be telling a story called “Ear to Ear,” a tale about gaining her citizeship.

Tales by the Sea’s Home Concert takes place Saturday, 6:30 p.m. Seating is limited and reservations are required. Information and reservations can be obtained by calling Ann Buxie at 310.457.2385.