Toronto storyteller Mariella Bertelli will be at the MAC on Feb. 23 to give a performance of her story, Lost and Found. — Submitted by Mariella Bertelli

Storyteller to bring grandparents’ country-hopping tale to Parksville

Stories meant to invite audiences imagination, experiences

A love story of people swept up in the world, finding themselves in places such as Brazil and Egypt might seem to be a romantic tale of adventure.

And sometimes it is.

But in Mariella Bertelli’s story Lost and Found: A Family Saga of Love and Stories Lost and Found, it’s not about seeking adventure, but about displacement and seeking a better life.

Bertelli, a storyteller from Toronto, will be sharing that story at the MAC (the McMillan Arts Centre at 133 McMillan St. in Parksville) on Friday, Feb. 23.

Part of the MAC’s performance series, Bertelli’s performance looks to share the tale (a blend of fact and fiction) of her grandparents, as well as provide a canvas for audience members to remember their own family tales and experiences.

Bertelli, a children’s librarian and former theatre performer, has been storytelling since the 1980s.

Like her grandparents and their travels, Bertelli’s move from the theatre and into storytelling had a lot to do with circumstances rather than desire.

But it was a move that let her creativity flourish.

The creation of her Lost and Found story began with writing down memories, and seeking answers from her mother, who’s nearly 95 years old now, said Bertelli.

Photos helped, as well as historical research, though a fair amount is imagined, she said.

“My grandmother’s story was very much her own telling of her story to me over time,” said Bertelli. “She’s long passed, so it was my memory of that memory.”

As for her grandfather, Bertelli had little to go on.

“But I really imagined it and I think I’ve really got to the essence of who my grandfather was by doing this, by writing it, by putting it together. I feel that I really got to know my grandfather way more than I did,” she said.

Though Bertelli said she doesn’t want to give away too much of the story, she said “they are stories of people that experienced displacement.”

Described in the MAC’s summary as “a family saga that unravels the lives of a woman and a man, continents apart, but united by fate,” Bertelli said her grandparents, like many other people, found themselves far from where they’d started because of what was happening in the world.

That tale of displacement is a contemporary one, she said.

“I’ve been very involved in a project on the Island of Lampedusa, south of Sicily, which is kind of closer to Africa than it is to Italy. That’s where all the refugees have been coming, so I was very moved by seeing all these people and their struggles and how many of them have died on their voyage to try to reach a better life.

“And I think in a way, my grandparents’ story is about that, too.”

It’s also a story Bertelli said she hopes her audience in Parksville can identify with.

“Storytelling is more like, you bring people in by allowing them to create their own images,” she said to contrast her storytelling performances with her previous theatre work.

“One of the first things you learn to do as a storyteller is to tell a folktale,” she said. “Folktales are very simple things. The images have to be really simple, but they have to be really clear.

“So that’s what you try to work as a storyteller.

“You create simple images clearly. You try to create moments in which the listener might reconnect with their own experiences of their own lives, or the lives of their loved ones, so that there is a bit of a back-and-forth happening between you and the listener… that makes it magical, or that makes it a show.

“That makes it a performance.”

Bertelli performs on Friday, Feb. 23 at the MAC. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $18 or $15 for OCAC members.

Tickets are available at mcmillanartscentre.com/lost-and-found-a-family-saga-of-love-and-stories-lost-and-found or at the MAC office.

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