Taos has inspired plenty of fiction over the years, but behind every one of those novelized tales lies a true one.
“Misfits, Malcontents and Mystics” has built a reputation for unique storytelling by bringing those stories to light, offering a microphone and a stage to any local writer — or nonwriter — with an authentic Taos tale to share.
The fifth entry in the series is set to feature a lineup of seven storytellers, including Bob Andrews, Hannah Westly, Makaela Vogel, Ned Dougherty, Steve Wiard, Tre DeCosta and John Nichols, celebrated author of “The Milagro Beanfield War.” The event begins at 7 p.m. today (Aug. 11) at the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte.
“The theme, as always, is Taos — celebrating this tri-cultural community and breathtaking landscape we live in, along with all of its quirky inhabitants,” said organizer Clinton Murphy.
In keeping with the series’ mission to benefit local nonprofits, all proceeds from the event will go toward Shared Table of Taos, a 22-year-old ministerial extension of El Prado’s El Pueblito United Methodist Church. The program provides free food and medical supplies to members of the Taos community twice per month – every month of the year. Wiard serves as its director and as a local pastor. He will be among those sharing their stories this evening.
“I started preaching in 1973 and have been serving as a pastor in Taos for 19 years, going on 20,” Wiard said. “Shared Table began in 1994 and has expanded significantly since that time. We source our food from Santa Fe Food Depot. We sometimes buy 500-600 pounds per month. Albertsons, Smith’s, Cid’s and Super Save have also donated food. We’re not a soup kitchen, but when people walk out our door, they have enough food for five, six or seven meals when they get home. We help about 1,000 people per month – 14,000 people last year.”
Wiard’s story will describe his arrival in Taos and how living here has “changed” him. “I’m going to find a way to share my story within the context of The Shared Table and the church because that’s part of who I am,” he said.
Author Nichols moved from New York to Taos in 1969 and has been writing about the area ever since. His “New Mexico Trilogy,” which began with his famous 1974 novel “The Milagro Beanfield War,” captures the complexities of history, race and culture in Northern New Mexico and their preservation against the encroachment of big business interests.
Murphy said that he became friends with Nichols after meeting him at a book signing. “I introduced myself thus: ‘Mr. Nichols, you damn near ruined my marriage.’ He asked how, and I told him the very true story of being in a rough place with my wife while reading ‘The Milagro Beanfield War.’ We’ve been friends ever since and later I was his neighbor — yes, as a bachelor.” Murphy added that, for this evening’s event, Nichols will “be reading from his latest book … yup, it’s a Taos story.”
DeCosta and his wife own the recently opened Órale Gallery on Kit Carson Road and Taos Tattoo & Body Piercing Gallery, located at 208 Paseo del Pueblo Norte.
“Clint Murphy is one of the first people we met in Taos,” DeCosta said. “I’ve really enjoyed watching the evolution of ‘Misfits, Malcontents [and] Mystics’ and was finally asked to join the lineup this year.”
“My wife and I have been living in Ralph and Rowena Meyer’s home for the past four years,” DeCosta continued. The “home is 200 years old, full of stories and residual energy. I feel it’s only appropriate that someone speak for the ‘misfits, malcontents and mystics’ that came to Taos before us all. So, my story will focus on the colorful life of a legendary Taos misfit: Ralph Meyers.”
Denielle Rose is a local graphic designer, videographer and web designer. After meeting Murphy at a local yoga studio, she decided to step in to film each event, though this will be her first experience participating as a storyteller. She explained that her story is about “loss,” “being stripped down to bare bones and still getting up to move forward.”
What can be expected from the sixth entry in the series? Murphy explained that “the next show will be youth oriented, in light of the recent tragedies. I’ll be working with local youth to plan, produce and, of course, write stories for that.”
Shared Table of Taos offers food services from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. on the second and fourth Wednesday of every month at El Pueblito United Methodist Church, 1309 Paseo del Pueblo Norte in El Prado, and from 2-3 p.m. at Ranchos de Taos Presbyterian Church, 1 San Francisco Road in Ranchos de Taos. To learn more about the program, call (575) 758-3166. Cash donations can be made out to “Shared Table of Taos” and mailed to P.O. Box 895, Ranchos de Taos.
Tickets to “Misfits, Malcontents and Mystics” are $10 and can be purchased by calling (575) 758-2052 or by stopping by the Taos Center for the Arts office at 133 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. For additional information, visit tcataos.org.