About Oral Fixation
Welcome to Oral Fixation (An Obsession With True Life Tales), one of the nation’s hottest live storytelling series for adults! Presented by Nicole Stewart, Oral Fixation is a series of hourlong evenings of true, personal stories, each with a new theme read straight from the horse’s mouth by a cross-section of seven individuals.
Oral Fixation’s mission is to bring together the community
through sharing true, personal stories.
THE ORAL FIXATION EXPERIENCE
What Oral Fixation brings to the table that makes it stand out is twofold: first, every theme is an idiom, a phrase we use often that has both a literal and a figurative meaning. Secondly, the evening of stories is curated and edited. Submissions are solicited from the general public by publishing the themes in advance along with suggestions as to potential takes on the theme. Then, from the submissions, stories that reflect a variety of points of view (different ages, genders, races, socio-economic backgrounds, etc) are selected to create an hourlong evening of stories that takes the audience on a ride. Laughing in recognition of shared experiences to poignant moments of courageous exposure of flaws to unforgettable moments where truth is stranger than fiction. The audience participates in putting together the puzzle pieces of the evening- how does this story fit in with the theme? Ah, now I get it! It’s pretty satisfying.
Oral Fixation owes its inspiration to the vibrant storytelling scene in Los Angeles (primarily SPARK OFF ROSE and Tasty Words) which was largely influenced by the groundbreaking story event The Moth (“true stories told live without notes”) in New York City and of course, the famous radio program on National Public Radio, This American Life, (“mostly true stories of everyday people”). But Nicole credits her love of story to listening to cowboys read poetry around the campfire as an “Indian Princess” growing up in Texas.
The seed that grew into Oral Fixation was first planted in Los Angeles, California when then-actress Nicole Stewart’s agent unceremoniously dumped her. Shortly after, she met several producers of SPARK OFF ROSE, who encouraged her to attend one of their monthly storytelling events in Santa Monica. It was there that she fell in love with the medium of real people sharing their true life stories onstage.
The next step was for Nicole to share one of her own stories at SPARK. She read three stories for SPARK and two more for TASTY WORDS. The feeling of stepping out from behind a character and getting to know herself better by excavating stories from her own life was addictive. She loved the feeling of community she felt at the receptions after the shows- the way complete strangers could bond over similar experiences. The chemistry of people bravely sharing with an audience engaged in active listening resulted in everyone present feeling a little less alone.
Nicole moved back to her hometown of Dallas,Texas in September 2009 after 12 years away. She felt a void- no longer desiring to pursue acting as a creative outlet, she yearned for the magic of storytelling to bring her close again to the Dallas community. Over the next year, she explored different pockets of Dallas culture: theatre and film communities, the art scene, ladies who lunch, high society fundraising events in addition to volunteering with lower income communities near her neighborhood in East Dallas. Everyone around her seemed excited about all the changes Dallas was embracing, the new world class arts district being the first on the list. And so what better time to reintroduce Dallas to the ancient art of storytelling?
Luck would have it that Lacy Lynch, a young literary agent with a passion for theatre, came into Nicole’s life. The two clicked immediately and Nicole professed her desire to create a storytelling event in Dallas. Lacy loved the concept and vowed to help her get it off the ground. Together, they produced THE MOST: A Night of Stories which played five shows to well-sold crowds in 2010-2011 at the historic Magnolia Lounge in Fair Park. The beta test was a success. Lacy then moved to New York to study at The Actor’s Studio and Nicole decided to move forward in her own way.
Nicole set forth with her new beau Anton Schlesinger, a marketing guru, to create Oral Fixation (An Obsession with True Life Tales). Having admired the forward-thinking artistic community at The McKinney Avenue Contemporary, Nicole visited the lovely women who run The MAC to gauge their interest in hosting the event. The concept fit right into The MAC’s mission as a Dallas advocate for creative freedom offering the opportunity for experimentation and presentation of art in all disciplines. A wonderful working relationship was born, right in the heart of Uptown.
Shortly after the event venue was booked, the name Oral Fixation was coined by Nicole’s mentor, Gail Sachson of Ask Me about Art. The logo, the brainchild of talented movie poster designer and filmmaker, Yen Tan, followed. All flyers, social media, and this website are designed by beau-turned-husband Anton Schlesinger. With the aid of avid storyteller Mac Lower and scenic designer Randel Wright, Season 1 of Oral Fixation went from modest to mogul: selling out the 130-seat space, with fans on a waiting list. The show received glowing reviews and Nicole received major recognition from Dallas Observer in their first ever People issue and was awarded Best Future Arts Leader.
The goal of Season 2 was to avoid the sophomore slump and prove to the Dallas community that Oral Fixation can consistently deliver a high-quality evening of entertainment that is new and fresh every month. We took on the challenge of producing eight shows in eight months, including the new concept “Best of Season 1” which featured seven stand-out stories from the previous season. Season 2 kicked things off with “Baby Steps,” a standing room only show on Election Day 2012. The number of story submissions increased two-fold over the course of the season. As result, the stories got better and better. “Under the Gun” was of particular note. This entirely dramatic show gave voice to the very serious consequences of gun violence.
Oral Fixation initiated a blog that gave fans a window behind the scenes at Oral Fixation as well as highlighted storytelling activity across the nation. Our Season 2 intern, Alia Tavakolian, got our Twitter presence going with quotes from stories and casting announcements. We launched our podcast series and released Season 1 stories on our YouTube channel. We ended the season on the rooftop patio of Sundown at the Granada where we held our Season 2 Wrap Party, co-sponsored by The Granada Theater and Dallas Observer Mixmaster.
As the third season commenced, Oral Fixation stepped up! We were honored to bring live storytelling to our Season 3 partner, AT&T Performing Arts Center. Our new home became Hamon Hall in the Winspear Opera House. With almost 100 more seats, state-of-the-art theatrical resources and the support of the top performing arts entity in Dallas, we integrated an Oral Fixation membership program, introduced the option of season tickets and produced a new video package at the top of each show that gives the audience a sneak peek at the storytellers who are about to bare their souls. We didn’t know that we would sell out Hamon Hall and be moved mid-season to the larger Wyly Studio Theatre. We ended our season strong, selling out all 330 seats at our finale themed “The Whole Enchilada.”
PARTNERSHIP WITH THE DMA
A synchronistic meeting with the Dallas Museum of Art’s Arts & Letters Live director Carolyn Bess resulted in a wonderful partnership. Inspired by then museum director Max Anderson’s initiative to better integrate North Texas immigrants into museum life, Nicole conceived of a storytelling show exclusively about immigration. The show was titled “Lost In Translation: An Evening of Stories About Immigration.” Featuring brave and loving immigrants and refugees from across the world, this special show inspired the audience that topped 400 people. Due to its popularity, the DMA commissioned a second show the following year, this time entitled “Destination America.” Again, the stories of hope and perseverance left the large crowd with a soaring feeling of gratitude for what people go through to have a chance at the American dream.
Building on our momentum, Oral Fixation branched out in Season 4 by performing shows in a few new venues. Our “Best of Season 4” event was held at WaterTower Theatre in Addison, the Wyly Studio Theatre and at Dallas Video Fest where storytellers read their stories live while a short film created about their story played onscreen. Desiring to reach out to the Hispanic community, we also held a second performance of each Season 4 show at the Texas Theater in Oak Cliff. This marvelous historic movie theatre was a grand setting for our true life tales. We also produced a monthly free event where the public could come meet and greet the storytellers a few days before each show. This intimate gathering featuring previews of the stories and background on casting from the producer were held at the delightful Wild Detectives bookstore in Oak Cliff.
With a baby on the way and the opportunity to host the show at the 750-seat Dallas City Performance Hall, producers Stewart and Schlesinger decided to go back to a one performance only format. This spectacular space is located in the heart of the world class Dallas Arts District. Owned by the city, DCPH is run with ease and grace and is wonderfully supportive of small arts organizations. Then assistant director Julia Cotton did an incredible job editing and producing our first-ever Thanksgiving Eve show, “Too Many Cooks” while Stewart was home with a two-week old baby. Stewart joined forces with Associate Editor Hal Karp to produce the last three shows of the season. “Partner In Crime” broke our attendance record!
STORYTELLING FOR SOCIAL CHANGE
Inspired by her work with the DMA, Stewart elected to take her work in a newly focused direction: producing a series on one social issue. She chose one that resonated with her personally due to her first pregnancy ending in an abortion at 22 weeks. That, together with the onslaught of abortion restrictions in Texas, inspired Stewart to want her work to breed compassion and respect for the 1 in 3 women who have an abortion during their childbearing years. Thus, she produced two events in the fall of 2016 entitled “Out From Under The Rug: True Life Tales of Abortion.” This marked the first time Oral Fixation produced a show outside of Dallas. Blessedly, the vision to take the power of Oral Fixation to more cities is being realized. Because of the incredible response to the Dallas show, Oral Fixation was invited to take the show to a special meeting of abortion providers in Montreal. Reaction to the Austin show resulted in a request to produce a show in Houston which is happening late April 2018. Stewart is also collaborating with a number of progressive organizations to continue the conversation outside the theatre by offering educational workshops free to the public on topics such as “Adult Sex-Ed” and “Faith & Abortion.” Stewart envisions tackling a variety of social justice issues in the future.
Season 6 will kick off on Friday, November 3rd, 2017 with a special show entitled “Jump Off A Cliff.” Gretchen Carlson, the former Fox News Anchor who sued Fox CEO Roger Ailes for sexual harassment, will be among the storytellers. Carlson will read excerpts from her new book, Be Fierce: Stop Harassment and Take Your Power Back which highlights how her life has transformed since she metaphorically jumped off a cliff in her career. The season will continue at Moody Performance Hall through June 19, 2018. For consideration to be a storyteller in the show, visit the Share Your Story page.
We plan to produce “Out From Under The Rug: True Life Tales of Abortion” in other cities until there is a sea change in public opinion on abortion. Scaling out the show so others could produce it themselves in their own cities is on the list. Long-term goals include a docu-series, a radio show, a publishing deal to get these incredible stories in print, and an educational curriculum designed to improve students writing and give them an opportunity to express themselves in a unique way.
Want to be a part of Oral Fixation in the future? Click HERE to learn how you can tell your own story.
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