About Oral Fixation
Welcome to Oral Fixation, Dallas’ hottest live storytelling series for adults. Think of “his American Life on NPR….live and starring our very own Dallas citizens!
Presented by Nicole Stewart, Oral Fixation is a series of hourlong evenings of TRUE, personal stories, each with a new theme performed by a cross-section of seven Dallasites.
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 by Nicole. She solicits submissions from the general public by publishing her season of themes in advance along with suggestions as to potential takes on the theme. Then, from the submissions, she selects a variety of points of view (different ages, genders, races, socio-economic backgrounds, etc) to create an hourlong evening of stories that will take the audience on a ride from laughing in recognition of shared experiences to poignant moments of courageous exposure of flaws to laugh-out loud incredible moments that would seem too good to be true. Of course, they are all true- that is another wonderful rule in the world of Oral Fixation. As we all know, memory can be tricky so let’s revise that. All stories are true to the memory of the individual sharing. The audience gets to participate 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 over her last two years in Los Angeles. The feeling of stepping out from behind a character and getting to know herself better by excavating stories from her own life was addictive. And she loved the feeling of community she enjoyed in the receptions after the shows- the way complete strangers could bond over similar experiences, the chemistry of bravely sharing with active listening resulting 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 MOST fell under the wing of Nouveau 47 Theatre, then in their first season. 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 a live storytelling series called 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 sold-out show on Election Day 2012. The number of submissions per show increased two-fold over the course of the season and as as result, the stories kept getting better and better. “Under the Gun” was of particular note as it was an entirely dramatic show that gave voice to the very serious consequences of gun violence.
We initiated a blog that gives fans a window behind the scenes at Oral Fixation as well as highlights 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 knew that Season 3 was going to be awesome! We integrated Oral Fixation membership levels, 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.
PARTNERSHIP WITH THE DMA
A meeting with the Dallas Museum of Art’s Arts & Letters Live director Carolyn Bess resulted in a wonderful partnership. Inspired by museum director Max Anderson’s initiative to better integrate area 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 wowed the large crowd.
Building on our momentum, Oral Fixation branched out in Season 4 by performing the 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. 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 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 one performance only. 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. 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 conceived of producing a special storytelling show focusing on a social issue every year. In 2016, this issue is abortion rights. With recent attention on abortion restrictions in Texas, Stewart sees an opportunity to breed compassion and respect for the 1 in 3 women who have an abortion during their childbearing years. Thus, two events will be held, one in Dallas and one in Austin. These shows are titled “Out From Under The Rug”: True Life Tales of Abortion. A special show dedicated to the issue of race is planned for September 2017.
Due to the addition of the #StorytellingForSocialChange events in the fall of 2016, Season 6 will commence in January 2017. All four Season 6 shows will be held at Dallas City Performance Hall. Dates/themes to be announced in the fall of 2016.
We would love to see Oral Fixation franchises in other cities. Long-term goals include 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.
Want to learn more about Oral Fixation or need to get in touch with Oral Fixation? Click HERE.