Welcome to Oral Fixation, Dallas’ newest live storytelling series. Think of This American Life on NPR….live and starring our very own Dallas citizens!
Presented by Nicole Stewart, Oral Fixation is a series of hour-long 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 Dallas community
through sharing true, personal stories.
The seed that grew into Oral Fixation was first planted in Los Angeles, California when then-actress Nicole Stewart’s agent 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 society: 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 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 playwriting and acting at The Actor’s Studio and Nicole decided to move forward in her own way.
THE ORAL FIXATION EXPERIENCE
What Oral Fixation brings to the table that makes it stand out is twofold: first, every theme is an idiom in the English language, 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.
Nicole set forth with her new beau and marketing guru in tow 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 fits 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 was coined by Nicole’s mentor and VP of Office of Cultural Affairs, 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 many glowing reviews and Nicole received two major recognitions from Dallas Observer.
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 commences, Oral Fixation is stepping up! We’re honored to bring live storytelling to our new Season 3 partner, AT&T Performing Arts Center. Our new home is 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 know that Season 3 is going to be awesome! We’re integrating Oral Fixation membership levels, season tickets and 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.
Longer-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.