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Friday Conversation: Telling Stories With Oral Fixation’s Nicole Stewart

nicole stewart

Nicole Stewart

Would you talk about your most embarrassing, poignant or funny moments in front of an audience? Nicole Stewart is the creator of Oral Fixation, a live story-telling show in Dallas. She talks to KERA’s Anne Bothwell about the reasons she shared her most personal story, and why you might want to consider telling yours.

 

      • And here’s Nicole, talking about what to expect during the editing process.


More highlights from our conversation:

On why folks with no writing or performing experience take the stage at Oral Fixation

I think it’s a human need to express ourselves. Most of us don’t get the opportunity in our daily lives to share. And I think people recognize two things: that through sharing they might come to understand themselves better. And that through sharing, others might understand them better.

The themes, idioms like “Elephant in the Room,” are a fun part of Oral Fixation. What’s been the most surprising twist someone’s put on a theme?

I would say my favorite was from One Night Stand, by a lovely individual who has since passed away from cancer. She told her life story through the lens of her one nightstand that she inherited from her great aunt. And she took us through many decades of her life showing us these different significant and key moments through the lens of the nightstand.

So for example, she had cancer three times as a teenager, so she would talk about the kidney shaped puke tray that sat on her night stand. Or the time she woke up and forgot her leg was amputated. She fell over out of bed, knocked over the nightstand, and forever after, it had a chip on it.

Then she talked about later in her life going through a period of addiction and she would store flasks and pills in the nightstand.

Six months after she came back from rehab. She was raped, she was stalked. Someone knew she couldn’t run away.  She talked about the phone ringing on the night stand, and her rapist standing over her, telling to act like everything was fun. It was truly brilliant. in a show that featured funny, stimulating stories about sex, to have this other angle on it, it really rounded out the evening.

On the inspiration for the next Oral Fixation theme, “Lost in Translation:

I’m very lucky to have a relationship with Carolyn Bess the director of Arts & Letters Live at the Dallas Museum of Art. And she was telling me about when Max Anderson came to Dallas, he looked at the DMA collection and said, we have collections from all over the world. We have individuals from all over the world living in North Texas.    How can we bring these two together?

And he came up with let’s hold an annual naturalization ceremony in Horchow Auditorium.  When I found out about this initiative, I said to Carolyn, I would love to talk to some of these people and find out why they moved to America, what it was like to go through the process of becoming a citizen, how they feel about being American.

On telling her own story, about the difficult decision to have an abortion after more than 20 weeks of pregnancy:

I was pleasantly surprised by the reaction because I felt very vulnerable coming forward in North Texas and talking so openly about my experience. And I was concerned that perhaps people might judge me for the decision that my husband and I made out of love. I decided to tell my story because I felt it would heal me and because I felt it could potentially open minds. And I’m really stunned and grateful that this first pregnancy that I had, that didn’t work out, could have such a powerful legacy.

 On how that experience influenced her work with storytellers:

I think because I’ve been through something extremely traumatic, I’m more sensitive. So I am delicate with them and I am creating a space of unconditional love and support for them in sharing their story. But I also have my little hand on the small of their back, just gently pushing them. Because I feel that when we hold our truth, our experiences, our feelings, inside, it can almost be like poison to our system. So I believe if they can be brave and share, that the release of the story will be cathartic.