"A mutant lunch box," says Byron Sanders, his eyes reflecting a wide smile. "Anyone who has seen a placenta knows what I mean."
Season three of the popular storytelling series Oral Fixation opened Monday night with the theme "Bun in the Oven." The line-up of storytellers wove tales of pregnant bellies, some with happier endings than others. The wild card of the evening was Il Cane Rosso owner Jay Jerrier, whose stomach was just filled with pizza.
See also: Nicole Stewart: The Memoir Wrangler
Storytelling maven Nicole Stewart moved her series to the Winspear Opera House's Hamon Hall, a smallish reception room on the east side of the building that seats about 200 people. The series takes place monthly, with the goal of bringing together varied perspectives in Dallas to build a greater sense of community. This year, the series includes a reality television style video introduction of the night's performers, which gives you a quick insight into who they are and why they're telling this particular story.
On these Monday nights, the Hamon Hall turns into a safe place for revealing intimate details and sharing heartwarming or gut-wrenching stories. Here Stewart found the courage to share a delicate tale of love and family planning, while just minutes before Jerrier regaled the audience with a tale of a booze-and-steak fueled Indian Princess camp-out that led to a tasty sea change in his life.
Many of the pregnancy tales delved into the messy realities of childbirth. Tiana Lightfoot Svendsen's laugh at the idea of natural childbirth was echoed in Kate Williams' gruesome tale of a 14-hour delivery in a drug-free Alaskan hospital.
The evening's remarkable sense of diversity and solidarity leaves the room abuzz with affectionate conversation. And if Stewart has her way, audience members leave inspired to tell stories of their own.
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"I'd like to see how our new residency at AT&T Performing Arts Center translates into a more diverse audience and storyteller base," Stewart says. "I would love to see as many points of view expressed as possible."
Interested storytellers submit their true 1,200-word stories through the Oral Fixation Web and if selected, Stewart coaches them through the performance part of it. The season's next installment is December 16 with the theme "When in Rome." By choosing common idioms, Stewart hopes to attract numerous takes on the theme. "When in Rome" could be stories about travel, experimentation or imitation.
"When in Rome" : December 16 "Silver Lining" : January 27 "No Strings Attached" : February 17 "Elephant in the Room" : March 17 "Ducks in a Row" : April 14 "The Whole Enchilada": May 5