Christina Patoski: Fort Worth-based photographer and video artist Christina Patoski has been on a mission for the last 20 years that few have understood--until they peruse the results. Patoski has been traveling the country in November, December, and January snapping shots of the strangest, most elaborate, most beautiful, and most tacky front yard holiday displays she can find. While there is plenty to admire for folks who get all gooey inside at manger scenes, some of the stories behind these creations are funny and less than reflective of the spirit of fellowship, like the guy in Little Rock, Arkansas, whose neighbors got together and sued him to stop his tradition of stringing a hundred miles of lights around his house (the last straw came when he overloaded the circuits and caused a power outage three years ago). Patoski has lectured about her project all over the country and published a book of the best pictures entitled Merry Christmas America: A Front Yard View of the Holidays. Patoski comes to the Dallas Museum of Art to speak about her work, present a slide show, and sign copies of the book. The event kicks off at 7 pm in the Orientation Theater of the Dallas Museum of Art, 1717 N Harwood. Admission is $3. For more information call 922-1204.
El Arbol: Teatro Dallas presents a very special fund raiser for itself using some tempting bait--a remarkable, eerie, strangely beautiful play by Mexican playwright Elena Garro they first performed two years ago to great critical acclaim. El Arbol (The Tree) is a simple study of two women in contemporary Mexico from very different backgrounds who become linked over the course of one evening by a terrible act that may or may not have happened. The play works just fine as an edge-of-your-seat psychological thriller, but for those who care to dig a little deeper, playwright Garro is also exploring the bitter historical differences among Spanish-blooded and Indian-blooded residents in Mexico. Cora Cardona, Teatro Dallas' artistic director and one of the most sheerly watchable actresses to (infrequently) grace a Dallas stage, reprises her role, with special guest Maria Clara Zurita, currently star of the hugely successful Mexican soap opera Dos Mujeres Un Camino. Now for the bad news, at least for those of us who're hopelessly mono-lingual--all performances are in Spanish. If you understand the language, you owe it to yourself to check this production out. El Arbol is performed December 8-10 at 8:15 pm at 2204 Commerce. Tickets are $20-$25. For reservation information call 741-1135.
Fort Worth Dallas Ballet: Sure, you've seen the dance production of Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker a million times, but check out the production by Fort Worth Dallas Ballet, which celebrates its inaugural season as a bi-city dance organization. Thirty-one regular members of the troupe as well as 65 students from the Fort Worth School of Ballet perform for your pleasure December 9-11 at 8 pm in the JFK Theatre of the Tarrant County Convention Center in Fort Worth. For ticket information call (817) 763-0207.
Just in the Nick of Time and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever: The holiday season is not only a big moneymaker for local merchants, but also for many organizations, who trot out their beloved cash-cow programs-productions-performances for an audience eager to kindle that warm holiday glow. The Dallas Children's Theater has two simultaneous productions through mid-December, one of which is a sure-fire moneymaker that features one thing kids can always appreciate--mean, disruptive peers. Barbra Robinson's The Best Christmas Pageant Ever follows the destructive path of the Herdman kids, "the worst in the whole world," as they nearly derail rehearsals for a local Christmas pageant. The other presentation is a world premiere that DCT hopes will prove just as popular for repeat productions. Award-winning Dallas-based playwright Linda Daugherty's Just in the Nick of Time takes the detective thriller from '40s film noir and drops it in the middle of the North Pole, where something strange is happening around Santa's workshop. Just in the Nick of Time is performed Fridays, 7:30 pm; Saturdays, 1:30 & 4:30 pm; and Sundays 1:30 & 4 pm through December 18 at the Crescent Theater, 2215 Cedar Springs. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is performed Fridays at 7:30 pm; Saturdays at 10:30 am & 1:30 pm; and Sundays at 1:30 & 4 pm through December 18 at the El Centro College Theater near the West End in downtown Dallas. Tickets for each show are $9-$11. Call 978-0110.