Friends of the Major: Major Theatre co-owners Rob Clements and Bryce Gonzalez present the debut screening and reception for what they plan to be a regular series of special events. Friends of the Major is what they call it, and it's a combination fund-raiser and meeting-of-the-minds. For a $10 admission fee, folks can catch a special screening of a critically acclaimed new French film even before attendees at Sundance, Robert Redford's ultra-hot film festival in Utah, get a gander. Clements and Gonzalez want to keep the title a surprise, but let's just say it represents something of a coup for European art film enthusiasts in this city. In addition, there's a wine-and-cheese reception and an informal discussion at which the guys take movie requests, suggestions, praise, constructive criticism, etc. As veteran patrons already know, Clements and Gonzalez really do listen to their customers--more than a few have been surprised to see the title of a movie they requested show up on the marquee. With its rotating program of U.S. and world premieres, revered classics, obscure independent curiosities, and good old-fashioned guilty-pleasure trash, The Major is the most important film entity in Dallas right now and one of the top arts organizations the city has, period. Give them your support. The screening starts at 8 pm at the Theatre, which is located at 2830 Samuell Blvd, off the Winslow exit on I-30 in East Dallas. Call 821-FILM.
Rigoletto: Artistic minds at the Dallas Opera have decided to mount something more than yet another production of Verdi's famous hunchback-romp Rigoletto. Using some of the most recent academic articles published on the subject of the opera's premiere 144 years ago in Venice, they present a Rigoletto that boasts visual and directorial details lifted straight from that debut performance. Performances are January 26 at 7:30 pm; January 29 at 2 pm; and February 1 & 4 at 7:30 pm at the Music Hall in Fair Park. Tickets are $20-$95. For more information call 443-1043.
Mark Morris Dance Group: Good-looking, boyish, enthusiastic, charmingly quotable--it's easy to see how American choreographer Mark Morris has bridged the gap between the exclusive world of dance appreciation and magazine-profile celebrity a la Baryshnikov. Just three years shy of his 40th birthday, he's already received a MacArthur Award (they're only given to folks who fit the foundation's definition of "genius"), been profiled in a book-length biography, and hailed as the second coming of Balanchine. Morris and his 15-year-old troupe are beloved for their mixture of populist and elitist conventions, sometimes within the same piece--his somber, spiritual "Grand Duo" ends with a polka. TITAS invites them to Dallas to perform, among other pieces, the country-and-western lament about outsiderhood, "Going Away Party," and the Gershwin-inspired "Three Pieces." The Mark Morris Dance Group gives two Dallas performances--January 27 & 28 at 8 pm in McFarlin Auditorium on the grounds of Southern Methodist University. Tickets range from $7-$35. For information call 528-5576.
Encounters 6: Peter Halley and Rachel Hecker: The Dallas Museum of Art continues its Encounters project of pairing a nationally renowned artist with an up-and-coming Texas artist of similar thematic bent. Encounters 6: Peter Halley and Rachel Hecker features the work of New York-based painter Halley and Rachel Hecker, an award-winning artist who lives in Houston. Both are moralists, warning about the hidden power plays that masquerade as leisure activities in the Information Age. Halley is the formalist, combining tacky colors with sharp geometric shapes to suggest the lurid excess and uncompromising structure of commerce and government, whereas Hecker finds much to say about mass-produced images of erotica that sell products. Encounters 6: Peter Halley and Rachel Hecker opens with the artists discussing their work January 28 at 2 pm in the Orientation Gallery. The Dallas Museum of Art is located at 1717 N Harwood. The exhibition is free. Call 922-1200.
The Broken Heart: With a new governor who made punishment of juvenile crime one of his most strident campaign themes, we can look forward to a quick emotional fix for our frustrations--let's jail and kill more of 'em at a younger age!--even as costs rise and the same problems continue to breed new and more horrific consequences. Yet healthier alternatives exist. The Junior Players' Teatro del Barrio is a theatrical program for kids who live in neighborhoods where guns, gangs, and drugs are a particularly pernicious influence. Another hot ticket issue, government funding for the arts, collides with the juvenile crime question in a Teatro Dallas presentation titled The Broken Heart. Theatrical professionals have been working with a young Latino cast to create this drama about the emotional effects of divorce on kids. It's hard to take a quantitative measure of programs such as Teatro del Barrio, but there's no doubt it represents a hands-on, in-the-community effort at intervention, qualities that are lacking from so many of the bloody, impersonal solutions being bandied about by right-wingers. This presentation by Teatro del Barrio and The Winning Network takes place at 7 pm in the Bath House Cultural Center, 521 E Lawther, with a panel discussion to follow. The evening is free. For more information, call 526-4076.
Two Texas Folk Art Masters: Perhaps the biggest contribution folk art can make is what could be called, with no derision intended, a victory of the mundane. The paintings of the late Texas artists John Willard Banks and the Reverend Johnnie Swearingen are deceptively straightforward renderings of portraits, still-lifes, and nature scenes--until you know something about the personal lives of the painters. Both represent a lost soul's-eye view of people, places, and events, some real and others taken from Biblical parables and folk tales. A preoccupation with roots and a knowledge of how profoundly a chance meeting can influence people takes the fore here. Two Texas Folk Art Masters: John Willard Banks and Rev. Johnnie Swearingen is open through February 26 at Webb Gallery, 107 N Rogers in Waxahachie. It's free. Call 938-8085.
Trees Please: The Dallas Arboretum and The Dallas Parks Foundation present the Arbor Day phase of Trees Please, a year-round environmental beautification effort that seeks to see more trees on Dallas horizons (although the project seems more desperately needed in Plano or Addison). This Saturday and Sunday the Arboretum hands out free two-gallon saplings (if you ask) and plays host to experts who'll demonstrate, for the agriculturally challenged, how to plant and nurture a tree. The Dallas Arboretum won't charge admission during its regular hours on January 28 & 29. Free trees are given away both days between 10 am-2 pm, with the first 500 visitors given the option to select between a Chinese Pistachio, a Saw Tooth Oak, or a Bald Cypress Tree. The Arboretum is located at 8525 Garland Rd. For more information call 327-8263.
The Fourth Arts Revolution Festival: One of the more laughably paranoid right-wing arguments against government funding for the arts insists that such programs are actually left-wing stealth conspiracies to poison decent American minds with liberal elitist propaganda. The implication of that argument is that a free-market competition among the arts is the fairest, most democratic method of funding. Wrong! Consider some facts--the three biggest distributors of "independent" and non-commercial film fare in this country are owned by Hollywood studios; five companies control 40 percent of all publishing in the United States; six companies constitute almost the entire American popular music industry. With all the multimedia corporate mergers that make headlines these days, the monopolization of creative expression in America is clearly becoming a reality. Organizers of The Fourth Arts Revolution Festival don't have any grand, anarchic schemes up their sleeves (or at least, they aren't discussing them); the idea behind the Festival is to provide a break from mass-market, commercialized art and a celebration for local writers, musicians, and visual artists. The Festival takes place from 3 to 10 pm at Poor David's Pub, 1934 Greenville Avenue. Donations are much appreciated. For more information call 827-3825.
Samuel Ramey: In the world of opera, the bass voice is often used to convey the gravest, the most somber, the most existential of sentiments. It's most often used to embody villains, inner voices, sages, and vengeful forces. Since the bass in performance often sounds and looks like he's literally singing from the bottom of his soul, we automatically pay close attention to what he has to say. It's no wonder, then, that Samuel Ramey is currently one of the hottest American opera singers in the world (he already holds the distinction of possessing the most recorded bass voice on the planet). Over the last decade Ramey has found himself repeatedly honored in a way that even the most popular singers rarely are--the great European and American companies often initiate entire productions, many of them obscure or rarely performed and therefore financial risks, to serve as vehicles for his rich voice. The Cliburn Concert presents Ramey with piano accompaniment by Warren Jones at 7 pm at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, 2301 Flora in the Arts District. Tickets are $17.50-$50. For more information call (817) 335-9000 or 1 (800) 462-7979.
Louis Armstrong: A Cultural Legacy: The legacy of jazz great Louis Armstrong is ripe for socio-political examination by African-American scholars, music critics, and everyone else interested in how the tension between personal expression and social expectation creates high art. He was often referred to as "the Ambassador of Jazz," although this had less to do with Armstrong's innovations as a composer and instrumentalist than his penchant for popularizing the carefree side of jazz and his tendency to play the ever-smiling musical clown. Unlike Miles Davis, who expressed a potent resentment of Anglo domination throughout his life, Armstrong seemed oblivious to the implications of the "whites-only" nightclub shows he was compelled to play, or how his film appearances were determined by often painful stereotypes. For this reason Armstrong and too many artists of his generation were scorned by post-civil rights black intellectuals. But there is a far more complex story to be told about his contributions, one which finally gets its day in Louis Armstrong: A Cultural Legacy. This is a multimedia show featuring original visual art by some of this century's most important black artists as well as photos and video clips of Armstrong in all his glory. The African-American Museum in Fair Park opens Louis Armstrong: A Cultural Legacy January 28 with a series of events. The show lasts through March 26. For more information call 565-9026.
Gay 101: The Basics of Homosexuality: So you think American gays and lesbians are a predictable bloc of left-wing political ideologies? Consider a recent New York Times poll that indicated 40 percent of folks who identify themselves as homosexual voted Republican in the November mid-terms. Disgust with Clinton has a lot to do with it, but there's always been a big lavender conservative population. Navigating a gay identity in this Newtonian (or is that Gingrichian?) era can be difficult, which is why the Gay and Lesbian Community Center sponsors an informational presentation-discussion entitled "Gay 101--The Basics of Homosexuality." This is not a debate about whether or not gayness is an "acceptable" condition, but a practical, two-and-a-half-hour presentation designed to look at a myriad of personal and political issues facing the contemporary homo. "Gay 101" starts at 6:30 pm at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center, 2701 Reagan at Brown. It's free and open to the public. The closeted, the curious, and the definitely-straight-but-interested-in-sexual-politics-of-all-stripes are encouraged to attend. For more information call 528-9254.