Joel-Peter Witkin: If, as someone once observed, humans are animals cursed with the ability to think like gods, then legendary photographer-montagist Joel Peter-Witkin is the documentarian of that dilemma. His pictures are ecstatic nightmares about mortality, images of twisted and deformed bodies trapped in tableaux of pain and pleasure. Sometimes they tell a story, or reference literature, or just excavate some new horror about the state of deterioration in which we all live. But Witkin's work has a genuine beauty, mostly because an overwhelming empathy for his subjects leads him to cast them in grand visual dramas (if you stare at some of Witkins' long, multi-subject pictures long enough, you'll swear you're watching live actors in a play). His allegorical portraits have horrified so many people worldwide that he's revered as fearless by half his critics and damned as exploitative by the rest. The Friends of Photography at the Dallas Museum of Art have invited Witkin to speak about his work in a slide presentation, and if any world-famous artist has a lot of explaining to do, it's Witkin. If you've never heard of the guy but you're into artists who explore our dark side, this one's a must-see. Joel-Peter Witkin presents his slide lecture at 7 pm in the Horchow Auditorium of the Dallas Museum of Art, 1717 N Harwood. Tickets are $3-$5. For info call 922-1249.
The Baltimore Waltz and Face to Face: Naked Mirror Productions presents a Dallas production of that most peculiar new species--the AIDS comedy. No play about a horrendous plague in which we're still losing loved ones by the tens of thousands each year can give us laughs without subtext, of course, and Paula Vogel's The Baltimore Waltz tinges its absurdist humor with an appropriate tragic resonance. Playwright Vogel penned her tale of a brother and sister on a bizarre European adventure--she to escape her recent diagnosis of ATD (Acquired Toilet Disease), a viral disease that mostly infects unmarried elementary school teachers, and he to find a cure for it. This combination farce-satire-allegory-tribute is accompanied by a 10-minute dance called Face to Face, choreographed by local independent Peggy Lamb. The Baltimore Waltz and Face to Face are presented every Thursday-Saturday, 8:15 pm at the Swiss Avenue Theater Center, 2700 Swiss Avenue. Tickets are $8-$10. Call 680-4466.
Dance Consortium: The Dallas modern dance company Dance Consortium presents the second staging of Galileo, an original work about the persecuted scientist written and directed by DC artistic director Julie Lambert. The work alternates between dialogues and dance sequences, and tells the story in flashback, beginning when Galileo was old and blind and imprisoned in his home by church officials for his heretical claim that the earth revolved around the sun. What Lambert and company focus on, though, is not the intellectual bravery historians usually associate with the man, but his heartbreak over being attacked by an institution he dearly loved. Galileo was a deeply religious man who intended to become a priest before his passion for scientific experiment and study derailed a career as a cleric. He never understood why the society in which he lived couldn't see science and religion as complementary disciplines, and if he were alive today, he'd wonder why things still haven't changed. The Dance Consortium performs Galileo April 27-29 at 8 pm in the Dallas Theatre of the University of Texas at Dallas, Floyd and Campbell in Richardson. Tickets are $6. Call 883-2915.
Ray Murray: As part of the 1995 Dallas Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, which happens April 27 at the Inwood Theater and April 28 & 29 at the Dallas Theater Center's Kalita Humphreys Theater (for more info see the "Rushes" column in our Film section), gay and lesbian movie historian Ray Murray comes to town to discuss the twisting, turning evolution of homosexual representation in American cinema. Murray is the author of Images in the Dark: An Encyclopedia of Gay and Lesbian Film and Video, which has become one of three must-have titles on any self-respecting cinephile's shelf, the other two being Vito Russo's The Celluloid Closet and Parker Tyler's Screening the Sexes. Although Murray lacks the passion of Russo and the bite of Tyler, he's got sheer comprehensiveness on his side--the range of actors, filmmakers, and titles in this book is staggering. No matter how well-versed you think you are in homo film lore, this guy will surprise you. He speaks at 6 pm at the DTC's Kalita Humphreys Theater. Festival tickets are available at Tapelenders Video, 3926 Cedar Springs, or for more information call 257-4443.
Nikolais and Murray Louis Dance Company: The union of two veteran innovators--one who pioneered the incorporation of various media into the art of dance, the other an acclaimed, award-winning dancer-turned-choreographer who specialized in works of acrobatic drama--is what you'll see when you attend the 10-member Nikolais and Murray Louis Dance Company. Alwin Nikolais died in 1993, just four years after he and Murray combined forces to create an international sensation on the modern dance scene--one that combined the sensibilities of both artists to create works that were extravagant, expressionistic, vigorous, and, well, rather more theatrical than what most folks expect from a dance performance. The Company performs four works--two by Nikolais, two by Louis--that each tell a story with movement. TITAS (The International Theatrical Arts Society) presents performances by the Nikolais and Murray Louis Dance Company April 28 & 29 in McFarlin Auditorium on the grounds of Southern Methodist University. Tickets are $7-$40. Call 528-5576.