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.
Mandalay Las Colinas Festival of Arts: The second annual presentation of this massive, corporate-sponsored public art festival has so many arms, side events, and celebrations, it looks like a gigantic octopus on paper. It would take a couple of pages to adequately list, describe, and give the times for each event, so we'll just fast-forward through them and expect you to attend and get your own schedule. There are poetry readings; street performers; visual art shows that include paintings, sculpture, carvings, etc. and a special exhibit featuring the drawings of John Lennon; a video arts competition chaired by the legendary, it's-impossible-to-underestimate-his-influence video artist and author Kenneth Anger (see the article "Sweet cesspool" in the Film section); a musical stage featuring a host of '70s "classic rock" biggies such as Spencer Davis and Texas world-beat boys Brave Combo; foods from all over the world; and on and on. The Mandalay Las Colinas Festival of Arts happens April 28 & 29, 11 am-midnight; April 30, 11 am-9 pm on the Mandalay Canals in Irving. It's free; yes, free. We promise. Call 831-1881.
North Texas Herpetological Society: In case you're wondering, the North Texas Herpetological Society is not a support group for folks with a venereal disease. Webster's defines "herpetology" as "the branch of zoology having to do with reptiles." In other words, people with fetishes for scales and cold blood get together and compare favorite reptiles. The Society's 3rd Annual Spring Symposium is actually two events--the symposium itself, which boasts lectures by 10 top national herpetological experts as well as field trips and other stuff, and an exposition which features more than 40 herp vendors from around the state selling everything from reptile and amphibian supplies to the little charmers themselves. The symposium is open to the public, though it's geared toward specialists and costs $20-$50. The exposition is more regular-folk friendly, and it's great for kids who get off on snakes and frogs and lizards. The North Texas Herpetological Society presents its public expo Saturday and Sunday, noon-6 pm at the Arlington La Quinta Inn and Conference Center. Tickets are $1-$3. For more info call (214) 933-HERP.
The 20th Annual Bob Marley Festival: African-Unity productions and the folks at Dred 'N' Irie present the 3rd Annual Bob Marley Festival, a convergence of some of the top bands from Jamaica and elsewhere who play the kind of soulful, swaggering, authentic reggae that sends purists higher than a kite. This show originated in Houston 10 years ago and has expanded steadily, first across Texas and then beyond, into an annual touring event. Expect at least several thousand attendees, and if word gets out, a lot more than that. Bob Marley, a guy who loved peace but also knew how to express anger eloquently, would've turned 50 this year. The Bob Marley Festival happens at City Hall Plaza in downtown Dallas, noon-10 pm. Admission is free, but PLEASE bring a nonperishable food item for the Methodism Bread Basket.Call (713) 947-1233.
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension: While it might be a stretch for The USA Film Festival to include this cheerful, uneven 1984 curiosity as part of its First Monday Classics series, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension nevertheless has acquired a cult enthusiastic enough to trample me for saying so. If it had been scripted and directed by, say, Terry Gilliam, the movie might have felt sharper and less like it had been written by a bunch of stoned college sophomores--so many ideas and gags are crowded in here, the filmmakers stopped caring which ones were funny and which weren't. Still, Peter Weller mugs with enough icy charm that you don't mind the fact it's all he's doing, and John Lithgow foreshadows his terrific villainous double-turn in Brian DePalma's Raising Cain with Pythonesque oomph. If you've never seen Buckaroo Banzai, then chances are you have a friend who'll drag you to see it. Decide for yourself. The USA Film Festival screens The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension at 7:30 pm at the AMC Glen Lakes Theatre, 9450 N Central Expressway. Tickets are $6. Call 821-NEWS.
Stephen Hawking: If there's a question-and-answer session that follows the Willis M. Tate Lecture Series-sponsored talk by physicist and Cambridge mathematics professor Stephen Hawking, somebody should stand up and ask him, "So...what does it, you know, feel like to be so smart?" It might be a relief to Hawking, who's become the quantum physics equivalent of John Bradshaw--a pop guru with a charismatic mastery of complex ideas who has all kinds of strange expectations placed on him. Between his best-seller A Brief History of Time--a sort of Li'l Golden Book about gravity, space, time, and multiple universes--and Errol Morris' feature documentary, Hawking has achieved a media celebrity he probably never envisioned. His ideas are so vigorous and involving they resemble poetry or music in the way you can lose yourself riffing on them. Stephen Hawking speaks at 8 pm in McFarlin Auditorium on the grounds of Southern Methodist University. Tickets are $15-$60. Call 768-4315.
Santos & Santos: Poet and playwright Octavio Solis, a native Texan transplanted to San Francisco who made a name for himself in Dallas in the '80s, has collaborated with Dallas Theater Center artistic director Richard Hamburger on a homecoming of sorts--Hamburger directs the DTC's world premiere of Solis' family saga Santos & Santos. A lawyer returns to Texas from an unsatisfying position in California to work at the El Paso firm of his two older brothers, and finds there have been some interesting changes in the firm's clientele. Santos & Santos purports to explore issues both personal and political--from moral responsibility to family to culture identity and assimilation. It's more traditional fare than the work that made Mr. Solis' name in Dallas artistic circles and underground theaters, but he's getting a big-budget boost from the Theater Center's involvement. The Dallas Theater Center presents Santos & Santos Tuesday-Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2:30 & 8 pm; and Sunday at 2:30 & 7:30 pm through May 21 at the Arts District Theater, 2401 Flora. Tickets are $9-$36. Call 522-