Contemporary Hollywood Portraits: Pick up movie magazines, watch syndicated entertainment news programs, listen to cinephiles sit around the table for drinks and discussion--everyone's lamenting the dearth of genuine movie star appeal in American cinema. This is not a new complaint, of course--folks back in the '20s bemoaned the advent of sound, and how it had robbed performers of their mystery and glamour. While we must admit that the distance of decades has spurred some heavy-duty revision in how we assess some of the stars from Hollywood's Golden Age, the attitude with which actors and actresses viewed their craft changed radically with the influx of Stanislavsky-influenced New York actors during the '50s. No longer was a performer respected for honing a persona, for playing the same role over and over because his or her style and presence flowered inside that kind of part. "Lose yourself in the character" became this generation's credo--artifice and mannerism became dirty words, although, in fact, a large portion of these Method-trained actors wound up creating voices and gestures as affected as Cary Grant's or Bette Davis'. We're still feeling the aftereffects of the rejection of the concept of "stardom." Consider some of these issues when you hop over to The Afterimage Gallery to view Contemporary Hollywood Portraits, an exhibition of over 40 different contemporary actors and actresses photographed by 17 different photographers, all of them working for Movieline. Subjects include Jim Carrey, Demi Moore, Sharon Stone, River Phoenix, Brad Pitt, Christopher Walken, Anthony Hopkins, Johnny Depp, and many others. Contemporary Hollywood Portraits runs through May 20 at The Afterimage Gallery in The Quadrangle, 2828 Routh St. For more information call 871-9140.
Arts & Letters Live Cinco de Mayo: Arts & Letters Live closes its fourth hugely successful season with a holiday celebration that focuses on the contributions of three Hispanic-American writers whose intensely personal works blow the lid off multiculturalism as it's often practiced in cultural centers and universities across the country. The idea that all of us should be exposed to the philosophies of others is, of course, perfectly laudable, but it's only successful if the performances and discussions transcend the surface differences between cultures to find the remarkable similarities that connect myth, religion, social order, and so on. Multiculturalism that only celebrates difference further divides us. "A Cinco de Mayo Celebration of Latino Literature and Film" offers readings by nationally celebrated writers who put a universal face on the dilemmas of cultures very different from many of ours. Dagoberto Gilb has won countless fellowships and prizes for his work over the years, including a National Endowment for the Arts grant and a Guggenheim fellowship. His first novel is scheduled for publication in the fall, but he's already reaped critical praise for his collections of short stories. Denise Chavez published her first novel last fall, but had previously made a name for herself as a playwright who toured the country with her one-woman show. Pat Mora is a published poet who's also carried on a prolific career writing children's books. A new book of her poems is due out this fall. In addition to their readings, the program includes a new film by a Latino director that's being kept under wraps. "A Cinco de Mayo Celebration of Latino Literature and Film" kicks off at 7 pm in the Horchow Auditorium of the Dallas Museum of Art, 1717 N Harwood. Tickets are $8-$10. Call 922-1219.
Contemporary Dance/Fort Worth and Impulso de Monterrey and Ballet Folklorico Azteca de Fort Worth: It's one of the sad ironies of the post-NAFTA world that even as American businessmen are seeking to forge relationships with Mexican merchants in hopes of establishing a good-faith groundwork for trade, many of the same U.S. businessmen work diligently every day to punish illegal (and, in some cases, legal) Mexican immigrants who are trying, on a more modest hard-labor basis, to establish those same economic ties. It's the niceties that get publicized, the very honorable attempts to break the ice among business leaders through exchanges of art and culture. Contemporary Dance/Fort Worth has entered into a program with the Ballet Impulso de Monterrey to present collaborative performances on both sides of the border. Contemporary Dance/Fort Worth completed its Mexican tour in March, and now the Ballet Impulso de Monterrey Contemporary comes to Texas for a series of workshops, master classes, discussions, appearances, etc. that culminate in two collaborative concerts with specials guests Ballet Folkloric Azteca de Fort Worth. Dance/Fort Worth gives two performances with Impulso de Monterrey and Ballet Folklorico Azteca de Fort Worth Friday and Saturday at 8 pm in the Scott Theatre, 3505 W Lancaster in Fort Worth. Tickets are $6-$20. For ticket info call (817) 335-9000.
The Great Right Hope: Contract on America: By now most Americans are aware of the silly excesses perpetrated on American culture by the left ("political correctness," the obsessive culture of codependency, etc.), since pundits and performers have been drubbing them relentlessly for the past five years. But so far, few folks have had the courage to step out and lampoon the right wing, which is a real loss since Newt, Rush, and the boys have been making fools of themselves in public places with unusual vigor since they seized Congress. Sadly, many liberals have been reacting with a predictable pious outrage, instead of learning to get down and dirty and really kick this group of money-worshiping, fantasy-spinning macho men in their tyrannical kiesters. The latest Spy issue, which features the premiere of Republican Beat, a fictitious magazine for adolescent right-wingers whose "editors" elicited reams of hysterical quotes from eager Republican Congressmen and activists, is a great start. But come on, commentators, let's weigh in a little harder. Dallas-based comedy troupe 4 Out of 5 Doctors raises the stakes with an evening of original song parodies and sketches designed to kick some elephant butt. The Great Right Hope: Contract on America skewers Rush, Newt, the NRA, Operation Rescue, and everybody's favorite conservative in a tall hat, John Paul II. 4 Out of 5 Doctors presents The Great Right Hope: Contract on America every Friday and Saturday night at 11 pm through June 6 at the Pocket Sandwich Theatre, 5400 E Mockingbird. Tickets are $8. Call 821-1860.
Zoo Babies: Sometimes the only way to ease the woes of our hostile, impersonal world is to immerse yourself in cuteness. Visiting the local hospital's maternity ward offers pleasant relief, although the longer you hang around the window staring at the newborns the more likely you'll get called by hospital security for questioning, which tends to take the fun out of goo-gooing and face-making at other people's kids through a sheet of plate glass. Come to a place crawling with cute youngsters where the proprietors not only don't mind you hanging around shouting things like "THEY'RE ADORABLE!" and "I WISH I HAD ONE!"--they charge you for it. The Fort Worth Zoo has devoted the months of May and June to showcasing more than two dozen animal newborns and youngsters. Stations have been set up to give hands-on, audience participation demonstrations on the care of the young. There are also regularly scheduled performances of Wild About Zoo Babies!, a musical revue that tries to sneak some education into the spectacle of singing, dancing animal puppets. Folks who just want to tour the grounds themselves can follow the "Zoo Babies" signs, where specialists are on hand to discuss the task of zoo nurturing. Special events are scheduled every Saturday and Sunday through the end of June at the Fort Worth Zoo, 1989 Colonial Parkway in Fort Worth. Tickets are $2.50-$5.50. Call (817) 871-7000.
Scott Peck: Back in 1993, military leaders and right-wingers wet themselves over the "bravery" and "character" it took for Colonel Fred Peck to declare at a Congressional hearing, "My son is a homosexual, and there is no place in the military for him." In fact, the admission, made to defuse an anonymous threat by one of son Scott's fellow college students, smelled of opportunism by a seasoned military strategist. The American military has always relied on a rather fragile notion of masculinity to reinforce camaraderie among soldiers, one that turns an outright fear of effeminacy into an obsessive need to make constant references to "fags" and gay sex. This is a blunt truth no military official had the guts to say in public, but that's precious little consolation to the tens of thousands of soldiers with exemplary records who've been tossed out either because they told the truth or a vindictive third party told it for them. Scott Peck (not the author of The Road Less Traveled) had no plans to enter the military, and up until two years ago he didn't envision himself coming out on national television, either. Peck has recently published All-American Boy, his memoirs about life before (including a wretchedly unhappy childhood culminating with his mother's cancer-related death when he was 15) and after he accepted his sexual identity. Scott Peck speaks and signs copies of his book at 7:30 pm in the Gay and Lesbian Community Center, 2701 Reagan at Brown. It's free. For info call 521-8919.
Across Generations: Hispanic Children and Folk Traditions: The best art instructors and art therapists know that children's art follows a remarkably linear development--kid artists share the same themes, the same compositions, and most importantly, a rather finite set of symbols to render people, places, and objects. The best instructors and therapists can look at a picture drawn by an adult, and tell that person the age at which he or she was discouraged from pursuing art. A child's creativity is vigorous but fragile, and often reveals thoughts and feelings with a direct symbolism that adult artists spend their lives burying in obscure creative concepts. The kids represented in the exhibition Across Generations: Hispanic Children and Folk Traditions are all descendants of a mountain settlement in Northern New Mexico called the "santeros." Their name means religious image-carvers, and that's just what they do, with a magnificent obsession. The teacher-apprentice model practiced so long in classic European art circles is exercised here without much thought about the whys. It's a simple matter of kids watching their mothers weave and their fathers carve, which awakens their natural impulse to create. Art is the centerpiece of daily family life among the santeros, utterly ingrained into their relationships. Across Generations: Hispanic Children and Folk Traditions is presented Tuesday-Saturday through July 30 at the Biblical Arts Center, 7500 Park Lane. It's free. For info call 691-4661.