Peacemaker: One of the most obvious but least discussed flaws in the new national mania to "crack down" on juvenile violent crime is that many kids living in urban squalor have to take up arms simply to stay alive--when you're forced at birth to swim with sharks, you'd better develop some sharp teeth pretty quickly. Soon, what began as self-defense warps into the wider philosophy of aggression and small-time gangsterism which rules at least some part of every major city in America. Faster verdicts, longer jail sentences, and no parole may provide an emotional quick fix for folks terrified by what they see on the news, but they seem to accomplish little but cost taxpayers more money. What, then, is the answer to youth violence? KERA-TV Channel 13 has launched Act Against Violence, a two-year outreach effort that involves numerous organizations in a collective attempt to intercede in the lives of kids and adolescents whose harsh environments endanger their futures. One of the first products of the program is Peacemaker, a one-hour, locally produced TV special that follows a group of West Dallas middle school students as they collaborate with a local playwright on a script about the dangers and temptations they face daily. Between the documentary footage, the play itself is filmed with performances by the kids and some prominent Dallas figures in surprising roles. Peacemaker airs at 7 pm on KERA-TV Channel 13, with a half-hour panel discussion to follow. For more information call 871-1390.
Celebrate Tap: If you woke up this morning feeling a strange tingle in the soles of your feet, it's no coincidence--May 25 is the congressionally proclaimed National Tap Dance Day. You might ask exactly how they arrived at this particular date on the calendar, and the answer is simple. Tap lobbyists hunted for the birthdate of someone who they believed embodied this frenetic American art form in all its eager-to-please showmanship. It was decided that the late great Bill "Bojangles" Robinson was the artist to be honored. Robinson, who would be 117 years old were he alive to hoof it up today, was known as "The Satrap of Tap" from Chicago to New York to Los Angeles in stage and movies. Arts on Tap, the Fort Worth-based tap organization, as well as the Dallas Dance Council and The West End Association, have joined forces to organize a free tap concert that is really more of a party, since everyone who has an interest in tap, from beginners to veterans, is invited to bring shoes and participate. Performing in the event are professionals like Broadway dancer Ron Young, Barefoot Curly Miller, Skip Randall, members of the Bill Evans Dance Company, and special musical guests Howard and the Fine Sisters. It all happens 11:30 am-1:30 pm in the Marketplace Plaza of the West End. Once again, it's free. In addition, on May 26, the aforementioned Mr. Young conducts a master class from 10 am to 4 pm at the Booker T. Washington High School, 2501 Flora, downtown. Tickets are $15-$20, or $5 if you just want to watch. For info on either event call (817) 738-TUNE.
Big D Festival of the Unexpected: If you've attended any of the readings, works-in-progress, or full productions during the last two years of the Dallas Theater Center's Big D Festival of the Unexpected, then you know the word "unexpected" is not an exaggeration. Watching some of the outrageous and provocative language and themes unfold before an audience that includes upper-class Dallas blue-hairs--you know, the folks who buy season tickets to the Theater Center and the Symphony--you're surprised there aren't more walk-outs in a city where a naked man or an interracial kiss can prompt angry protests from ticket-buyers. But, in fact, the last two Festivals have been so successful they're expanding the scope of the event this year--but not, let's hope, at the expense of the terrific new works they've showcased. Indeed, giving an adequate schedule of times and events for this month-long theatrical festival would take much space, so we'll give you the bare bones and expect you to pick up a schedule for yourself. Highlights include the Canadian clown duo Mump & Smoot, who perform what you might call "conceptual slapstick"; an adaptation of Larry Brown's critically acclaimed novel Dirty Work, about a struggle between Vietnam vets; avant-garde playwright Len Jenkins' The Dream Express, about a nationally famous musical duo in a seedy motel; and the experimental play Skin by wildly praised writer Naomi Iizuka. There are countless other musical events, readings, and one-person performances in the Festival, which happens June 9-18 at the Kalita Humphreys Theatre. Single-event ticket prices range from $9 to $36. Call 522-TIXX.
Spike and Mike's Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation: After a two-year hiatus, Spike and Mike's Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation returns to Dallas in a venue that is itself returning after many weeks in limbo--The Major Theatre. The latest incarnation of the art house, which for almost two years played classics, underground films, American premieres, and cult oddities like no film institution this city has ever seen before, isn't quite the same--doors will only be opened for special events. Clearly, Spike and Mike qualifies. If you've never seen this particular animation festival, then take the title at its word. The national and international animators on the bill indulge in every kind of sexual and scatological sight gag you never wanted to imagine--all in the name of sick fun, of course. The Festival kicks off a run that'll last until June 23 at the Theater, but the May 26 opening night doubles as a kind of reopening festival for the Major. In addition to the show, there are performances by Dallas musical provocateurs Ethyl Merman, as well as an unofficial tattoo-and-body-piercing show provided by some of the folks at Skin & Bones. The evening starts around 7 pm. Advanced tickets for opening night can be bought for $7 at the theater from noon-4 pm on May 26; tickets at the door are $10. After opening night, the Festival runs Tuesday-Thursday, 8 & 10 pm and Friday & Saturday, 8, 10, and midnight for a cost of $7 a show. No one under 18 is admitted. The Major is located in East Dallas on Samuell next to Samuell Grand Park and the legendary Debonair Danceland. Call 821-FILM.