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.
Totems and Figures: The kind of images that haunt the Webb Gallery's latest untitled exhibition are recognizable if you do a little soul-searching. The devils, angels, gnomish figures, and nightmarish and heavenly scenes that are chosen themes of the "self-taught" artists on display here represent our greatest hopes and worst fears. You can see a universe of experience, regret, and accomplishment that says everything and nothing about the men who created it. Like many artists, some of the folks here use their work to keep some pretty nasty personal demons at bay, but unfortunately, the title "self-taught" often means "no publicity and no pay," so these creators don't even get the chance to suffer glamorously the way, say, Picasso did. That's beginning to change nationwide, as institutions like the Webb Gallery spring up to showcase an alternative to artists who are factory-produced by the East Coast establishment. Media included are wooden totems and figures, obsessive drawings, clay sculptures, and face jugs. The Webb Gallery features the show through July 9 at 107 N Rogers in Waxahachie. It's free. Hours are every Saturday and Sunday, 1-5 pm, and weekdays by appointment. For information call 398-8085.
Indoor/Outdoor Memorial Day Music Festival: For most Americans, Memorial Day has lost any meaning except that it's another holiday weekend in which we're supposed to celebrate the memory of something or other by throwing parties and having cookouts and generally doing anything but discussing what Memorial Day means. This attitude understandably chafes people who've served their country in military missions abroad, or the families of those who've lost someone in a war, but Americans as a whole seem to seize every opportunity they can to relax and have fun. We also have notoriously short memories--which is at no time more apparent than on Memorial Day. Like most other public Memorial Day Celebrations, don't expect much commentary on war or history at Club Clearview's 9th Annual Indoor/Outdoor Music Festival. Glancing down the list of scheduled performers, you can look forward to some terrific live sounds--included on the bill are Vibrolux, Old 97's, Funland, Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!, and others. Expect some special side attractions. The Festival happens 6 pm-2 am at Clearview in Deep Ellum. Tickets are $6-$7.
Avant-Bard: While Ralph Fiennes and company earn fistfuls of scathing reviews for the latest production of Hamlet on Broadway, one has to wonder what audiences expect these days from poor William Shakespeare. The '80s saw a national explosion in "reinterpretations," "reimaginings," and just plain revisioning of Shakespearean text, to the point where those who stage a traditional production of one of his scripts are apt to get an inferiority complex. Even someone as mighty as Shakespeare can only be performed for so many centuries before the characters and situations, however revolutionary they were in the arena of drama, start to feel a little too familiar. Extra Virgin Cooperative is a nonprofit Dallas theater whose statement of purpose declares it's "dedicated to producing 'first pressings' of original plays that honor our dramatic heritage while furthering a mission of socially conscious, low-tech theater grounded in the concerns of the present day." The folks at this Cooperative have apparently grown a little restless with the Bard themselves, because their latest production is four cabaret-style satires that address a particular contemporary issue using Shakespearean text and dialogue to do so. Political media campaigns, contemporary workplace relations, personals ads, and 12-step programs are all skewered. The four pieces in Avant-Bard run in repertory; two pieces are performed one night, followed the next night by performances of the other two pieces, and so on. The show runs May 25-June 17, Thursday-Saturday at 8 pm and Sunday at 7 pm at the Hickory Street Annex Theater, 501 Second & Hickory in Deep Ellum. Tickets are $8-$10. Call 941-3664.
The Prints of Roy Lichtenstein: There is little doubt that Roy Lichtenstein is one of the most influential American artists of the past 50 years, and here we mean influential in a way that most artists, even the most admired and respected ones, can't hope to match. For Lichtenstein's prints, which began to circulate in the late '40s, have helped spawn a whole culture of irony and self-reference that stretches from movies to Letterman to the conceits of the so-called GenX-ers. Although Lichtenstein is considered a Pop Artist, his "Pop" work preceded Warhol and the gang by several years and was as much a spiritual guide to what they created as just another entry in that school. His prints have done great things and terrible things to the art world. A Lichtenstein image is big, inviting, and user-friendly, and people who had always felt intimidated by art museums responded accordingly. He and other Pop Artists celebrated or skewered the American media and mass-market culture, often in the same picture, and fans were comforted by these bright, colorful, familiar images. But what hath Lichtenstein wrought? Now that the American media seem destined to choke on the tongues lodged in their cheeks, all that self-referencing has become anemic, hollow, insular, trivial. Is it possible for anyone to get a substantial emotional experience, much less plain old pleasure, from a Lichtenstein print anymore? Judge for yourself. The Roy Lichtenstein exhibit opens May 28 and runs through August 28 at the Dallas Museum of Art, 1717 N Harwood. It's free. For more information call 922-1200.