The Wonder Bread Years: One of the easiest subjects for comics to mine is their childhoods, and now that twentysomethings have come along to transform their collective memories into a cottage industry, expect to be inundated with pop-culture nostalgia. Although comic Pat Hazell just missed that generation, his one-man show, The Wonder Bread Years, taps the same vein--substitute toy soldiers for Star Wars action figures and the word "gyp" for "gross," and you've got the same sensibility. Hazell has been earning raves across the country from the likes of Jerry Seinfeld, so his show--however familiar the terrain--is worth a look. Hazell's one-man show happens Thursdays and Sundays at 8:30 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays at 8:30 & 10:30 p.m.; and Wednesdays at 8 p.m. at the Improv, 4980 Belt Line in Addison. Tickets are $8-$10. For information call 404-8501.
Dallas Fantasy Fair: Forget all the legends, brilliant artists, imaginative writers, movie folks, and top-of-the-heap animators who've been jammed into three days of the Dallas Fantasy Fair--it's the unsung characters we love, like Susie "Flaxen" Owens, former Playboy Playmate, star of her own comic book series, and perfume businesswoman; Brinke Stevens, veteran horror movie bomb-shell/victim with powerful lungs whose latest $3 million thriller Mommy makes its debut at the Fair; nationally celebrated haunted house designer Lance Pope, who created Haunted Verdun Manor for North Texas; and dozens more. The Dallas Fantasy Fair aims to lure the sci-fi-fantasy-horror fanatic in all of his or her natural habitats--movies, TV, comics, animation. There are seminars, demonstrations, autograph sessions, merchandise in the millions for sale and trade, art shows, a weird movie room, and still more. The many different events at the Dallas Fantasy Fair happen around the clock August 11-13 at both Market Hall and the Stouffer Renaissance Hotel, two miles north of downtown on I-35 at Wycliff. Tickets for all three days are $25, but day passes can be purchased for $5-$12 (kids under 6 get in free). For information call 350-4305.
The Shawl and the dreamer examines his pillow: The 11th Street Theatre Project closes its 1995 season with two one-act plays by a pair of our finest dramatists. The Shawl is a typical David Mamet pressure-cooker--throw three characters into a small space, establish the personal agenda of each and what ruthless measures they take to achieve it, and watch the sparks fly. In The Shawl, the principals are a con man posing as a psychic, his volatile male lover, and the woman they're flim-flamming. The other play is John Patrick Shanley's the dreamer examines his pillow, which takes a traditional love triangle--a father, his daughter, and her boy-friend--and twists it into unusual shapes. Performances Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. through August 26, with "pay-what-you-can" shows August 17 & 24 at 8 p.m. and August 20 at 3:30 p.m. St. Matthew's Episcopal Cathedral, 5100 ross at Henderson. Tickets are $7-$10. Call 522-PLAY.
African Dance and Drum Workshop: If you want to get to the real heart of American popular music--be it rock 'n' roll, urban contemporary, heavy metal, or dance tunes--then you need to travel to the continent of Africa, the region primarily responsible for most of the sounds you hear when you turn on a radio these days. You can keep your melodies and harmonies--the key to virtually any chart-topping song these days is the beat, and that may be the single greatest contribution African culture, with its intricate and emotionally provocative rhythms, has bestowed on us. Absulai Aziz Amadhu, an ethnologist and music expert, offers a two-day African Dance and Drum Workshop that covers the very basics of movement and percussion. The workshop happens August 12 & 13, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Pan African Connection Bookstore/Resource Center, 300 S. Beckley in Oak Cliff. Admission is $15-$35. For information call 943-8262.
Songs of Love: Columbia University professor romulus Linney is a very busy man, from the looks of his career accomplishments--three novels, 25 plays, a sideline as a stage director for prestigious theater companies around the country, and along the way, a denful of awards from critics' organizations and literary foundations. In a world full of writers who like to remind us of our fragility and imminent potential for evil-doing, Linney is interested in the comic possibilities when individuals dedicate their lives to other individuals or ideals, and how they can be simultaneously lifted up and stranded by their own emotions. Songs of Love, given its Dallas premiere by Naked Mirror Productions, is in a sense the archetypal romulus Linney play. It's actually six short pieces tied together by the theme of (hold on to your hats) love. But in this piece, Linney wants to break down the barriers by exploring different kinds of love--patriotism, the first crush, and lifelong monogamy, among others. The show is performed Fridays and Saturdays at 8:15 p.m. and Sundays at 7:15 p.m. through September 2 at the Swiss Avenue Theater Center, 2700 Swiss. Tickets are $8-$10. Call 680-4466.
Environmental Electromagnetic Fields and Health: The North Texas Skeptics, a non-profit organization dedicated to debunking conspiracy theories, crackpot science, exploitative spiritualism, and other irrational expressions, has long made it a mission to challenge paranoid organizations, and the latest presentation, "Environmental Electromagnetic Fields and Health," is no exception. They've invited John Blanton, a physics expert, to address the many wild theories that abound concerning how power lines, home appliances, and other innocuous conductors of electricity cause cancer or other maladies. There's no established scientific relationship, and the Skeptics want to explore where this idea comes from. Still, they might consider the old saying "Even a paranoid has enemies": science has on occasion chosen to serve big business over public well-being. The discussion happens at 2 p.m. in the Center for Community Cooperation, 2900 Live Oak and Liberty. It's free and open to the public. Call 558-1047.
Connections: African Vision in African American Art: The African American Museum opens a show that aspires, in part, to better understand the dichotomy of philosophies and cultural traditions that exists between Africa and America--and within the African-American community--as a continuous source of creative inspiration. Connections: African Vision in African American Art showcases traditional African art alongside contemporary works by black American artists, so visitors can come to their own conclusions about where one source begins, where the other ends, and how they are sometimes reconciled in the work of one individual. The show runs through July 28, 1996 at the African American Museum in Fair Park. The show is free. For more info call 565-9026.
Big Cat Weekend: Last weekend the Fort Worth Zoo opened a show that might unofficially be called "The Big Lizard Weekend," although the huge Komodo Dragons will be on display in comfy environs for a while now. In keeping with the "bigger is better" theme, the Zoo hosts a pair of very large, very toothy creatures who are playing this gig as a limited engagement only. The sixth annual Big Cat Weekend is designed to captivate visitors with the grace and beauty of predatory felines you will hopefully never find digging in your garbage can, and while officials have our attention, to educate us about the very real danger of extinction these animals face. This year the featured attractions are a North American cougar and a four-month-old Bengal tiger. There is also a variety of cat-related kiddie activities. Show times are 11:30 a.m., 1, 2:30, and 4 p.m. August 12 & 13 at 1989 Colonial Parkway in Fort Worth. Admission is $2.50-$5.50. For info call (817) 871-7000.
Neck: Matthew B. Zrebski, a co-artistic director of the Southern Methodist University-based Youth Could Know Theatre Company, worked this year with internationally acclaimed playwright Eric Overmyer, and the playwright/recent SMU graduate counts Overmyer as an early fan of his work. The phrase "cutting edge" is thrown around a lot these days, but if you really want to catch a young writer at the beginning of his career, then come see Youth Could Know's production of Zrebski's baroque drama Neck. The play takes us through the skeleton-filled closets of a wealthy family who've learned to live with vampirism as a disease. Inevitably, the affliction comes to overwhelm and define them. The company performs Neck every night August 14-20 at 8 p.m. in Basement Theatre B-450 of the Meadows School of the Arts on the grounds of Southern Methodist University. Admission is free, but donations are encouraged. For information call 361-7847.
Geof Darrow: Nowadays it seems like most comic book artists are trying to outdo each other in the let's-shock-Bob-Dole contest--the alternate universes and post-apocalyptic planets so brilliantly envisioned by the cutting-edge guys are crammed with blazing guns, knife battles, personal vendettas, mutant psychos, and women who more often than not don't wear brassieres. Comic illustrator Geof Darrow has earned his share of fans by dabbling in this stuff, in particular his splendidly sordid graphic version of neo-noirist Andrew Vachss' Another Chance To Get It Right. But Darrow also has a cuddly side--he's designed several characters for the Hanna-Barbera animation mill, and his latest opus, Big Guy and Rusty the Robot Boy, is designed to be held in big and little hands alike. Darrow makes his only Texas appearance to chat and sign copies from 4-7 pm at Einstein's Comics, 1540 Northwest Highway in Garland. For information call 270-7878.
Dick Armey: Last week the Dallas faithful came flooding out to greet horror novelist Anne Rice, bedecked in their finest white face makeup, coffin shrouds, and fake teeth. Dick Armey, majority leader of the House of representatives, is an author with no less fanatical a following. His new tome The Freedom revolution is, along with Newtie's American Civilization book, a call to arms for the new conservative revolution. We think Armey deserves no less than the carnival-like atmosphere that surrounded rice's appearance--our collective mind reels at the possibilities. Participants could pay a dollar and get the chance to dunk an unwed mother on welfare (all proceeds benefit the NrA). We can hear the delighted giggles as the faithful poke and prod a gigantic piĖata shaped like an ATF agent. Armey appears--alas, without the appropriate fanfare--to sign copies of his book at 7 p.m. at Barnes & Noble Bookstore, 8525 Airport Freeway in North richland Hills. For information call (817) 281-7042.