Ampersand Dance/Theatre: Two good buddies, Texas Christian University graduates Eric Salisbury and Shannon Slaton, have been profiled extensively in the Dallas press for talents that don't often bring you much acclaim - not to mention financial security - in this city. Salisbury is a dancer-choreographer who's performed with troupes across the country and has been commissioned to write dance pieces for local outfits such as Contemporary Dance/Fort Worth. Slaton is a playwright-actor-stage director who studied at State University of New York at Stony Brook and with local theatrical guru Fred Curchack, and has seen several of his plays produced. As two developing talents desperately seeking their orbit in the subterranean stratosphere of Dallas performance arts, the pair decided to institutionalize themselves - as an independent company, that is, not wards of the state. Their Ampersand Dance/Theatre kicks off its first full seasson with And ... What Else, a collaboration that includes dance, spoken word, and absurdist drama with the help of the company's choreographer-in-residence Andrea Harris and theater-artist-in-residence Tim McCanna. The show happens September 7-9 at Theatre on Elm Street, 3202 Elm. Tickets are $8-$10. Call 388-8946.
Michael Mogavero and William B. Montgomery: New Illusionistic and Narrative Works: Thanks to some very hot, very high-paid, very one-dimensional artists, the impulse to confuse shock with revelation has atrophied into one of the most embarrassing cliches of American visual art. Our tender sensibilities worn to the nub, we can be inspired only as far as a yawn at the latest ugly truth shoved in our faces by self-righteous painters, photographers, and performers. Texas-based artists Michael Mogavero and William B. Montgomery don't exhibit much in the North Texas area, which is a shame when you see the impressively technical, deceptively serene multi-subject scenes and portraits that have earned raves from the likes of Art in America. The Austin-based Mogavero creates gigantic, mural-like images on canvas, wood, and paper, with so much tension between pattern and color you expect them to stampede off the wall. Montgomery, who lives in Elgin, combines painting and printing techniques that feature graceful, slightly cynical organic worlds. Their show, New Illusionistic and Narrative Works, opens September 8 at 6 p.m. and runs through October 6 at Craighead-Green Gallery, 2404 Cedar Springs. It's free. Call 855-0779.
Marianne Williamson: There are so many empty spaces in the lectures of spiritual populists such as Marianne Williamson and Deepak Chopra that anybody can step in and create almost any message he wants. Of course, it's that same built-in Rorschach test that makes religious doctrine thousands of years old the perfect excuse to rape and pillage. Talented as she is as a public speaker, Williamson isn't likely to be stealing the Pope's thunder any time soon. Still, the faithful who come to embrace her and maybe shed a few tears about their own troubles offer her a modest tribute that has a certain Catholic intensity. What are we to make of the textbook on which her curriculum is based - A Course in Miracles, the fascinatingly dense, vaguely hypnotic tome that presents disppointment, disease, and death as mere illusion? Does Williamson offer inspirational, common-sense guidelines about love and personal responsibility, or roadside elixirs for your wounded soul? Her career as a best-selling author was cut short after the surprise failure of her neo-feminist tract A Woman's Way, which was sort of like sitting in on a consciouness raising session overseen by Stevie Nicks. She presents an evening lecture September 8 at 7:30 p.m. and a Relationships Workshop September 9 at 10:00 a.m., both at the Unity Church of Dallas, 6525 Forest Lane. Tickets for the former are $30; the latter, $75. For information call 233-7106.
Dr. Daniel Polz: You can't make a lot of easy comparisons between Texas and Egypt, except maybe the heat, though the Middle East variety is drier and often disappears at night. Still, there are folks in the mid-cities area much intrigued by the discoveries being made around the cradle of human civilization. The North Texas Chapter of the American Research Center in Egypt sponsors two events this weekend, featuring a recognized international scholar of Egyptian history and culture. Egyptologist Dr. Daniel Polz, who's an assistant professor in the Department of Near Eastern Languages at the University of California in Los Angeles, flies to Southern Methodist University for a talk on the latest discoveries unearthed from the necropolis of Thebes. The weekend kicks off September 8 with a 7 p.m. lecture, free and open to the public, entitled "An Enigmatic Tomb at Thebes," and continues September 9, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., with a $50 seminar entitled "Ancient Thebes: Anatomy of a Capital Necropolis." Both events take place in Room 153 of Heroy Hall, 3225 Daniel on the SMU campus. For info call 349-1052.
Montage '95: Dallas has so many street arts festivals throughout the spring and summer, they start to become a blur after a while. But in its 11th incarnation, Montage '95 is something of a feat of execution - the entire annual event is planned, organized, and staffed by volunteers, most of whom do not have an immediate financial stake in a healthy performing and visual arts scence. In other words, these people do it because they love the cause, and with all proceeds earmarked to benefit various Dallas cultural agencies, you can feel good that your modest admission fee ($4 in advance, $5 at the gate) is a donation to performers who often get the cold shoulder from mainstream Dallas audiences. A sample of offerings at Montage '95 includes six stages of continuous live entertainment by musicians, dancers, and actors; a wide array of international foods; 150 artist booths, street performers; and an interactive arts area. The event happens September 9, 10 a.m. - 10 p.m. and September 10, 11 a.m. - 7 p.m., along Flora Street between the Meyerson Center and the Dallas Museum of Art. Kids 4 and under get in free. 361-2011
Great Foundation Plaza Festival: It's amazing how the most innocuous public totems soon overtake the land around them and become places for socializing. Thus is the evolution of the fountain at the Richardson Civic Center on Arapaho and Central. Each year Richardson organizers plan their community celebration with just that touch of fountain spray to keep things cool. The Great Fountain Plaza Festival features a wide range of low-exertion, high-spectacle activities that are the perfect way to say farewell to summer '95. There's a children's midway of scale-size rides; a race course; fishing from the fountain; a newspaper toss; elephant rides; the comic stylings of Poppy & Bonkers; the Austin P. Roadman armadillo puppet show; and a main stage that features live music from The Panhandlers and Brad Thompson and His Undulating Band as well as the Chamberlain Ballet, the Repertoire Drummers, and lots more. It's all free, and happens 11 a.m. - 8 p.m. at the southwest corner of Central & Arapaho on the Civic Center Fountain Grounds. Call 680-7909.
12 More Dallas Poets Talking: Ever picked up a copy of The Word, a locally printed 'zine available at various bookstores and coffee-houses? If you do, you'll know that Dallas is currently in the midst of a poetry revival. There are, literally, dozens of venues scattered in and around the city that hold regular performances and open mic nights (a sampling of which can be found every week in Observer events listings). Things have gotten so out of hand that there have been regular calls for a little more organization, a little more courtesy, and a little less ego when it comes to performance time. As good an introduction to this bountiful, chaotic harvest as you'll get can be found in "12 More Dallas Poets Talking," an all-day, informal symposium that includes both performed verse and a variety of wisdom from a panel of 13 of the top local scribes, including Sam Modica, Clebo Rainey, Gordon Hilgers, and Christopher Soden. At last year's event, more than 50 writers gathered and birthed new collectives The Writer's Garret and Wordspace as well as the aforementioned Word. Expect even more creative frisson this year. The event happens 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. at The Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture, 2719 Routh. It's free, and the public is invited. Call 871-2440.
Progressive Brunch: For those of us outside the Park Cities loop, a "progressive brunch" sounds like it might mean an early brown-bag meal at a Montessori school. In actuality, the word "progressive" is used here in its most literal sense - folks who indulge in such a repast progress to a different location ( be it a neighboring estate or just another wing on the summer house) for each course. The Deep Ellum Association and the Elm Street Market host their own "progressive brunch" in an attempt to acquaint you with the heretofore unsung gustatory potential of Deep Ellum. This adventure starts at 11 a.m. and sweeps through four very different neighborhood eateries - Sol's Taco Lounge, the Kaffeine Shack, The Donut Lady & K.J.'s Koffee, and Deep Java. You might eat conservatively, because there are a lot of yummies - vegetable quesadillas, homemade sandwiches, fresh donuts, and bagels - that are a little on the heavy side. $15 admission benefits both the Deep Ellum Association and Dallas "Can" Academy. For more information call 748-4332.
Gang Warfare: The McKinney Avenue Contemporary has collaborated with art critic and curator Michael Corris and his Independent Art Space in London for a vision of the New World Order as the New Pecking Order. The resulting "video theme park," called Gang Warfare, makes its American debut at the MAC and is divided into six regional segments - British, American, Brazilian, German, Croation, and Portuguese. Each nation has a station where viewers can safely witness the pleasures and pains of its national identity, as interpreted through the eyes of local, national, and international audiences. In an American culture that's currently fixated on gang memberships in our schools and neighborhoods, it's easy to remember that the example was set early on by our nation's leaders. The show opens with a reception September 8, 6-8 p.m. and runs through October 29 at 3120 McKinney. It's free. For more information call 943-1099.
Invoking The Spirit: Worship Traditions in the African World: Late last year when veteran New York times photographer Chester Higgins Jr. released his international collection of pictures spanning three decades, Feeling the Spirit: Searching the World for the People of Africa, critics in the national print media drooled over the artist's accomplishments. Here is a man who traveled wherever his sense of cultural connection led him, from Egypt to Brazil to the dusty roads of Alabama. Higgins attempted to find some common thread of gesture, mannerism, facial expression, or daily ritual that would connect African people to their continental source, no matter how much geography, time, and adopted culture had separated them. The African American Museum in Dallas hosts a collection of photos by Higgins that includes works from Feeling The Spirit as well as other images. Invoking The Spirit: Worship Traditions in the African World is on display at the Museum, located at 3536 Grand Avenue in Fair Park. 565-9026.
Across Continents and Cultures: The Art and Life of Henry Ossawa Tanner: The Dallas Museum of Art and The African American Museum in Dallas embark on an unprecedented collaboration of talents and resources to showcase a towering 19th century American painter. In many ways, Henry Ossawa Tanner traveled the opposite trajectory of many American artists - he spent most of the end of his life, rather than his formative years, in Europe, and instead of dropping his stateside identity like a hot coal, he relied on many of the family, church, and community principles he acquired to discipline his work to the end. The Dallas Museum of Art is the first to show Tanner's work this month in Dallas, with 56 paintings constituting a show called Across Continents and Cultures: The Art and Life of Henry Ossawa Tanner. Even as his autumn years came to a close in a relatively secluded European spot, Tanner was compelled to capture the Biblical scenes and family rituals of his childhood. The African American Museum follows September 16 with Henry O. Tanner: Prints, Drawings, and Watercolors. Both shows close December 31. Admission to the DMA exhibit is $1-$5. For more information call 922-1200.
The Living: There are plenty of reasons why a play that details the strange psychological adjustments required to live in the midst of a plague speak to the late 20th century American audiences, and not just because of AIDS. Listen to nationwide polls and man-on-the-street interviews, and you'll find a common theme - the loss of control in a technological, economically disadvantaged world, and the striving for little ways to regain some direction before the tide overtakes you. These are the kinds of issues the citizens of 1665 London had to face as they watched folks drop like flies from the bubonic plague. The Gryphon Players present the Southerwestern premiere of Antony Clarvoe's The Living, a drama about the 17th century European plague years which explores what happens when community politics must be based on mortality, not tradition. Performances of The Living happen Wednesday-Saturday at 8 p.m., with Sunday matinees September 17 & 24 at 4 p.m. in the Hickory Street Annex Theatre. Tickets are $10-$14. Call 526-1158.