Cutting> Edge Haunted House: In some ways, the folks who operate the Cutting Edge Haunted House in Fort Worth flirt with disaster every year, if only because the sheer size of their location - two stories and more than 110,000 square feet, housed in the former Pacific Railway warehouse - indicates that somebody's gonna freak out before the tour is over and try to get out fast. Getting out fast is the point of The Pit, a 40,000 square-foot black maze of interconnected passageways that tests your nerves and your ingenuity, with prizes awarded to the record-holders of the month. The organizers of The Cutting Edge Haunted House claim it's the largest high-tech annual haunted house in the nation. The house opens its doors today from 7 p.m.-midnight and then kicks off a regular schedule on October 6. It's located at I-30 & Lancaster in downtown Fort Wort, in the Pacific Railway Warehouse. Tickets are $10.50-$15. For info call (817) 792-FEAR.
Toshiko Akiyoshi Jazz Orchestra: When you think of the pharse "big band," you automatically conjure pictures from a much-mythologized era - USO benefits, political unity among Americans across the board, Benny Goodman leading his band. As a musician for more than 35 years, composer-arranger-pianist-bandleader Toshiko Akiyoshi works in the big band tradition, but she leaves the nostalgia to the dreamers and has set about producing the largest body of jazz work ever created by an American woman. With her tenor saxophonist husband Lew Tabackin, she founded the Toshiko Akiyoshi Jazz Orchestra back in 1982 and has been piling up Grammy nominations ever since. Being a Japanese-American woman, Akiyoshi is used to having people call her a trailblazer, but gender and ethnicity play a nominal role in her sound, which synthesizes American jazz conventions with Japanese musical theory in a contemporary orchestral setting. Akiyoshi and Tabackin don't tour much, so their Dallas performance, which kicks off the '95-'96 TITAS season is a big deal. The show starts at 8 p.m. in McFarlin Auditorium on the grounds of Southern Methodist University. Tickets are $7-$40. Call 528-5576.
Art and Empire: Treasures from Assyria in the British Museum: Chalk up another international tribute to the Kimbell Art Museum - the venerable Fort Worth institution is one of only two American museums (the other being the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York) selected to showcase Art and Empire: Treasures from Assyria in the British Museum. The British Museum permanently houses these 250 artworks of the vast, ruthlessly conquering Assyrian empire, which dates back to the first millennium B.C. in northern Mesopotamia. The Assyrians, like the Romans who would follow, were often merciless in their troucing of other nations, but they also had a fuzzy-wuzzy side. The Assyrian rulers, in particular, loved to commission (or steal) and stock their massive palaces with beautiful art works. The treasures in Art and Empire include gigantic carved stone relics and bronze, ivory, and lapis lazuli palace furnishings and decorations. The show opens October 1 and runs through February 4 of next year at 333 Camp Bowie Blvd. in Fort Worth. Tickets are $4-$8. For info call (817) 332-8451.
Mamma Roma: Martin Sorsese is at least as serious a movie fan as he is a filmmaker, which is borne out by his tireless efforts in the name of film preservation. He was the primary instigator behind the re-release of Luis Bunuel's Belle de Jour, which had a hugely successful run earlier this year in art houses all over the country. Another of his 1995 projects was the American premiere of Mamma Roma (1962), the second film by Pier Paolo Pasolini and one of the greatest performances ever by the tempestuous Italian acting dynamo Anna Magnani (her most famous American movie performance was in The Rose Tattoo, a play Tennessee Williams wrote for her but which she had to decline in its original stage version because her English wasn't strong enough; Maureen Stapleton stepped in). Pasolini was a p>oet, filmmaker, and one of the most hotly debated European artists of the postwar era, a gay man endlessly persecuted by the Communist party of his homeland. Mamma Roma is his ode to outsiderhood and endurance, the sweat-drenched saga of a prostitute (Magnani) who attempt to make a good life for her grown son. The film runs September 28 at 7:30 p.m. and October 1 at 2 p.m. in the Horchow Auditorium of the Museum, 1717 N. Harwood. Tickets are $4. Call 922-1200.
The North Texas Church of Freethought: The religious right often insists it is among the most persecuted groups living today, a gutsy claim from the single most powerful social force within the American two-party system these days. If you really want to know what persecution feels like, stand up in this very conservative era (especially down here in Baptisville) and proclaim your atheism. The North Texas Church of Freethought has many nicknames for itself - "a congregation of unbelievers," "a church fo the unchurched" - but it is fundamentally a social organization for individuals and families who believe that most world religions are very well-financed, politically influential bastions of superstition and coercion. Why did they themselves organize? They understand that the concept of church fills a very basic need in human nature for fellowship. There are chapters all over the country, and their October service focuses on educating folks on how to use the Internet to access information from atheistic groups all across the world. The October service happens at 10:30 a.m. in the Wilson World Hotel in Irving. It's free and everyone is invited. Call 880-9201.