Ray Wylie Hubbard, Darden Smith, Chuck Pyle: This three-headliner event at Sons of Hermann Hall is called "Writers in the Round," which in this open-mic crazy town suggests yet another convergence of literary muses. Actually, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Darden Smith, and Chuck Pyle all work firmly within the American short-story tradition. Lyrics that attempt something beyond the sad-luck cliches that riddle the work of most singer-songwriters risk stomping all over the song structure, transforming the tune into that most dreaded of self-indulgences--a poem with musical accompaniment. Though all three are great musicians and great storytellers, they can be distinguished with simple descriptions: Hubbard loves the little guy, Smith the anti-hero, and Pyle the eerie power of place. The show kicks off at 8:30 p.m. at Sons of Hermann Hall, 3414 Elm. Tickets are $10-$12. Call 747-4422.
Easter Parade: The Easter bonnet is a tradition wrapped up in all kinds of issues that have nothing to do with the resurrection of Jesus: class and other forms of social status; the dictates of contemporary fashion; internal congregational competition; etc. Transcending its cheesy Protestant origins, the bonnet has taken flight and landed in some unexpected places; chances are you'll see bigger, louder, more elaborate bonnets on Cedar Springs and in Lee Park this Easter than would ever fit in Highland Park Methodist. You might even catch some of the designs on display in the Third Annual Easter Parade, a production of DIFFA (Design Industry Foundation For AIDS). This runway show and silent auction features bonnets, hats, and chapeaus created by 40 different Dallas hair and makeup designers. In this context, less is not only less, but may be hissed off the stage. The show kicks off at 8 p.m. at the State Bar, 3611 Parry Ave. For information, call 522-8399.
Deep Ellum Spring Arts Festival: The rules for the Deep Ellum Spring Arts Festival are a little different than for more traditional Easter festivities. Here, "Sunday best" is translated as the pair of old jeans with the coolest constellation of holes, and the traditional egg hunt is replaced by club-weary scenesters retracing their steps on a hunt for lost keys. As you might've guessed, music is the big draw here, with 30 bands performing on two stages. The lineup includes local luminaries like Brave Combo, Marchel Ivery Quintet, Andy Timmons, and Little Jack Melody and His Young Turks. Other stuff on the program includes the Art Cars, a display of a dozen elaborately decorated autos; the "Walk on Walls" project, which finds local artists festooning the clean Deep Ellum surfaces with personal visions while the public watches; exhibitor booths; street performers; and more. Activities happen Friday, 7-11 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; and Sunday, 1-9 p.m. For information, call 747-DEEP.
Richard Lewis: Take an informal poll of American thirtysomething comics who cut their teeth on stand-up, and a good percentage will name Richard Lewis as their favorite funnyman. As is often the case with performers who've greatly influenced their peers, he tends to polarize audiences. The persona that Lewis has created--an aggressively neurotic, love-starved straight guy--doesn't fool around with quotation marks: His delivery is hard-edged, compulsive, even a little haunted. Consequently, for some, watching him is like chugging a Drano martini with an emetic chaser. Lewis has hopped from one unsuccessful TV show to another, struggling to find material with a tempo sympathetic to his jitters. Live, of course, he sets the tone for the evening; consider that a blessing or a curse, based on your own opinion of the man's work. Performances happen Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 7 & 10 p.m. in the Arts District Theatre, 2401 Flora. Tickets are $20-$30. Call 570-1637.
Emily Mitchell: There are musicians whose knowledge of an instrument is inseparable from their love of a particular musical style, and then there are musicians who love their particular instruments because of their possibilities in every discipline. Although Emily Mitchell learned the harp through a rigorous classical training at the Royal College of Music, London, she happily "sold out"--in the name of broadening her audience and her repertoire--by becoming one of the hottest session harpists in America as well as a much sought-after instrumentalist for film scores. Mitchell comes to Dallas to perform a program that includes folk, classical, and pop. The performance happens at 3 p.m. in the Horchow Auditorium of the Dallas Museum of Art, 1717 N. Harwood. It's free, but seating is limited. Call 922-1200.
No Exit: The late, great French existentialist Jean Paul Sartre was, like many artistic and philosophical pioneers, concerned about morality and compassion in the abstract. By many, if not most, biographical accounts, Sartre was capable of great cruelty in his personal relationships, especially his long, twisted affair with Simone de Beauvoir, a key figure in the development of 20th-century feminist literature who had a masochistic streak wider than the Champs Elysees. These are the contradictions--between what we say we want and what we need--that fire Sartre's world-famous comic drama No Exit. The play concerns four characters doomed to repeat their own inextricable cycles of pleasure and pain in a hellish brothel. Little Finger Productions performs No Exit Wednesday-Saturday at 8 p.m. through April 27 at Theatre Too, in the basement of Theatre Three, at the Quadrangle, 2800 Routh. Tickets are $5-$7 (Wednesdays are "pay what you can"). Call 871-3300.
Steve Earle: He's the baddest of the bad, all right--a survivor who died a few dozen times and refused to crawl gently into that bright light, an addict and an outlaw, a convict and a renegade. For years, Earle's dead-man-walking reputation always dwarfed his output--the first album kicked some tough Nashville ass, but the rest rocked too hard and came off like a bragging bully too chickenshit to actually deliver the goods; he made country safe for the longhairs again in the mid-'80s, then he decided to piss away his life and career doing the things rockers do when they want to end it all. So it has been a long trip back for the Houston-born Earle, but finally he's got the album to prove he's still tougher than the rest: I Feel Alright is the defiant, unrepentant work of a man who tackled his demons, then took them out for an early-morning breakfast of whiskey and eggs; he's made his peace with his addictions ("Cocaine Cannot Kill My Pain," a wrenching country blues) and the damage they wrought ("Hurtin' Me, Hurtin' You"), but he offers no apologies. He knows Nashville was wishin' him luck with a capital F, and he knows everyone used to write his name in pencil. Earle eventually came back on his own terms: "I feel alright," he declares from the get-go, and even if he doesn't, it's nobody's business but his. Steve Earle performs at Deep Ellum Live.
Hot Cars, High Fashion, Cool Stuff: Designs of the 20th Century: The latest exhibition at the Dallas Museum of Art, entitled Hot Cars, High Fashion, Cool Stuff: Designs of the 20th Century, is not just a fun look at pop culture debris that has washed up on the shores of the millennium. More importantly, Designs of the 20th Century is a freak show created by American consumer culture. Instead of two-headed fetuses floating in murky jars, we get inanimate objects far more chilling--orange "marshmallow" sofas and a TV set that presaged the art design of The Jetsons. Curators have arranged the objects in the show--which also include cars, clothing, and furniture--in chronological order, so we can trace the "evolution" of our collective, oh-so-stylish bad taste. The show runs through July 14 at the Dallas Museum of Art, 1717 N. Harwood. It's free. Call 922-1344.
E. Lynn Harris: Terry McMillan may be the celebrity author du jour in the African-American community, but another black writer has reached The New York Times best-seller list tackling the same subjects of black love and heartbreak within a subculture that many try desperately to ignore: gay, lesbian, and bi. Indeed, it's a measure of the resistance E. Lynn Harris encountered inside and outside black America that he had to self-publish his 1992 literary debut Invisible Life. Two novels and a lucrative contract with Doubleday later, Harris returns with And This Too Shall Pass, another in the continuing saga of characters who discover the spiritual combination of gender, ethnicity, and sexuality bears strange fruit. Harris' people don't wait to exhale; they take a deep breath, say their peace, and watch the consequences fly. Harris appears at 7 p.m. at Crossroads Market & Bookstore, 3930 Cedar Springs. Call 521-8919.
Beds, Graves, And Other Places to Lie Down and Sabor A Mi: This week the Bath House Cultural Center opens a pair of art shows that highlight Texas regions--both on the map and in the heart. Beds, Graves, and Other Place to Lie Down features a trio of women artists--Linda Pace, Diana Rodriguez-Gil, and Kathy Vargas--who call San Antonio home. Various media unite to make explicit references to "places--where we lay and where the heart rests." Vargas was a recent recipient of a Mid-American Arts Alliance grant through the NEA. The second exhibition, Sabor a Mi, features "a taste of Dallas Latino art," with works on all subject matter in photography, painting, sculpture, and drawing on display. Both shows run through April 27; an opening reception for both happens April 13, 6-8 p.m. The Bath House Cultural Center is located at 521 E. Lawther. Call 670-8749.
Angel on Death Row: Now that Susan Sarandon has won an Oscar for her heart-wrenching portrayal of Sister Helen Prejean in Dead Man Walking, pro-death penalty advocates have even more ammunition against Catholic activists. From the instant Prejean's harrowing first-person account was published three years ago and she became the country's leading critic of the death penalty, fans of Ol' Sparky have rushed to paint the tough-as-nails Prejean as a publicity-seeker and a hypocrite. Both sides are examined in "Angel on Death Row," an episode of the PBS documentary series Frontline. Interviews include Prejean and her associates as well as family members of victims brutalized and slain by Robert Lee Willie, one of the characters on which Sean Penn's role was based. The episode airs at 9 p.m. on KERA-TV Channel 13. Call 871-1390.
Christopher Darden: Of all the spotlight-hogging sycophants who've made their dime huckstering outside the tent of the O.J. Simpson circus, Los Angeles prosecutor Christopher Darden is due his a cappella solo. He makes the most of it with his contentious trial-of-the-century memoir In Contempt. Darden understands why racial issues eventually came to dominate Simpson's trial--especially when the investigation of the defendant was conducted by the long-protested LAPD--but confesses enormous outrage at the ruthless tactics employed by Johnny Cochran, who practiced a style of race-baiting that would make Jesse Helms proud. Fielding charges of "Oreo" and even death threats from inside the black community, Darden insists that the only justice which mattered in this case was vindication for the victims. He appears at 7 p.m. at Borders Books & Music, 1601 Preston in Plano. Call 713-9857.