Words and Music: The Harlem Renaissance: Two decades of remarkably influential art from one American neighborhood are celebrated in the latest Arts & Letters Live program. The talent lineup for this evening dubbed "Words and Music: The Harlem Renaissance" should put the jelly in your roll: Actress and current associate curator for African Art at the Dallas Museum of Art Ramona Austin; Dallas-born 60-year-veteran jazz and blues musician Big Al Dupree; KERA-FM commentator, poet, and sometime Observer contributor James Mardis; one-woman Dallas musical hurricane Liz Mikel; and nationally published poet and essayist Lorenzo Thomas have been tapped to interpret the works of greats like Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, Eubie Blake, Duke Ellington, and others. The event happens at 7 p.m. in the Horchow Auditorium of the Dallas Museum of Art, 1717 N. Harwood. Tickets are $8-$10. Call 922-1220.
Pterodactyls: Open Stage wrapped its impressively low-key run of Nicky Silver's Fat Men in Skirts, and now the New Theatre Company continues Dallas' unofficial Silver Spring with a production of the playwright's Pterodactyls. In commenting on himself as a writer, Nicky Silver is unusually honest about his rejection of discipline and form so that his "unconscious can just vomit freely forth." The author's wildly bleak, often violent impulses--he incorporates rape, murder, incest, cannibalism, and other treats into the panorama of human comedy--may make some playgoers feel like they've been thrown up on. But like all good playwrights, it's his obsessions that distinguish his work. Pterodactyls is a typically searing, absurdist look at a man who returns to his family HIV-positive. Performances happen Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m. in the Swiss Avenue Theater Center, 2700 Swiss Ave. Tickets are $8-$10. Call 871-ARTS.
Steve Blow: Falling somewhere on the acerbic scale between John Anders (0) and Marlyn Schwartz (10), Dallas Morning News Metropolitan columnist Steve Blow is perhaps the most popular editorialist at Dallas' Only Daily, primarily because he exudes a genuine Nice Guyness yet still manages to get to the point by the end of his column. Or maybe it's because his space often feels like an interactive zone, Blow frequently incorporating the calls and letters of his readers. He gives a free public presentation about the travails of parenthood, "If Parenting Were a Job..." (a mysterious title, since it most certainly is a job). Listen to him live and decide for yourself whether Blow is so nice he deserves a hug or a punch in the nose. The talk kicks off at 7 p.m. in the Kleberg-Rylie Branch Library, 1301 Edd Road. It's free. Call 670-7838.
Tour of Taste Travel Auction: KERA-TV Channel 13, like PBS stations throughout the country, has a reputation to maintain. You can't be an elitist purveyor of leftist propaganda draining the public till and not behave with the public airs of an overstarched society matron (albeit one who's funneling vital state secrets to Communist concerns). Only the riffraff who can summon $35 will be permitted into the Tour of Taste Travel Auction, a benefit for Channel 13 that offers packages to Hong Kong, New Zealand, Singapore, and Indonesia. The "Taste" part of the title refers to the food and wine samples that will be provided by Sipango, Martini Ranch, The Green Room, Sambuca, and Mediterraneo, among others. The event kicks off at 7:30 p.m. in the Westin Galleria. Tickets are $30-$35. Call 871-2787.
12th Annual Main Street Days Festival: Although it's only mid-May, we're already well into the unofficial season of North Texas outdoor festivals. The 12th Annual Main Street Festival Days has a croquet tournament, living history demonstrations and re-creations (all that vaguely suspicious stuff about Indians and Anglos living in harmony is revived), drag racing, cooking, live music and performance, fun runs, a tractor and farm show, and so forth. Events happen Friday, 6-11:30 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-11:30 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. in the historic Main Street district of Grapevine. Admission is $1-$5 or $10 for a weekend pass; kids younger than 3 get in free. Call (817) 481-8444.
What It Is: African-American Folk Art from the Regenia A. Perry Collection: The African-American Museum hosts a traveling exhibition that includes 240 works from the largest African-American folk-art collection ever held by an African-American. Regenia Perry, national curator and 25-year instructor at Virginia Commonwealth University, is the collector behind the exhibit, What It Is: African-American Folk Art from the Regenia A. Perry Collection. The show specializes in some of the lesser-known works by the leading so-called self-taught artists, including photos and gum sculpture by Nellie Mae Rowe; bone sculpture and paintings by woodcarver William Dawson; a geometric quilt by Clementine Hunter; and mechanized woodwork by George W. White Jr. The show opens May 17 and runs through August 31 in the African-American Museum in Fair Park. For admission information call 565-9026.
AmeriFest 1996: How can AmeriFest, now in its third year, hope to compete with the aforementioned Main Street Festival Days in Grapevine? What do you offer to entice people away from The Winn Dixie Beef Stew Contest? As it happens, AmeriFest has the muscle of a multibillion-dollar corporation (AT&T) behind it. The chosen strategy is to out-multiculti the competitors, with construction of homey little "villages" from American-Indian culture, Africa, China, Germany, Mexico, and the Caribbean. (The final village is Texan, a subdivision all by itself of the human race.) Events happen Saturday, 10:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m., and Sunday, noon-7 p.m., up and down Main Street in downtown Dallas. It's free. Call 699-5757.