Deborah Henson-Conant: Critically adored harpist-singer Deborah Henson-Conant has become famous in jazz and classical circles because she treats her instrument of choice like everything but a harp. She pounds it, plucks it, caresses it, massages it, and does everything short of establishing onstage carnal knowledge with it a la Tori Amos and her piano bench. This is a cheeky way of saying Henson-Conant coaxes the purest soul from her harp while she explores the Asian, African, and American folk melodies she's studied like an obsessive professor for much of her life. Henson-Conant officially describes herself as a jazz artist, and that's the most immediate influence in her music, especially the original compositions, but there's a whole lotta different kinds of water flowing under her performances' bridges. She leads "America's Orchestra," the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra, on its international tour that stops in Fort Worth. The show kicks off at 8 p.m. in the Tarrant County Convention Center Theater, Fort Worth. For ticket info call (512) 477-6060.
Howard Cruse: The most acclaimed graphic novel since Maus, Stuck Rubber Baby is gay cartoonist Howard Cruse's attempt to find parallels between his own experiences growing up in the multiracial, civil rights-era South and the somewhat more secretive process (at least then) of accepting his homosexuality. Stuck Rubber Baby has been heralded by literary critics and publishing insiders as the comic book for people who hate comic books, a somewhat indelicate way of saying it's not a comic book at all, but another hybrid in the slow, unpredictable development in the fascinating graphic-novel medium. Cruse has been compared to William Faulkner, James Baldwin, Flannery O'Connor, and others, which must be flattering (and a little scary) for a guy who grew up on Marvel Comics. He appears to chat and sign Stuck Rubber Baby at 7 p.m. at Keith's Books & Comics, 5736 E. Mockingbird. Call 827-3060.
3 Violent Plays: It's refreshing to see the producers of a play be so up-front about what they're trying to accomplish with a particular work, especially when there's so much sniping about the amount of sex and violence in mass media today. (More! more! more! we say, keeping in mind screenwriter Richard Walter's observation that, "To criticize a story for being too violent or too sexy is like criticizing a river for flowing downward. Conflict and passion are the basic forces of any successful dramatic work.") 3 Violent Plays is the bluntly titled trio of one-acts presented by the Addison-based Thin Dime Theater Company, all original scripts (or adaptations) by North Texas writers. Les Branson's Joey is a dramatization of the biography with the same name about New York mobster Joey Gallo; Dead Wait is actor/playwright Taylor Hayden's caged-animal glimpse at two escaped convicts hiding in a farmhouse; and Natalie Gaupp's Liquidation looks at the bloody toes and fingers of corporate climbers. Performances happen Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3:30 p.m. through August 18 at Swiss Avenue Theater Center, 2700 Swiss Ave. Tickets are $8-$10. Call 357-5450.
Joe's Apartment: "I think roaches are truly heroic creatures because they're survivors," says writer-director John Payson, making his feature debut with Joe's Apartment. "All they do is eat, have fun, and hang out." These are qualities shared by the twentysomething generation, if you believe the hype, and the marketing folks at MTV and Geffen Pictures definitely do. That's the age group being aggressively targeted for Joe's Apartment, the flagship motion picture from MTV Productions. John Payson was a supervising producer on the groundbreaking music-television program Liquid Television, which proves that the channel can offer more to posterity than Singled Out and The Real World. Joe's Apartment is an 80-minute version of Payson's smashingly entertaining 1992 short of the same name about a hapless New Yorker whose love life is thwarted by the best intentions of a few thousand surprise cheerleaders--the roaches in his apartment. This PG-13 film opens in Dallas theaters today. For info call 263-4145.
NTP Visual Art Exhibition 1996: Although it may not have intended it at the start, The City of Dallas' Office of Cultural Affairs has helped bridge a serious economic-cultural apartheid by establishing its Neighborhood Touring Program. The access of well-heeled white folks to theater, live music, and visual arts isn't much more limited in Dallas than in most major American cities--our class wounds just seem to stand out in sharper relief. The Neighborhood Touring Program has created a city-funded forum for musicians, poets, storytellers, painters, etc. to travel into all sections of the city and strut their stuff. The Bath House Cultural Center closes its three-week exhibition of the program's visual artists, entitled NTP Visual Art Exhibition 1996, with a reception for the artists from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The complaint about high ticket prices slapped on the arts is a legitimate one; thank our city mothers and fathers by supporting this kind of stuff with your presence. The Bath House Cultural Center is located at 521 E. Lawther on the east side of White Rock Lake. It's free. Call 670-8749.
Psychic Fair: You can't help but be a little nervous by the Southern Ba Baptist Convention's decision to boycott Walt Disney for its corporate policies toward same-sex relationships. Not because the boycott has been particularly effective (it has been, in fact, a calamitous disaster so far), but because other tradition-minded organizations that deal in afterlife explanations might decide to stonewall institutions that "support" lifestyles they find abhorrent. Like the Dallas Psychic Fair, which may not be as old as the Baptist Church but is still the oldest of its kind in the city. Surely there's nothing more abhorrent to a tarot-card reader than some wet-rag Protestant who wiggles a disapproving finger at anyone whose spiritual route doesn't make a pit stop at the King James filling station. Can we expect a human chain of moon-goddess worshippers blocking the entrance at Wal-Mart because that conservative chain pulled T-shirts suggesting the next U.S. president should be a woman? Will Christian crooner Carman's next sold-out arena show suffer a mysterious sound-system failure shortly after a Balch Springs dining room full of ticked-off psychics share a harmonic convergence and a few Budweisers? We fear the snowball effect. The Dallas Psychic Fair happens noon-6 p.m. at the Dallas Park Central Hotel, LBJ and Coit. Tickets are $7-$10. Call 241-4876.