Heaven: The Biblical Arts Center is smart--in a public relations sense--to call its latest children's art show Heaven, although that title doesn't cover the full range of subject matter here. A more complete label might be Heaven and Hell, because the exhibit contains illustrations by kids ages 4 through 12 of both Christian visions of the afterlife. Any expressions of horror from the more decorous among us would be a tad dishonest, for as anyone who has ever grown up in a strict Roman Catholic or evangelical household could tell you, thoughts of hell were just as vivid or possibly more so in the minds of babes. Heaven features illustrations from students in Christian artist Barbara Moody's Awakening Creativity classes. What are a child's opinions about judgment, responsibility, and character? You might get an inkling here. The show runs through November 17 at 7500 Park Lane at Boedeker. It's free. Call 691-4661.
Jacob Lawrence: The painter Jacob Lawrence has been chronicling the African-American experience of both working-class mainstreamers and political subversives. In his narrative paintings, you are as likely to see a family reunion as a revolution. His pictures, which began to make waves in 1938 when he was only 21 years old, were influenced by the flowering of the Harlem Renaissance and Marcus Garvey's African revivalism, and their poignant, stark imagery paved a colorful road for the civil rights movements of the '50s and '60s. Jacob Lawrence is being honored with the 1996 Algur H. Meadows Award for Excellence in the Arts. A panel discussion of Lawrence's work by national and local scholars happens October 31, 6:30 p.m., in the Greer Garson Theatre of Southern Methodist University; the exhibition Jacob Lawrence: Paintings From Two Series, 1940 and 1994 runs through November 8 in the Meadows Museum at SMU. Both are free. For info call 768-3785.
Grand Hotel of Strangers: TITAS (The International Theatrical Arts Society) might be offering the most unique Halloween season entertainment available in Dallas--a series of performances of Grand Hotel of Strangers, an eerie live presentation that's part play, part carefully orchestrated special-effects show. The masterminds behind this international sensation are Canadians Michel Lemieux, an accomplished performance artist, and Victor Pilon, the English royal family's Canadian court photographer. Both pooh-pooh any notion that the computer and manually generated illusions in this tale of a lodger's night in a lonely hotel are "high tech"; one of the technologies used to generate ghostly images in the show was developed at the end of the past century as a publicity stunt for the Dr Pepper company. The meat of the show, they insist, is the interaction between two live actors and a variety of specters. Performances happen October 31, 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.; November 1, 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m.; and November 2, 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. on the campus of Southern Methodist University. Tickets are $14-$30. Call 528-5576.
Baby With the Bathwater: New York playwright-actor-musical star Christopher Durang gets a little help from his friends each time a company mounts a new production of one of his absurdist comedies; Sigourney Weaver recently delayed shooting the fourth Alien megabudget adventure to star in a short run of Durang's new play, Sex and Longing, in which she played a woman who must have intercourse every 15 minutes. (Durang is the godfather of Weaver's daughters.) Dallas' Act IV Theatre jumps on the bandwagon with a revival of Durang's Baby With the Bathwater, the story of how the seemingly simple act of procreation can turn parent and child into neurotic imbeciles. Beginning tonight, performances happen Thursday and Friday, 7 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 2 p.m., through November 24 in the auditorium of the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library, 1515 Young. All performances are free. Call 644-0125.
Whirligigs and Papalotes: The husband-and-wife team of Kaleta Doolin and Alan Govenar, who operate the 5501 Columbia Arts Center, took an interest in roadside art while they were vacationing in New England. The few purchases they made there blossomed into a full-time obsession, and both began scouring the country for the found-object assemblages that graced front yards, mailboxes, and driveways. The new show at 5501 Columbia, Whirligigs and Papalotes, reflects this obsession with self-taught rural artistry. Besides pieces from their own personal collection, the show features works from the Webb Gallery in Waxahachie; local artist Tracy Hicks; and New York collectors Aarne Anton and Herbert Waide Hemphill. 5501 Columbia also opens a separate show of specialty books produced by the Atlanta-based Nexus Press, an internationally lauded publishing house that allows the artist--those lucky few who are accepted--to keep total control of the book being created. Both shows open with a reception November 1, 6-8 p.m.; they close January 25 at 5501 Columbia Ave. The shows are free. Call 823-8955.
Twelfth Annual African Awakening Conference: The African-American community continues on an ever-tumultuous, always fruitful search for identity with forums for ideas offered by groups such as The Third Eye, a Dallas organization dedicated to stripping away some of the less savory associations of being an American of African descent (my ancestors were brought over on slave ships) and attempting to find a universal experience that will unite Africans, Americans, and African-Americans. The Third Eye's Twelfth Annual African Awakening Conference is called Writers, Rappers, and Romancers: The African-Centered Impulse in Literature, and it concerns itself with a discussion of fiction and nonfiction writings by black Americans. Events happen November 2 and 3, 11 a.m.-7 p.m., at the Junior Black Academy of Arts and Letters in the Dallas Convention Center Theater Complex, Akard and Canton. For info call 658-7144.
Ruth Laredo: You can be assured that when critics hail musician Ruth Laredo as "America's first lady of the piano," that title wasn't earned easily. Ever since Laredo made her New York Philharmonic debut in 1974, audiences and recording companies have been enthralled by her musical scholarship and uncanny ability to channel the best intentions of the ancient and modern composers in which she has specialized. Laredo is celebrated for both a light and heavy touch; witness her recordings of Chopin and Rachmaninoff. The latter has proven somewhat of a gold mine for Laredo, since she's best known the world over for recording his complete piano works during a five-year project that was recently rereleased by Sony Classical as a set of five compact discs. Ms. Laredo performs at 3 p.m. in the Horchow Auditorium of the Dallas Museum of Art, 1717 N. Harwood. The show is free, but expect a crowd. Call 922-1200.
Gloria Naylor: Southern Methodist University continues its 22nd Annual Literary Festival with a black female who has been somewhat lost of late in the flurry of publicity afforded to other black women writers. Toni Morrison may have won the Nobel Prize, and Alice Walker scored points on Oprah by coming out as a bisexual woman, but Gloria Naylor continues to offer an indelible literary vision of the African-American experience. Her group of tales about women in an inner-city project, The Women of Brewster Place, remains her most famous work, but in other books Naylor has illuminated the far less explored domain of middle-class black America and the peculiar dilemmas of black business owners. Naylor reads from her work at 7:30 p.m. in the Hughes-Trigg Theater on the campus of Southern Methodist University. It's free, but seating is limited. On November 4 at 8 p.m., novelist James Wilcox performs for free in the McCord Auditorium at SMU. For information on either call 768-4400.
Barbarella: Did Roger Vadim's 1968 T-and-A space classic, Barbarella, represent a prophecy for the future domestic bliss of Mrs. Ted Turner? Before Jane Fonda became Hanoi Jane, or Klute, or one of the most prominent feminist activists Hollywood has ever produced, she was the sex kitten married to the European director who wanted to make her a star. Vadim took Henry Fonda's comely daughter and transformed her into a camp icon with Barbarella, the story of an intergalactic warrior sent to thwart the plans of a mad scientist (Milo O'Shea) who almost destroys her with a machine created to induce what might be termed "multiple fatal orgasms." The opening strip scene featuring Fonda in zero gravity and tasteful nudity is still a cheesecake highlight of bad cinema. She's so game being directed by an obviously exploitative European mentor, you can't help but view her retirement into the Turner empire as some kind of abdication. The screening happens at 7:30 p.m. at the AMC Glen Lakes Theatre, 9450 N. Central at Walnut Hill. Tickets are $6.50. Call 821-NEWS.
Beijing and Beyond: Women Artists Respond to the Fourth World Conference on Women: Some American men (and not a few women) often wonder what so many feminist activists continue to kvetch about in a contemporary United States where the female point of view has invaded every possible corner of media coverage. They are behind contemporary American feminism, which has shifted a large part of its focus away from our own country to places where some of the most heinous human rights abuses are gender-based--wife- and daughter-burning in India, forced abortions in China, the brutality of national laws against women in Muslim countries. Last year's controversial Fourth U.N. World Conference on Women's Rights in Beijing attracted a firestorm of anger from American conservatives, who viewed it as a shameless export of feminist sensibility to non-Western countries. A contingent from the national Women's Caucus For Art sent delegates, and the result is part of a traveling exhibition entitled Beijing and Beyond: Women Artists Respond to the Fourth World Conference on Women. The show opens November 1 and runs through November 27; an official opening reception happens November 7, 12:15 p.m., with a series of talks by women professors from the University of Texas at Dallas and the University of North Texas on related issues. Beijing and Beyond is free in the Visual Arts Building of UTD, Floyd and Campbell in Richardson. Call 690-2982.
Family Reunions at the Turn of the Century: If it's true, as so many right-wing commentators have insisted, that America's renewed conservatism stems from a collective disenchantment with the limits of individualism, then the renewed fervor for genealogy reflects a desperate search to locate ourselves inside a larger scheme. Heritage Farmstead, which identifies itself as "a museum of farm life on the Blackland Prairie," continues its history lecture series with a talk by Lloyd Bockstruck, a Dallas Morning News columnist and the Dallas Public Library's head genealogist. Heritage Farmstead currently has a show entitled Company's Comin': Family Reunions at the Turn of the Century, which explores the structure and traditions of Texas' turn-of-the-century extended families. Bockstruck extends the discussion with details about North Texas farm family life, as well as suggestions about how folks who hail from this area can hunt for their roots. Bockstruck's presentation begins at 6 p.m. at Heritage Farmstead Museum, 1900 W 15th in Plano. Admission is $3. Call (972) 881-0140.
The Best Little Homo in Texas: Dallas-based gay comic Paul J. Williams knows what it's like to be trapped between two worlds, neither of which is quite hospitable to his sensibility. Williams grew up in a staunch Southern Baptist home in South Texas, and although he absorbed the complete rigmarole of fervent Protestant faith, he also couldn't deny his own strong feelings toward other men. Being neither particularly inclined to hate himself or his family's traditions, he decided to develop a strong satiric sense, locating the absurdity inside every convention--straight or gay, religious or secular--that keeps human beings from relating to one another. The one-man show from this former member of Less Miserable is The Best Little Homo in Texas, and it features a good deal of election-year humor from a man who could never label himself a conservative, but has too much self-deprecating wit to swallow whole the moonier aspects of liberalism. Williams performs his show every Wednesday at 8 p.m. through November 20 at the Pocket Sandwich Theatre, 5400 E. Mockingbird Lane. Tickets are $10. Call 821-1860.