75 Years of Cuban Art: The U. S. trade embargo against Cuba hasn't kept tourism or fabled cigars from breaking the barriers, but most Americans still base their knowledge of Cuban culture on the words and tastes of charismatic camera hog Castro. Robert Borlenghi, owner of the Pan American Gallery in Oak Lawn, has been amassing a collection of some of Cuba's finest 20th-century art for two years now in cooperation with the Museum of Fine Arts in Cuba. He now presents that collection, the majority of which has never been seen in America, as an exhibit called 75 Years of Cuban Art. The show opens with a reception November 15, 7 p.m.-9 p.m., at the Pan American Gallery, 3303 Lee Parkway at Turtle Creek. Call 522-3303.
Bill Maher: Esquire magazine got it right when it dubbed Comedy Central's nighttime yuckfest, Politically Incorrect, the coolest show on television. When the chemistry doesn't cook, the show can taste flatter than beer left open all night; but fans have so many precious memories of the outrageous moments that earn the show its title, like the Timothy Leary deathwatch episode in which Michelle Phillips extols the joys of intaking LSD during middle age or the special hour conversation with lesbian firebrand Camille Paglia, who as usual managed to piss everyone off. Bill Maher is the ringmaster for the show's insanity; he is a bull's-eye dart thrower whose restrained style belies his training as a standup. The trenchant Maher returns to his standup roots when he comes to Dallas for two shows--at 8:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. at the Improv, 4980 Belt Line in Addison. Tickets are $25. Call (972) 404-8501.
Printmaking of South Africa: States of Contrast: When it comes to the recent painful dismantling of South Africa's apartheid system, it seems that, no matter how well-meaning and supportive of oppressed black South Africans, leaders and activists from outside that region have crowded the citizens out of the debate. Most of the people who talked about the poverty, illiteracy, and political and economic subjugation hadn't actually lived it. The Gallery at the University of Dallas presents an exhibition of prints that allow the South Africans to speak for themselves with pictures rather than words. Printmaking of South Africa: States of Contrast features works by residents both famous and obscure, both self-taught and formally educated. The subjects range from depictions of daily household chores to complex, symbolic pictorials that sum up the new ruptured race and class layers that have defined the thinking of most living South Africans. The show runs November 15-December 11 at the UD, 1845 E. Northgate Drive in Irving. Call (972) 721-5099.
Teatro Libre: Teatro Dallas opens its Fourth International Theater Festival--which boasts groups from Argentina, Austin, Spain, Mexico, and Japan--with a guest performance by a theatrical troupe heralded worldwide for its evocative imagemaking. Teatro Libre hails from Argentina, where artistic director Omar Pacheco and his troupe began stirring international interest with their mostly nonnarrative, deliberately surreal original fables. Dreams and Ceremonies is the show being performed at the Teatro festival; the performance is a plunge into the subconscious that attempts to unite the Western duality of life and death. Teatro Libre performs November 15 and 16 at 8:15 p.m. in the Teatro Dallas space, 2204 Commerce St. Tickets are $15-$20. Call 741-6833.
Doug Varone and Dancers: Of all the classical arts, dance is the one that benefits most from the agility and impetuousness of youth. The International Theatrical Arts Society (TITAS) presents the Dallas debut of a modern dance troupe whose average age could qualify it to be Baryshnikov's brood. You might think the master himself sired Doug Varone's dancers, although the guiding hand in this outfit is the versatile and veteran Mr. Varone, who founded the troupe a decade ago after he left the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company. Since then, Varone has earned eight choreography fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and more awards than could fit in Marlon Brando's tights. Performances happen November 15 and 16, 8 p.m., at McFarlin Auditorium on the campus of Southern Methodist University. Tickets are $7-$40. Call 528-5576.
Carmen: In last week's Dallas Observer, contributing music writer Laurel Ornish interviewed Denyce Graves for her debut appearance with the Dallas Opera in the role of Carmen, which, it turns out, has been both a blessing and a curse for the wildly praised diva. There's not an opera queen alive, male or female, who doesn't revel in George Bizet's high-octane love triangle, and from all published reports, Ms. Graves wrings every last drop of lust from her role as the sexy, scheming ho with the heart of stone. Graves reminds us that, of all the adjectives used to describe opera, the most woefully underused one is "sexy." The final performance of Carmen happens at 7:30 p.m. in the Music Hall at Fair Park. Tickets are $23-$88. Call 443-1081.
Contemporary Dance/Fort Worth: The prize jewel in the crown of Contemporary Dance/Fort Worth's fall performance debut is En Memoria de un Soliloquio (a Cynthia), a four-dancer tapestry of formalism and fiery feeling by the extravagantly praised Mexican choreographer Cecilia Lugo. Other premieres for the troupe's seventh-season opener are Currents, a work by co-artistic-director Kerry Kreiman set to Bach's "Concerto in G Minor"; and Dance Divertissement #2: Tender Is the Night, a group work that takes its inspiration from a promotional record album created to push a nighttime sedative. Performances happen November 15, 8 p.m., and November 16, 1 p.m. and 8 p.m., in the Ed Landreth Auditorium, South University Drive at Cantey on the campus of Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. Tickets are $6-$20. Call (817) 922-0944.
17th Annual Big D Collectible Show: In an era when a span of five years makes everything an object of nostalgia, the 17th Annual Big D Collectible Show might as well call itself an antiques fair. The Disney paraphernalia, comic books, gum cards, advertising and movie posters, and B-movie Western memorabilia on display at this two-day show were all released prior to 1980. TV rerun fans should get excited about Big D's 1996 special guest, Kent McCord, better known as Jim Reed on the NBC-TV series Adam-12. The 17th Annual Big D Collectibles Show happens November 16, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., and November 17, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., at Sheraton Park Central Hotel, Coit Road and LBJ Freeway. Tickets are $5 per day. (Kids younger than 8 get in free.)
Sacred Spring: The phrase "conceptual art" is enough to send your average, ordinary, couch art-lovin' schmo scurrying back to his poker-playing-dogs mural. The Mc- Kinney Avenue Contemporary steps into this fearful void with a "minimalist conceptual interactive installation" that different patrons will find brilliant, expressive, deceptive, sarcastic, benevolent, or full of horse-stuff. Internationally acclaimed artist Sant Khalsa, who has dabbled in photography, ecology, and philosophy, has created "Sacred Spring," a setup of nine evenly spaced water spigots that pour fourth spring water patrons may consume. Each spigot is labeled with some word that suggests a material or spiritual virtue. Proceed with an open mind. The installation opens November 15, 5:30 p.m.-8 p.m., and runs through January 12, 1997, at the MAC, 3120 McKinney Ave. at Bowen. Call 953-1212.
Two Friends: The new film from Jane Campion, her adaptation of Henry James' Portrait of a Lady, won't be released until the very end of the year--and then only in select cities--but star Nicole Kidman has already graced countless magazine covers and earned pages of praise from an entertainment press establishment that's hellbent on snagging the mediocre Mrs. Cruise her first Oscar nomination. No matter what you think of Kidman, Campion is a virtuoso visual stylist who paints with fire and ice. As part of its Independent Showcase and in anticipation of Portrait of a Lady, the USA Film Festival screens Campion's wildly praised first feature, Two Friends. Shot for Australian television, the film recounts the breakup of adolescent best female friends starting with their tearful last encounter and running backward to their relationship's full bloom. The screening happens at 7:30 p.m. at the AMC Glen Lakes Theatre, 9450 N. Central Expressway. Tickets are $6.50. Call 821-NEWS.
Establishment Exposed: "It goes without saying that figurative and often narrative elements characterize art in Texas," writes Arizona State University Museum Director Marilyn Zeitlin in her essay for Dallas Visual Art Center's Establishment Exposed show. "Texas is a place for talkers, for storytellers, for bullshitters, even." No argument there, Marilyn. You can check out the little dramas and comedies that unfold in the paintings, photography, and sculpture of arguably the 15 most respected Texas visual artists living today. Recent and older works by Vernon Fisher, Nic Nicosia, Joe Havel, Bill Komodore, and Celia Alvarez Munoz are all included in Establishment Exposed. The show runs through December 13 at Dallas Visual Art Center, 2917 Swiss Ave. Call 821-2522.
Lev Raphael: Playwright Tony Kushner has spoken with heartwarming candor about the places in his own life where his gayness and Jewishness intersect--and the places where they diverge. Although Kushner philosophically rejects many aspects of Jewish spirituality, he says he is forever tied to Jewish traditions. Author Lev Raphael, on the other hand, is 100 percent Jewish and 100 percent gay and has won an armful of literary awards attempting to find the middle ground between these intimate parts of himself. As part of the Jewish Community Center of Dallas' Book Fair, Raphael discusses his work, Journeys and Arrivals: On Being Jewish and Gay, as well as the screening of a documentary, Oy Gay!, in which he appears as a talking head. The screening and talk kick off at 7:30 p.m. at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas, 7900 Northaven Road. Tickets are $7-$10. Call 739-2737.
Carlo Pezzimenti: It's well known that North Texas classical guitarist Carlo Pezzimenti studied under the Spanish string maestro Andres Segovia. On his latest recording, Espana, Pezzimenti, who maintains a prolific schedule of teaching, performing, recording, and international travel, carries more than his teacher's wisdom. He recorded the collection of Spanish compositions using a Ramirez guitar that Segovia plucked for 11 years. Pezzimenti borrowed the instrument for these sessions from Russell Cleveland, a Dallas collector. Profits from this latest CD fund the Student Association for Music Therapy at Denton's Texas Woman's University. The show kicks off at 8 p.m. at the Little Chapel in the Woods, Bell Avenue at TWU in Denton. It's free. Call (817) 387-2980.