Taking Back Our Democracy From Corporate Domination: If anybody thought that the two major American political parties cater to vastly different interests, the snoozefest of a 1996 presidential election should have put that to rest. For all the hullabaloo about race, sex, and other white-hot cultural issues, Democrats and Republicans alike still curry favor from the same monolithic corporations whose interests have, in a high-tech world, increasingly diverged from those of working-class Americans. Following in the footsteps of a turn-of-the-century grassroots movement founded in the Texas Hill Country, a new populist organization known as The Alliance, whose national chapters number 40, presents a three-day founding convention at the Mo Ranch Conference Center in Hunt, Texas, with the theme, Taking Back Our Lives and Our Democracy From Corporate Domination. Attendees include Jim Hightower, Molly Ivins, corporate anthropologist Jane Anne Morris, and Ronnie Dugger, whose 1995 essay in The Nation spurred the group's formation. Registration for the convention is $20-$40; accommodations range from $20 to $40 per person per night; meals are $17.25 per day. For information call (617) 491-4221
The Boys in the Band: There's an interesting generational split in the gay and lesbian community between individuals born pre-Stonewall and post-Stonewall. Many homo twentysomethings felt like going ballistic after Congress defeated the Employment Non-Discrimination Act; gays who grew up in the extreme legal persecutions that characterized the '50s and '60s were just thrilled that such a groundbreaking piece of legislation made it onto the federal stage at all. It's this large disparity in attitudes that should make the screening of William Friedkin's The Boys in the Band. Sponsored by the Tarrant County Lesbian and Gay Alliance and the Texas Christian University Triangle and presented with a discussion afterward by Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Todd Camp, the studio version of Mart Crowley's play (currently enjoying a very successful off-Broadway revival) about venomous, self-hating gay men is guaranteed to split the room in half. The screening happens at 8 p.m. in the Richardson Room of Brown-Lupton Student Center at TCU in Fort Worth. A $3 donation is requested. Call (817) 877-5544.
Rumillajta and Vision Andina: If complex, profound Eastern rhythms and voices don't float your boat, consider a special performance of international music that most of us are totally unfamiliar with. Although fans of Paul Simon and some new-age instrumentalists might think the traces of Bolivian influence they hear in songs by those musicians represent the form itself, actually very few individuals outside South America have attempted to master the decidedly non-Euro arrangements of quena (Andean flute), charango, panpipe, percussion, and guitar that have come down from pre-Incan empires. Rumillajta, the most famous Bolivian folkloric ensemble in the world today, comes to town for a performance with Vision Andina, a Dallas-based troupe that specializes in South American music from the high Andes. The performance happens at 7 p.m. at Richardson High School, 1250 Belt Line between Coit and Central. Tickets are $15; Richardson students admitted free. For more info call 392-4372.
Sacred Music, Sacred Dance: The Mystical Arts of Tibet: Movie fans might represent the last demographic imaginable attending a concert by a troupe of singing Tibetan monks, but one of Tinseltown's biggest has formed his own production company just to promote these holy crooners. Richard Gere will not be appearing in Sacred Music, Sacred Dance: The Mystical Arts of Tibet, which makes one Dallas stop under the auspices of TITAS (The International Theatrical Arts Society), although his patronage has allowed the men of the Deprung Loseling Monastery to spread their ancient, eerie prayers for both world and inner peace throughout the United States. Not a bad thing; but when a high-paid exhibitionistic actor starts shilling for Tibetan Buddhism, people who know little about the discipline get a little suspicious about its practical applications in the United States. Do movie stars really need an excuse to focus even more of their own energy on themselves? In the end, the ancient sounds prevail. The show opens at 8 p.m. at McFarlin Auditorium on the campus of Southern Methodist University. Tickets are $7-$40. Call 528-6112.
Plain Pictures: Images of the American Prairie: As remarkable as it may seem in a contemporary America that sprouts strip malls and factories like malignant tumors, fully one-third of the continental United States was once composed of prairie grasslands. This is the eyeful of imposing blank slate on which was writ concepts like "rugged American individualism" and "manifest destiny"; somebody had to do something with all that empty land. Fort Worth's Amon Carter Museum opens an exhibit called Plain Pictures: Images of the American Prairie that features almost 70 paintings, photos, and lithographs depicting the American prairie from the early 19th century to the present. The question to ponder is, now that American pioneerism has consumed a majority of our country's natural resources, what's left to pioneer? The exhibit runs through February 23 at 3501 Camp Bowie Blvd. in Fort Worth. It's free. Call (817) 738-1933.
La Machina: Teatro Dallas continues its Fourth International Theater Festival by importing yet another internationally celebrated Latino theatrical troupe you'd otherwise probably never get to see. You'll often find that the same theatrical avant-gardism which American audiences once supported has found an urgent home in many Latin countries, where civil strife often produces much bloodier consequences than a nasty quarrel between political factions on a CNN talk show. La Machina is the name of the troupe; it hails from Santander, Spain, and has, with the direct support of Spain's Ministry of Culture, staged productions that employed traditional theatrical elements toward revisionist historical and political ends. La Machina offers two Dallas performances of a play by Francisco Valcarce called El Apprendiz, whose primary goal is a hunt for "our ancestral memory." Performances happen November 22 and 23 at 8:15 p.m. at Teatro Dallas, 2204 Commerce. Tickets are $15. Call 741-1135.
The Dallas/Fort Worth Tell-Off: Members of the Dallas Area Storytelling Guild and the Tarrant Area Guild of Storytellers are not, generally speaking, folks who shrink when a microphone is shoved in their faces. They have so much to get off their chests, in fact, that they must organize an annual event just to contain their loquacious personalities. That event is the Dallas/Fort Worth Tell-Off, now celebrating its second year as an evening of oral entertainment provided by the likes of Toni Simmons, Mary Ann Brewer, Dan Gibson, Phyllis Tucker, and DeeCee Cornish. The Dallas Area Storytelling Guild and the Tarrant Area Guild of Storytellers battle it out for victory based on who spins the best yarn. The winner is you. Some of the stories in the show are of an adult nature, which is not to say they're pornographic; it is to say kids might be bored stiff by the evening. The event happens at 7:30 p.m. in the Historic Palace Theatre, 308 South Main in downtown Grapevine. Tickets are $7 per person. For info call (817) 543-0018.
24th Annual Dallas Collector Car Auction: A quick perusal of the slick catalogue comprising entries in the 24th Annual Dallas Collector Car Auction is like poring over pictures of a stranger's new offspring; you're just glad the person isn't looking over your shoulder to point out every freaking detail of their prized possession. A partial list of models and makes at the two-day display is beguiling--the auction includes a 1923 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Runabout; a 1949 Cadillac Series 61 Fastback Coupe; a 1951 Mercedes-Benz 170 Da OTP 4 Drive Convertible; and a 1965 Pontiac GTO--but it might as well be the Hebrew alphabet to those of us who have trouble distinguishing an Omni from a Rabbit. There are other vehicles on display including an original circus parade calliope and, for those who have a taste for the hog, some truly exquisite Harley-Davidsons. The Dallas Collector Car Auction happens November 23 and 24 at 10 a.m. in Dallas Market Hall, 2100 Stemmons Freeway. For ticket info call (800) 968-4444.
Christmas at the Arboretum: The Magic of Christmas: You can spend weeks before the 1996 Christmas holiday making little snowy cottages out of milk cartons, stringing up lines of tinsel between those cobwebby corners of the ceiling, and trying to force that plush reindeer-antler head strip onto your kitty's wriggling skull. Or you can just skip the decoration project and head straight to the DeGolyer House in the middle of the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, which has been lavishly bedecked for your vicarious enjoyment. "Christmas at the Arboretum: The Magic of Christmas" is the theme for this year's celebration, which is once again overseen by the all-volunteer Women's Council of the Arboretum; the organization tapped a dozen Dallas designers to deck every inch of the DeGolyer's 21,000 square feet--as well as the 8,000-square-foot Camp House at the arboretum--with lights, ornaments, ribbons, patterns, etc. The biggest bonus: If something's hideously tacky, you can call it like you see it, because you didn't spend thousands of dollars on expert living. The monthlong season for the DeGolyer House opens at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, 8617 Garland Road. Admission is $3-$6; children younger than 6 are allowed in free. For info call 327-8263.
Kongo Nail Figure: The Dallas Museum of Art is justly proud of its extensive African art collection, which has largely come to DMA coffers through the good taste and benevolence of rich people, who, as everybody knows, are also responsible for a majority share of public tackiness and venal community decisions. Not so Margaret McDermott, the woman who is responsible for the museum's eight-piece West African masterworks on the third floor and who has now scored a real coup. The DMA has scored, through the McDermott Fund, one of only seven Kongo Nail Figures created in the Chiloango River Valley of Lower Zaire. Other Kongo Nail Figures are on public display in America--one in Chicago and the other in Detroit. The Kongo language identifies the sculpture as a nkisi nkonde, a figure that was used in ritual involving contracts or agreements between parties. (Interestingly, freedmens graves unearthed during Central Expressway contruction were ringed with shells in a burial practice brought from the Kongo.) The sculpture can be seen for free Tuesdays through Saturdays at the Dallas Museum of Art, 1717 North Harwood. For info call 922-1200.
The Tempest: Doing its part for the Japanese-American Sun and Star 1996 festival, which nears an end, is the Dallas Opera. It offers one of that autumn festival's more intriguing transcontinental concoctions, a highly praised production of Lee Hoiby's The Tempest with libretto by Mark Shulgasser. The Dallas Opera has declared a commitment to presenting 20th-century works, although those works still number in the minority. Not only was The Tempest written in 1986, but its 70-year-old composer is still alive and kicking, thank you very much. The opera has enlisted set designer Setsu Asakura and lighting designer Sumio Yoshii, two of Japan's most in-demand theater artists, to offer their kabuki-ized version of the work. Performances happen November 22, November 27, and November 30 at 7:30 p.m.; and there is a matinee performance November 24 at 2 p.m. at the Music Hall in Fair Park. Tickets are $25-$110. Call 443-1000.