The Fantasticks: If you want to experience a holiday show that features no rat kings, no charming little handicapped kids who say things like "God Bless Us All, Everyone," and absolutely no warnings about the perils of materialism, then Theatre Three has a theatrical tradition that might be for you. It's certainly true that Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt's The Fantasticks is about as familiar in musical theater circles as any old nutcracker and enjoys a pretty solid reputation among folks who rarely attend musicals (the damned thing has been running for 30 years at the off-Broadway Sullivan Theatre in New York). Theatre Three figures the musical's mix of vaudevillian comedy and Shakespearean romantic fate offers a nice diversion from the usual holiday fare, but still sports enough sentimentality and good cheer to qualify as seasonal. Once you've left the performance, try to forget "Try to Remember," the show's opening number--it'll nag at you for days, like an abscess in the corner of your mouth. Performances happen Thursday-Saturday, 8:15 p.m.; Sunday, 2:30 p.m. through January 5 at Theatre Three, 2800 Routh in the Quadrangle. Tickets are $17-$24. Call (214) 871-2933.
Celebrate Africa! Festival: The African American Museum and the Dallas Museum of Natural History pool their resources to offer Dallasites, especially children, an African adventure that won't require transportation and lodging costs. The "Celebrate Africa! Festival" features workshops, activities, and interactive performances designed to educate folks on the everyday rituals of African life and the grand religious and secular philosophies that govern them. Kids can hold traditional musical instruments of the continent, get their ear bent by a griot spinning centuries-old folk tales, touch live African insects, taste and learn how to prepare traditional foods, make masks, and participate in dancing and drumming demonstrations. The African films Guelwarr and Night John will be screened at the Dallas Museum of Natural History; a 90-minute seminar entitled "The Origins of African-American Religion and Social thought is conducted; and a poetry presentation by various area scribes under the title "Gathering of Tribes: Writings from the American Diaspora" is offered. A performance from the Daylon McCoy Jazz Trio is scheduled. This will also be one of your last chances to see "Africa: One Continent, Many Worlds" before that exhibit closes on January 5. Events happen December 27-30, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Dallas Museum of Natural History and the African-American Museum, both in Fair Park. Tickets are $2.50-$4. Call (214) 421-3466.
The Analytical Art: A lot of people who complained after so-called "modern art" slipped into national consciousness in the 1920s base their grousing on the merits of representational vs. nonrepresentational visual art--or, to be specific, nonrepresentational sucks because it doesn't look like anything recognizable. Plano resident, professor, and painter Karl Owen studied the psychoanalytic theory known as Gestalt while teaching in Illinois and was drawn to interpret landscapes, portraits, and still lifes by creating "a visual fusion of the essential parts of the subject." The resulting images have been collected in "The Analytical Art," a one-man show of Owen's applied psychology. If you thought Picasso's cubism was hard to swallow, take a gander at this. The show runs through January 17 at Artcentre of Plano, 1039 East 15th Street, Plano. Call (972) 423-7809.
Sean Botkin: You don't normally get a press release for a classical musician that leads with the description "Direct From Las Vegas, The Entertainment Capitol of the World." But that's exactly where the promotion headquarters are for the Sergei Rachmaninoff Recital Series are. This series is bringing the renowned pianist Sean Botkin to the Dallas Museum of Art to perform Beethoven, Chopin, Kodaly, Rachmaninoff, and Schubert. The show kicks off at 8 p.m. in the Horchow Auditorium of the DMA, 1717 North Harwood. Tickets are $8-$15, with a discount for DMA members. For ticket information call (214) 369-9365.
Road Poems/City Nights: A bear of a man with a penchant for black hats and sexual, stream-of-consciousness imagery, Clebo Rainey has knighted himself as a Texas troubadour, a traveling wordsmith who spreads the inspirations of the North Texas poetry scene in bookshop and cafe tours across the country. Rainey holds a reading in Deep Ellum with a few of his friends to mark two occasions: the recent release of his third poetry collection, Road Poems/City Nights, and the start of his latest tour to promote the book. Rainey has 27 scheduled readings throughout Texas, Arizona, Nevada, and California in a rather tight 29 days (also along for the journey will be former Austinite Garland Thompson, promoting his new collection Hey, Garland, I Dig Your Tweed Suit. After their Dallas performance, Rainey will steer the stage as host of an open mic show for poets. Rainey and friends read beginning at 8 p.m. at the Dark Room, 2715 Elm in Deep Ellum. For more info call (214) 748-7666.
Garrison Keillor: As it so often does for life's other little inexplicables, The Simpsons cuts right to the mystery of Garrison Keillor's popularity when Homer, Marge, and the kids sit watching a TV performance by a Keilloresque performer whose flat-voiced use of words like "apple-cheeked" sends his live audience into hysterics. Homer, convinced that the Simpsons' lack of appreciation for the storyteller can be chalked up to bad TV reception, begins to kick the television and shout, "Be more funny!" There's no doubting Garrison Keillor's massive popularity, and he has often featured some killer musicians on his "Prairie Home Companion" broadcast, but for some of us, his celebration of simple lives lacks the bite and compelling detail of Jean Shepherd. And then there's that little matter of Keillor's rarely cited but bitter misanthropy, which mixes garishly with the homespun blanket he displays. Keillor comes to Dallas for a live New Year's Eve broadcast of "A Prairie Home Companion," with special guests opera singers Jan Grissom and Julian Patrick and Austin singer-songwriter Wayne Hancock. Keillor performs at 8 p.m. at the Music Hall in Fair Park. Tickets are $25-$55, and tickets for pre- and post-show parties are $45. Call (214) 373-8000.