True West: With its slowly tightening Mamet grip and a wealth of comic relief that becomes less of a relief as the play goes on, True West is Sam Shepard's caustic reply to the myth of American male camaraderie on the frontier. The fact that the frontier fought over by these two very different brothers--played by Dan Day and Joe Nemmers in Kitchen Dog Theatre's latest production--is a slick Hollywood invention bringing a chilling resonance to their brutal showdown. This is a tour-de-force script for the right actors. Performances happen Thursday-Saturday, 8 p.m. and Sunday, 2 p.m. through March 23 at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary, 3120 McKinney Avenue. Tickets are $8-$14 (Thursdays are pay-what-you-can). Call (214) 871-ARTS.
37th Annual Autorama: You don't have to know or care jack about customized cars to attend this year's 37th Annual Autorama. The creations of this year's special guest are so familiar to TV and movie mavens, we feel like we've been at the wheels ourselves. George Barris opened a customizing shop in Los Angeles with his brother back in the early '50s, and once the right people got a look at his handiwork, the offers came rolling in--he created The Batmobile, the Munsters' Coach, The Flintstone Mobile, Walt Disney's "The Love Bug," The Beverly Hillbillies' jalopy, and more. He'll appear to sign and discuss his world-famous projects, past and future. Oh, yeah, and there are also a whole lot of other cars at the Autorama. Catch the cars February 14, 5-10:30 p.m.; February 15, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; and February 16, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. at Market Hall on Stemmons Freeway. Tickets are $4-$9. Call (972) 732-6100.
Dallas Chamber Orchestra: There's nary a more romantic way to spend time with your sweetie than a special concert-dinner package that benefits the Dallas Chamber Orchestra. Right after work, suit up and trek arm-in-arm with your squeeze to the Stoneleigh Hotel, where cocktails and a candlelight dinner complete with strolling violins awaits. Then Houston-based, internationally acclaimed classical guitarist Susan McDonald takes the baton for a little postprandial serenade that includes Granados, Vivaldi, and Guastavino. If that doesn't melt their butter, we don't know what will. The event begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $100. Call (214) 871-2787.
Manhattan Tap: The joy of watching a Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, or Gregory Hines tap has always been in the way the tune they accompany sails out of their soles, the sound of tap shoes sounding less like percussion than amplification. Apply that frenzied expression to the improv-happy strains of jazz, and it requires an unprecedented combination of endurance, agility, and musicality. The decade-old tap ensemble Manhattan Tap, headed by Heather Cornell, has danced on worldwide stages to the accompaniment of jazz greats like Ray Brown and Keith Saunders as well as their own instrumentalists, The Hard Bop Trio. TITAS welcomes this pair of ensembles to Dallas. Performances are set for February 14 and 15 at 8 p.m. in McFarlin Auditorium on the campus of Southern Methodist University. Tickets are $7-$40. Call (214) 528-5576.
Third Annual Theater Crawl: Two significant ways you can distinguish a Playwrights' Project Theater Crawl from a Pub Crawl--nobody drops his or her pants, and no one vomits. Unless, of course, the nature of the Project's Third Annual Crawl has changed; we couldn't detect it in the press material. Theater patrons will move from Priscilla Sample's Cultured Pearls at the Arts District Theater to Sterling E. Moore's Goliath at SMU's Bob Hope Theater to Jim Tyler's Stronghold back at the Arts District. Entertainment is provided en route. The Crawl begins at 7 p.m. in the Arts District Theater, 2401 Flora at Fairmount. Tickets are $50 per person. Call (214) 871-ARTS.
Cara Mia Theatre Company: Cara Mia Theatre Company, Dallas' professional Chicano actors' troupe, are on to something with their latest presentation, entitled "Ay Amor! A Latino Literature Night." The casual event is B.Y.O.P.--Bring Your Own Pillow. Curl up and listen to some of the loveliest, strangest, and most moving stories and poems by the likes of Carlos Fuentes, Santiago Baca, Jorge Luis Borges, and Federico Garcia Lorca. Cara Mia's actors will ignite these words for your delectation. The performance happens at 8 p.m. at Tolteca Art Gallery, 112 South Beckley. Donations are greatly appreciated. Call (214) 328-5068.
Text Tour: Text in Outsider Art: While it's true a portion of so-called "outsider artists" or "self-taught" artists are either undereducated or mentally ill, the fact is words mean a great deal to most of the imagemakers who fall into this category--if only because they've soaked them in through the billboards and street signs of life on a country road. Waxahachie's Webb Gallery opens a show called "Text Tour: Text in Outsider Art" that features six different artists whose work relies heavily on the interaction between words and pictures. Opening reception happens Feb. 15, 6-9 p.m. The show runs through April 6 at Webb Gallery, 209-211 W. Franklin, Waxahachie. It's free. It's a good idea to call first at (972) 938-8085.
Herstories: Just like in Anglo rural folktales, the legends and parables passed down through the African-American communities of the Southern countryside seemed to focus on the victories and failures of men or male characters--or, at least, those that have been oft-retold. The African-American Museum's resident company, Soul Rep Theatre, has assembled a trip of Dallas griots to share with us Virginia Hamilton's Herstories. Including "Malindy and the Devil" and "How Man and Woman Started Even" as well as live blues and folk, Herstories is brought to life by Melody "AFI" Bell, Guinea Bennett, Isis Brantley, and Lori Pendleton. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. through February 23 at the African American Museum in Fair Park. Tickets are $10. Call (214) 565-9026.
Mary Karr: With the release of such highly touted recollections as Marion Winik's First Comes Love and Kenny Fries' Body, Remember, critics are already lamenting that America's young scribes have succumbed to talk-show fever. Trouble is, these and other titles are a hell of a lot more entertaining than much of today's new fiction, less concerned with narrative form than scooping out the pulpy essence of experience. Mary Karr's The Liars Club is a raucous, bitterly funny, sometimes insufferable ode to the hard-drinking, violent East Texas rednecks among whom she grew up. Karr comes to Dallas for a reading as part of the Dallas Institute of Humanities & Culture's season. She reads at 4 p.m. in the Horchow Auditorium of the Dallas Museum of Art, 1717 N. Harwood. Tickets are $13-$15. Call (214) 871-ARTS.
Flirt: As part of its Independent Showcase, the USA Film Festival presents a film by a man who's outleisured in indie cinema only by the likes of Jim Jarmusch. To really appreciate a Hal Hartley film, you have to find life itself pretty damned funny; his quasi-comedies about people and their quietly percolating obsessions don't make use of a lot of movie-movie conventions. Flirt is Hartley's latest romantic misadventure, the story of several couples and wannabe couples whose lives, intertwined across three continents, spill over into violence. Flirt screens at 7:30 p.m. at AMC Glen Lakes, 9450 N Central. Tickets are $5.50. Call (214) 821-FILM.
Kenda North: Toward Blue: Perusing some of Dallas' recent high-profile photo exhibits, you'd think the resistance photographers showed to color film when it was first invented had been revived. University of Texas at Arlington Art History chair Kenda North, who is also an internationally exhibited photographer, arrives with a little relief from all that austerity. Photographic Archives Gallery offers her latest one-woman retrospective Kenda North: Toward Blue, a photographic series taken of largely natural landscapes and images from all across the country during the last five years. North is enchanted not just by Western landscape but by the color blue in all its shades and emotional connotations. She is an expert in color and dye transfer color printing, which captures colors with unbelievable vibrancy. The show runs through March 22 at Photographic Archives Gallery, 5117 W. Lovers Lane. Call (214) 352-3167.
Freedom and Responsibility in a New Media Age: What do Michael Irvin and Erik Williams have in common with Richard Jewell? Certainly not similar sex lives. No, these three gentlemen were victims--with the indispensable aid of America's law enforcers--of what might be called "trial by media." In an age of increasingly fast information and increasingly stiff competition among local and national, network and cable news services, one unintentional media slip-up can ruin a person's life. Exactly when does the responsibility part of freedom of speech kick in? SMU'S Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility has invited Jill Abramson of the Wall Street Journal; Ed Turner of CNN; and Roger K. Newman, scholar at New York University of Law, for a day-long conference to discuss "Freedom and Responsibility in a New Media Age." The conference happens 8:30 a.m.-8 p.m. in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center at Southern Methodist University. Registration is $25. Call (214) 768-4255.
Thunder Knocking on the Door: Dallas Theater Center combines forces with two other top regional theaters, Baltimore's Center Stage and the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, for the world premiere of a new blues legend that incorporates the mystery and fury of America's most important musical form with the appeal of a down-home romance. Thunder Knocking on the Door is Keith Glover's gutbucket fantasia about a brother and sister challenged by an ominous, guitar-plucking conjurer. Performances happen Tuesday-Thursday, 7 p.m.; Friday, 8 p.m.; Saturday, 2 and 8 p.m.; Sunday, 2 p.m. through March 9 at the Kalita Humphreys Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd. $16-$44.50. Call (214) 522-TIXX.
Balancing Acts: Providing For Today, Preserving For Tomorrow: We don't expect you to be interested, but we most certainly expect you to act interested when you haul your favorite ankle-biter to the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History's "Balancing Acts: Providing For Today, Preserving For Tomorrow." If seeing a recyclable car and a worm farm doesn't thrill you the way it will your kids (it will, trust us), then spend a few minutes envisioning a Mad Max-like future where whole cities are built atop hundred mile-high mountains of soiled diapers. It's enough to make the staunchest litterbug hug the nearest tree. "Balancing Acts" runs daily through May 4 at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, 1501 Montgomery Street, Fort Worth. Tickets are $3-$5; kids under three get in free. Call (817) 732-1631.