Mike Renfro: Baby-faced raconteur Mike Renfro has entertained national listeners with his memories and anecdotes broadcast on National Public Radio's "Weekend Edition." So-called "serious" writers often like to disdain advertising writers, a profession which has earned Renfro a handsome living as creative head for The Richards Group advertising agency. The UT graduate has managed to succeed in both worlds, and he will appear for a reading from his latest, Under the XZ in Texas. Join him at 8 p.m. in the Richardson Civic Center, 411 W Arapaho Rd. Tickets are $10. Call (972) 238-4000.
Sweet Honey in the Rock: TITAS (The International Theatrical Arts Society) closes its 1996-'97 season with a shot of old-fashioned left-wing folk drama that sold out McFarlin Auditorium during a 1996 show. For 24 years now, Sweet Honey in the Rock has found the core that unites blues, spirituals, folk, poetry, and humanism into a fireworks explosion of a cappella. Although focusing on the African-American tradition of song, Sweet Honey in the Rock has a universalizing agenda for its song programs--to find the melody or lyric that can bulldoze pesky barriers. Performances are April 18 and 19 at 8 p.m. in McFarlin Auditorium on the campus of Southern Methodist University. Tickets are $7-$40. Call (214) 528-5576.
Dance For the Planet: The tasteful acronym "S.O.L." pretty much describes Dallas dance fans, who must rely on an enthusiastic but ever-revolving and mercurial roster of cash-strapped companies and indie performers for their fix. "Dance for the Planet" wants to connect our city with greener pastures with its two-day, two-stage festival that includes over 50 local and national performers. National Dance Institute legend and former New York City Ballet star Jacquest d'Amboise is the keynote speaker at a luncheon that includes Larry North. The festival takes place April 19, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and April 20, noon-5 p.m. at Artist Square in Dallas. Tickets are $3. Tickets to the April 18 noon luncheon are $50-$150. Call (214) 522-7972.
Dallas Institute Poets: The Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture is a modest oasis of reflection in a city that sometimes typifies the unexamined civic life. Religion, psychology, sexuality, history, and science collide in the courses available there. Three of the Institute's Fellows and Poets give a reading of their nationally acclaimed work--Frederick Turner, literary and cultural critic and Founders Professor of Arts and Humanities at UTD; Robert Trammell, poet-essayist-director of WordSpace; and William Burford, a former UT and TCU professor. The readings begin at 8 p.m. in the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture, 2719 Routh St. Tickets are $10. Call (214) 871-2440.
The Case of Karen Carpenter: How do a made-for-TV movie and an experimental film stack up against each other in terms of portraying the problematic life of a dead star? Mary Desjardins, author of the forthcoming Recycled Stars: Hollywood Stardom in the Age of TV and Video, comes to an RTVF Forum in Denton to discuss the network bio The Karen Carpenter Story and Todd Haynes' way-underground indie hit Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story. She will examine how the agendas of filmmakers and the expectations of audiences shape a biography of anorexia. The discussion opens at 1 p.m. in Room 265 of the Speech/Drama Building on the campus of the University of North Texas in Denton. It's free.
1997 Texas Brewers Festival: There are some mighty strange laws on the Texas books concerning the operations of brewpubs and breweries and, specifically, their distinctions. You needn't worry about anything but the ubiquity of good head at the 1997 Texas Brewers Festival, a convergence of the state's most prolific sudsmeisters--including Celis from Austin, Bosque from Waco, and Saint Arnold from Houston--that will allow you, the seasoned beer drinker, to select the best of Texas. Events happen April 18, 4-9 p.m.; April 19, noon-10 p.m.; and April 20, 1-8 p.m. on Main Street in Deep Ellum. Entrance is free, but a festival mug is $3 and beer is purchased with $2.50 tickets. Call 1-800-BREWFEST.
River Out of Eden: Even if you're not a Christian, there's much to gleaned from the rich mythology of the Bible that, in terms of pure literary conceit, is as perpetually prophetic as the wisest philosopher. Oxford University Professor Richard Dawkins has recently published River Out of Eden, a book that explains evolution (supposedly at cross-purposes with mysticism) in terms of a genetic stream that connects every organism on Earth to its prehistory. Danny Barnett, a history student at Eastfield Community College, presents a lecture examining Dawkins' contribution to the evolution canon. The angels, you might say, begin dancing on the pin at 2 p.m. in the Center for Community Cooperation, 2900 Live Oak St. It's free. Call (972) 306-3187.
Fry St. Fair: Every year, a few people in power at the city of Denton attempt to quash the legendary Fry St. Fair, and every year, the darn thing springs up anyway, like mushrooms after a hard rain. This year's Fry St. Fair, sponsored by the venerable Delta Lodge, actually happens again on Fry Street and features 40 local and national bands, including Baboon, Radish, UFOFU, Slobberbone, Dooms U.K., and others. The festivities happen all day and night on Fry Street next to the University of North Texas campus in Denton. Tickets are $8 or $7 with a can of food.
Earth Day: Remember back when Earth Day was a celebrity-studded orgy of environmental consciousness? Why don't Bette Midler and Ted Danson seem to care anymore? It's probably better for everyone that saner heads have picked up the baton, like Fair Park's Dallas Museum of Natural History, which presents an Earth Day celebration aimed especially at kids. Experts have planned a guided tour of the Leonhardt Lagoon, a backyard safari in the auditorium to discuss plant and animal life, recycling and natural resource demonstrations as well as treacle-with-the-medicine crafts, a sing-along, and a tree planting. It all happens 11 am.-4 p.m. at the Dallas Museum of Natural History on the grounds of Fair Park. Call (214) 421-3466.
Health and Fun Fair: Put down that Butterfinger and pick up a carrot--April has been designated Health Month by our too-busy Congress. While it's easy to snicker at such designations, they also provide handy excuses for neighborhoods to organize related events that'll serve their residents. We're thinking of the West Dallas Health and Fun Fair, which includes free screenings for breast cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, glaucoma, obesity, and hearing problems as well as immunizations for tots. Look for tons of practical info as well as live bands, dancers, singers, musicians, etc. Events are scheduled 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at 2828 Fish Trap Rd. Call (214) 670-6340.
A Celebration of the Jewish Short The stereotype of the long-winded rabbi is what most people picture when they think about Jewish storytelling, perhaps because Jews have thoroughly but quietly shaped American literature (kinky guy Phillip Roth notwithstanding, whose novels don't do anything quietly). "A Celebration of the Jewish Short Story" is an evening of readings by writers like Roth, Grace Paley, David Mamet, and Leo Rosten read by Richard Hamburger, DTC's artistic director, local actress Lynn Metrik, and others. The event happens at 8 p.m. in the Epstein Chapel of Temple Shalom, 6930 Alpha Rd. at Hillcrest. Tickets are $5-$7.50. Call (972) 661-1810.
Mia Farrow: Pick up any movie magazine, and you'll find the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, Claire Danes, and Sharon Stone sporting the Sassoon-ish bob that made Mia Farrow famous in the late '60s. Are they trying to siphon off the revived glamour that Farrow currently enjoys with What Falls Away, the hottest Hollywood memoir in years and all the more impressive because Farrow, who reportedly didn't use a ghost writer, knows how to string a sentence. Woody-bashing is what most readers want, of course, but her pre-Woodman life is every bit as unpredictable and Felliniesque. She appears to sign copies of the book noon-2 p.m. at Borders Books & Music, 4613 S. Hulen, Fort Worth. Call (817) 370-9473.
Ross Bleckner: Any artist who gets a 15-year career retrospective courtesy of the Guggenheim Museum is clearly addressing issues in his works that somebody up there thinks are important. Dallas' Turner & Runyon Gallery presents a one-man show by New York City-based artist Ross Bleckner, whose paintings are also included in the Dallas Museum of Art, MOMA, and the Whitney Museum. Bleckner emerged from the '70s avant-garde with a highly self-conscious, stylized eye that employs optical effects to engross or disorient the viewer. The exhibition opens April 19, 7 p.m. through May 31 at Turner & Runyon Gallery, 2642 Elm St. Call (214) 653-1130.
The 27th Annual USA Film Festival: see the Dallas Observer's coverage (page 13) for an in-depth, opinionated survey of the 27th Annual USA Film Festival, an affair long on cinematic delights for eager ticket-buyers and short on the kind of buzz that has transformed Sundance into an industry bloodbath. Artistic director Alonso Duralde feels the pressure to book movie stars much the way Tom Arnold feels the urge for late-night ice-cream binges. Considering that Dallas isn't high on the agenda of most actors' publicists, he's done a smashing job of assembling hot names for your stargazing pleasure. You can catch the festival's fare April 17-24 at the AMC Glen Lakes, 9450 N Central Expressway. For info call (214) 821-NEWS.
The Holy Inquiry: Teatro Dallas continues its tradition of offering Dallas audiences U.S. and Texas premieres with its latest production. Playwright Alfredo Dias Gomes wrote The Holy Inquiry, a play about colonial Brazil's cruel Inquisition, to comment on the brutality of his birth country's military government. The Holy Inquiry concerns the transformation of religious faith into a cultural weapon by political entities. Gomes, whose outraged theater owes much to Brecht, is being produced for the first time in America. Performances happen Wednesday-Saturday at 8:15 p.m. through May 17 at 2204 Commerce. Tickets are $5-$12. Call (214) 741-1135.