Beth Lisick: Since it's earned a prominent place in such high-profile pop culture arenas as Lollapalooza and MTV, the new oral tradition known as "slam poetry" has had some problems worming its way into the hermetically sealed, tiny-as-a-tick world of American poetry. But San Francisco-based, tough-but-not-obnoxious chick Beth Lisick may have changed all that. She went from well-honed rants about pickup lines and pop music in crowded, smoke-filled San Francisco cafes straight into Best American Poetry '97. In case you're wary because you've sat through one slam poet after another, then ended the evening without recalling a single thing anybody said, Lisick's sheaf of reviews repeat one encouraging word--memorable. Brought to Dallas by local poetry impresario Clebo Rainey, Lisick is the featured poet in a poetry slam at 8:30 p.m. at The Red Room in Club Clearview, Elm & Crowdus. Call (214) 939-0077.
E. Lynn Harris: Novelist E. Lynn Harris is the biggest-selling African-American male fiction author in history, yet with the exception of black women's magazines such as Essence, Harris finds he's flown under the radar of much of high black culture. Perhaps it's because his ongoing, unabashedly soap-operatic stories of buppie life contain as many gay and bisexual characters as straight ones. Harris himself has said he doesn't know what's harder--being black in a white world or being gay in the black world. A large, mostly female readership from both has pushed one Harris title after another onto the top of The New York Times fiction bestseller list, making him arguably more popular with African-American female readers than Terry MacMillan. Harris comes to Dallas to read from and sign copies of his latest book at 8 p.m. at Crossroads Market and Bookstore, 3930 Cedar Springs. It's free. Call (214) 521-8919.
GrapeFest '97: While wines made in Texas probably are not going to eclipse the wines of France any time soon, it's nevertheless true that over the past few years, Texas wineries have scored surprise coups over their more exalted California competitors in national wine competitions. Texas' largest festival of home-state wineries, appropriately held in Grapevine, celebrates its 11th anniversary. GrapeFest '97 features live music, arts and crafts, a classic car show, and activities for children, but vino is the real star, with free wine seminars, a seven-part People's Choice Wine Tasting Classic, a champagne brunch, and more. As with any alcohol-centered event, expect a crowd at this baby. Events happen Friday, 6 p.m.-11:30 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-11:30 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m., in Grapevine's Main Street Historic District, just off Highway 114 two exits west of the north entrance to D/FW Airport. For information call 1-800-457-6338.
Ottmar Liebert: Having a few months back researched the classical music world and its sometimes stifling provincialism, we can tell you that there's a bit of a pissing match between classical purists and modern jazz artists, who have crossed over into the classical world in droves. Many classical aficionados tend to group Coltrane and the Spice Girls together under non-classical, which leaves a jazz artist such as Ottmar Liebert to bring his usual audience to a project like Leaning Into the Night. Often identified as "nouveau flamenco," Liebert's guitar noodlings on this latest album include six original pieces alongside works by Puccini, Ravi, Sayti, Mompou, and Villa-Lobo. Liebert comes to Dallas to weave his own heavenly hash of international sounds on the concert stage. The performance starts at 8 p.m. at the Bronco Bowl on Fort Worth Avenue in Dallas. For tickets, call (214) 373-8000.
The Mema Sextet: While many dismiss the idea of guardian angels as fodder for The New York Times non-fiction bestseller list, we nevertheless must admit that certain deceased older people, especially those who died in our childhoods, seem to hang around us like a wisp of smoke well into adulthood. Johnny Simons, artistic director of Fort Worth's Hip Pocket Theatre, has taken his own guardian angel, Stella Mae "Mema" Dowdy, and cast her in the final of a cycle of plays about his childhood in the 1940s. The Mema Sextet begins in heaven, where Mema is cooking up chili pie and Spam and Velveeta luxuries and surveying in celestial flashback her life on earth among an eccentric family. Performances happen Friday-Sunday at 8:15 p.m. in the Oak Acres Amphitheatre, 1620 Las Vegas Trail North, Fort Worth. Tickets are $5-$10. Call (817) 237-5977.
Mexican American Redefinition: Gabriella Varela: What's little discussed in contemporary critiques of American race relations is the role the mass media play in remaking ethnic minorities into very distinct (and oft-times outlaw) types. Texas artist Gabriella Varela, who recently received her visual arts degree from Rice University, is a second-generation Mexican-American woman who's preoccupied with trying to find an essential Latina identity. Mexican American Redefinition is a one-woman show of her photographs that have been combined with everyday objects of her own life. Varela asks questions at every turn about what makes a Latina identity in late-20th-century America. The show runs through September 26 at Dallas Visual Art Center. Call (214) 821-2522.
Intimate Exchanges: As anyone who's been involved in a long-term monogamous relationship can tell you, the tiniest gestures and rituals exchanged between two people, while apparently innocent, are often heavy with both love and antagonism. Alan Ayckbourn, Britain's most popular living farceur and a man who delights in revealing the frayed insides of the civilized middle class, chronicles the saga of two middle-aged married couples and the travails of their attempted communication in a pair of plays called Confessions in a Garden Shed and A Cricket Match. Collectively titled Intimate Exchanges, these plays mix and match Anglo parlor-room tableaux as two actors portray eight different characters in 16 different situations. Performances happen Tuesday-Thursday, 7:30 p.m.; Friday, 8 p.m.; Saturday, 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, 2 p.m. through October 5 at the Kalita Humphreys Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Boulevard. Tickets are $11-$49. Call (214) 522-TIXX.
Jon Nakamatsu: Not only is Jon Nakamatsu the first American in 16 years to have won the gold medal at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, he didn't even have any conservatory training. This Stanford graduate, who had been taking private piano lessons since he was 6, was a high school teacher in Sunnyvale, California, when he won last June. He's now receiving invitations from places such as Rio de Janeiro and Berlin for headline performances. The institution that bestowed upon him his good fortune and celebrity has now tapped Nakamatsu to open the 1997-'98 season of Cliburn Concerts with a program that includes Clementi, Chopin, Bolcom, and Liszt. The performance happens at 8 p.m. in the Ed Landreth Auditorium on the Texas Christian University Campus, Fort Worth. Call (817) 335-9000.
Concentrations 30: Mariko Mori, Play With Me: North Texas' own Nic Nicosia and New York self-diarist Cindy Sherman built national reputations with large, colorful, often sinister and sexy photographs that seemed to contain entire plots. Mariko Mori takes a leaf from both of their books--especially Sherman's, who wedges herself into the action--by creating large-scale photographs that are part anime tribute, part feminist commentary. Concentrations 30: Mariko Mori, Play With Me is an exhibit of enormous photos by Mariko, whose previous career experiences as a fashion model scream out of the commercial gloss of the images. The women she portrays are almost all mechanical "love dolls" in elaborate, sometimes futurist public situations. The show runs through November 9 at the Dallas Museum of Art, 1717 N. Harwood. Call (214) 922-1200.
Passionate Grace: In today's U.S. Protestant church and, to a lesser extent, the contemporary American Catholic Church, the idea of gaining grace and strength through suffering has become passe, since for many middle-class Americans, suffering itself is no longer a reality. When biology rears its ugly head through cancer or AIDS, we view it as a failure of science, not an opportunity for tapping into a higher presence. Virginia-born artist Edward Knippers returns a certain dark glamour to Christianity with Passionate Grace, a show of his somber but colorful meditations on Biblical themes. Want an example? One gigantic piece, The Crowning With Thorns (Christ is Mocked), features Jesus' torn body writhing in agony, with a wine glass full of the blood he must shed to the side. The show runs through November 6 at the Biblical Arts Center, 7500 Park Lane. Call (214) 691-4661.