The Collected Works of Billy The Kid: Reading the supple prose of Michael Ondaatje's Booker Prize-winning The English Patient and watching the beautifully photographed but rather vapid film version was like--well, the difference between a good read and a dorky movie. Michael Ondaatje again jumps between media, and the Dallas Theater Center has him in mid-leap. They're doing up his off-kilter theatrical dreamscape The Collected Works of Billy The Kid, a study of the last night of the famous American outlaw's life served up Richard III-style, with the ghosts of old enemies and old lovers returning to haunt him. If Ondaatje's dialogue is anything like his prose, we've already got goose bumps. Performances happen Tuesday-Thursday, 7:30 p.m.; Friday, 8 p.m.; Saturday, 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. through November 16 at Kalita Humphreys Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd. Call (214) 522-8499.
Dalton James: He's articulate, he's multi-talented, and he's got more toothy angst swimming around in his head than sharks in the Mediterranean. He's Dalton James, a lyrical heartache on two long legs, and he's giving a solo performance sponsored by the Dallas Poets Community. Sort of a performance artist, kinda but not quite a poet, and more than an actor, James carves a space that is his alone with his funny, furious words. He performs at 8 p.m. at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary, 3120 McKinney at Bowen. Call (214) 953-1212.
Mick Moloney and Tommy Sands: As Ireland continues to chafe till it's bloody under English rule, the scrapes and bruises inform some of the most eloquent, humanitarian voices on the international scene. Mick Moloney and Tommy Sands can be counted among them. Moloney came to America 24 years ago, earned a doctorate in folklore, and pumped his knowledge into the area of musical storytelling. His national reputation rests on various projects such as scoring the award-winning PBS documentary Out of Ireland and authoring a book, Irish Music in America, which is already being called definitive. Tommy Sands, a celebrated international folk artist, is more pointedly political with his pro-Northern Ireland activism, although it tends to be of the conciliatory variety: Last year, Sands organized the widely touted "Citizens Assembly" in Belfast that brought the two sides together in (temporarily) civil talk. Moloney and Sands perform with Chicago musician Kathleen Keane. The performance begins at 7:30 p.m. at The Plaza Theater, 1115 Fourth Ave., Carrollton. Tickets are $12-$15. Call (214) 821-4173.
Kadir Lopez-Nieves: America's continued stalemate against a withered-on-the-vine Cuba and its too-proud-for-his-own-good leader, Fidel Castro, has come to seem especially ridiculous in light of our continued courtship of a nation like China, which is Communist, arguably more ruthless in its tactics, but too rich to ignore or blackball. A side result of this has been the dearth of exposure for Cuban artists in North America. Kadir Lopez-Nieves has been celebrated in artistic circles almost everywhere else in the world but the United States. A retrospective of his work, titled Todo, Todo, comes to Dallas. Lopez-Nieves will also discuss the best visual artists among his little-seen Cuban contemporaries and the work of Candles for Cuba, a Canadian nonprofit organization that provides essentials like medical equipment, clothing, and eyeglasses to the poor of that country. Lopez-Nieves' show opens with a reception for the artist October 24, 6-9 p.m., at State Street Gallery, 2606 State St. The artist gives a lecture October 25 at 4 p.m. at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary, 3120 McKinney. Call (214) 220-0556.
Three New Exhibitions at the 5501: Alan Govenar's 5501 Columbia Art Center opens with three new exhibits--two focusing on the Southwest and one on the transfer of several international tragedies to America. That last one, Rosalie Har-El's Ties That Bind, is a series of art books fashioned from the artist's personal experiences of World War II, the Vietnam War, and the Arab-Israeli conflicts. Tag Ray: Heartland is an installation by Melinda Levin and Sunni Mercer that examines homelessness by using giant heart sculptures, video monitors, the real shoes of an indigent man named Tag Ray, and 99 pairs of ruby slippers. (And arts advocates wonder why the NEA has become such an easy target for conservatives?) The last one seems to be the coolest--The Last Look: The Funerary Photographs of Curtis Humphrey is a retrospective of the 60-year career of photographer Humphrey, who died in 1996. He was the photographer of choice for the African-American families in East Texas to make "last looks"--a long tradition among Southern black families of making final portraits at open-casket funerals. The exhibitions open October 25 with a reception 6-8 p.m. at 5501 Columbia, located at (you guessed it) 5501 Columbia. Call (214) 823-8955.
George Baselitz: Portraits of Elke: By almost any standard of flattery, the wife of Dresden-born painter George Baselitz must feel pretty special. Unlike Picasso, who painted a series of different women--wives and mistresses, mostly--the 59-year-old Baselitz has painted a long series of portraits of his wife, Elke. And unlike Picasso, who tended to like 'em young and pretty, Baselitz has had a lifelong partner (and, in a sense, artistic collaborator) in Elke, not because she was beautiful, but because of the handsome, serene soulfulness of her face. The Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth opens George Baselitz: Portraits of Elke, an exhibition of more than 50 paintings, drawings, prints, and etchings in various, often non-figurative, visual styles. The show opens October 26 and runs through January 25 at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, 1309 Montgomery St., Fort Worth. Call (817) 738-9215.
Licensed To Kill: OK, we can understand the extreme discomfort that some straight men feel toward gay men; it's a socially instilled distaste that gay men themselves have to overcome on the journey to self-acceptance. But what, precisely, drives men--from the non-violent but demented homophobe the Rev. Donald Wildmon to convicted Texas killers Corey Burley and Donald Aldrich--to make a career out of persecuting homosexuals? Oscar- and Emmy-nominated indie filmmaker Arthur Dong was the talk of this year's Sundance Festival with his searing documentary, Licensed to Kill, a bold exploration into the psychology of gay bashers and the murderers of gay men. Twenty years ago, Dong himself was beaten on the streets of San Francisco by men yelling "Faggot!" He entered several maximum-security penitentiaries to interview the convicted murderers of gay men (whose homosexuality was an explicit motivation for the crime) to ask why. Licensed to Kill makes its Dallas premiere October 27 at 8 p.m., with filmmaker Arthur Dong in attendance. Subsequent screenings happen October 28-30 at 8 p.m. at the Lakewood Theatre, 1825 Abrams Rd. Tickets are $6. Call (214) 827-LAKE.
El Dia De Los Muertos: Just like certain crusading fundamentalist Christian activists, a few of us are indeed all for a larger role of the religious--let's say mystical--in public life. Unlike said fundamentalists, we just think that it doesn't involve forcing all kids to pray to one God in school. Those atheists who complain about public displays of the manger scene are just as annoying as those Christians who complain that Halloween is a "pagan" holiday. That's the point, gunga! The Latin American El Dia De Los Muertos has firm traces of traditional Catholicism running all the way through it, but everyone in that (mostly Catholic) culture can enjoy it because it focuses on the one thing that unites practicing and non-practicing Christians alike--We're all gonna die, so we might as well throw a party. After skipping a year because of renovations, the Bath House Cultural Center hosts its 11th Annual El Dia De Los Muertos Exhibition featuring altars, paintings, and sculpture honoring the dearly (and soon to be) departed. The show runs through November 1, with a closing reception on that day from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Bath House Cultural Center, 521 E. Lawther. Call (214) 670-8749.
Forum With Wynton Marsalis: Pick up a few back issues of a jazz or classical magazine, and chances are you'll tap into the quiet controversy that's flared over jazz musicians performing/conducting classical music. Most of the whining seems to come from classical purists, who see the world divided into "Classical" and "All Other Kinds of Music." A leader in the opposition is Wynton Marsalis, a recent Pulitzer Prize winner and lauded jazz musician. Marsalis comes to Dallas to receive the Algur H. Meadows Award for Excellence in the Arts on November 1, but beforehand he appears at public events: a question-and-answer forum October 29 at 7:30 p.m.; and a lecture and demonstration with fellow musicians October 30 at 7:30 p.m. Both events occur in Caruth Auditorium at Southern Methodist University. Both are free, but tickets must be obtained for admission. Call (214) 768-2787.