Nao Bustamante and Coco Fusco: While dining at an Ethiopian restaurant, a friend, noting the large selection of Italian dishes there, mused how a few decades of history make the difference between imperialist cultural tyranny and a really diverse buffet. The relationship between food and ethnic identity, both for immigrants to a new country and for the natives who absorb styles of cuisine from those immigrants, is one of attraction and repulsion. In the U.S. it's especially bad, where the media tendency to homogenize American culture chafes against our collective hunger for spicy "foreign" foods. These are among the claims of three performance artists, Nao Bustamante from San Francisco and the twosome Coco Fusco from New York, who collaborate on a performance piece called Stuff as part of the McKinney Avenue Contemporary's "New Left Coast Performance" series. Stuff purports to chronicle the collision of eating disorders and nationalistic paranoia. Performances happen at 8 p.m. December 5 and 6 at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary, 3120 McKinney. Tickets are $10. Call (214) 953-1212.
Jean Marie Binoche: From Japanese kabuki to bawdy Italian renaissance comedies, the concept of using masks in theatrical performance has been shared for centuries now by both East and West. European and Anglo theatrical traditions have by and large forsaken the art of mask-making for the figurative "masks" that Stanislavski-influenced actors put on, but in the corners of various countries where satellite images aren't ubiquitous, the practice lives on. For the final performances in its 5th International Theatre Festival, Teatro Dallas has imported an internationally renowned French actor-mime-maskmaker to interpret a Mexican legend about a man who ascends to heaven. Jean Marie Binoche, currently professor of the National Superior School of Arts and Letters in Paris, directs Juan Volado: A Celestial Comedy in his own distinct "masktheater" style. Performances happen at 8:15 p.m. December 5 and 6 at Teatro Dallas, 2204 Commerce. For ticket info call (214) 741-1135.
The Christmas Witch: Dallas Children's Theater continues its annual tradition of cross-pollinated holiday spectacles with The Christmas Witch, Linda Daugherty's stage adaptation of author/illustrator Steven Kellogg's huge bestseller of the same name. The story of a good witch who yearns to escape her academy and become a yuletide hag features a new song by Amanda McBroom, the cabaret sensation who wrote the original music for this play. Performances happen Friday, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, 1:30 p.m.; and Sunday, 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. through December 21 at the El Centro College Theater, Main and Market near the West End. Tickets are $12-$14. Call (214) 978-0110.
James W. Johnson, New Work: Perusing the small selection of images offered in the press packet for James W. Johnson's latest one-man exhibition New Work, we're compelled to ask: shlock or art? The fact that the slightly sick but beautifully detailed and almost three-dimensional paintings of this Lubbock resident raises this question compels us to buy the guy a new paintbrush, or a case of beer, or, perhaps more appropriately, a few tabs of hallucinogens. Johnson applies the illustrative prowess of one of those classic heavy metal artists (yes, that's a compliment) with the internal drama of a Nic Nicosia photo. His tendency to use his own likeness, especially evocative on the bodies of plucked chickens, adds that extra level of intriguing narcissism. The show opens with a reception from 7-10 p.m. December 6 and runs through January 11 at gallery:untitled, 3603 Parry Ave. Call (214) 821-1685.
A Por Quinly Christmas: "Calendar" wishes to thank Undermain Theatre, as it thanked Fort Worth's Stage West, for giving the poor stage critic a chance to review something besides A Christmas Carol or some variation thereof. One of these holiday seasons, the stage critic will be forced to write a column singing the praises of all that is Scroogian: a life lived in the ruthless pursuit of money, using your social inferiors as though they were just another roll of toilet paper, killing all your empathetic impulses because they just get in the way of a good time, etc. In the meantime, "Calendar" can look into the true spirit of the season by introducing the Undermain's production of Quincy Long's A Por Quinly Christmas, which features two of Dallas' best character actors, Rhonda Bhoutte and Lynn Mathis, in a story about a boy who's rescued from the commercialism of premillennial Christmas by a talking Christmas tree. The Undermain presents the world premiere of A Por Quinly Christmas at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday through December 20 at the Undermain Theatre, 3200 Main St. Tickets are $10. Call (214) 747-5515.
A Garret Family Holiday: While the relentless quick cuts of today's movies and TV have rendered two generations with an advanced case of attention deficit disorder, we think that kids are still prone to sit still and listen to some good old-fashioned storytelling for one good reason: Many of the kids we know are--and a few of us back at a more tender age were--compulsive liars. What are the fables and children's stories being offered by three Dallas actors at a Writer's Garret event but fat, hairy lies? Of course, there are truths to be uncovered in the fabrications read by Phyllis Cicero, Christy Vela, and Steve Westerheide at "A Garret Family Holiday," which is the educational angle for the kid audience these guys are shooting for: Use your imaginations to reveal, not conceal. The afternoon kicks off at 3 p.m. upstairs at Paperbacks Plus, 6115 La Vista. It's free, and parents are encouraged to bring their kids. Call (214) 828-1715.
ARTE Latino '97: Ever noticed the explosion of arts events by, for, or about Latinos in the Dallas area? The city's largest ethnic community is flexing its muscle, and the results are organizations like the Latino Cultural Center for Arts & Letters, which presents, along with the Bath House Cultural Center, its first visual art exhibit. ARTE Latino '97 is an invitational organization that focuses on the works of nine student artists from area colleges such as Southern Methodist University, the University of Texas at Arlington, and Texas Christian University. ARTE '97 opens with a reception 6-8 p.m. December 6 and closes January 3 at the Bath House Cultural Center, 521 E. Lawther. Call (214) 670-8749.
For the Imperial Court: Qing Porcelain from the Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, London: Chances are, the priceless porcelain bowls featured as part of the Kimbell Art Museum's new show For the Imperial Court: Qing Porcelain from the Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, London have never held frosted flakes or four-alarm chili. How else to explain the exquisite state these containers are in, many of them about 350 years old and made in the war-torn era of China's final emperors? Not only bowls, but incense burners, table screens, pipes, teapots, and vases are featured in this show. The Qing dynasty were notorious both for their bloodthirstiness and their love of careful craftsmanship (how often those two go hand in hand). For the Imperial Court runs through March 1 at 3333 Camp Bowie Blvd., Fort Worth. Tickets are $4-$8. Call (817) 332-8451.
Internet Classes: When a stripper can post nude pictures of herself on the Web and become a millionaire almost overnight by charging per minute, we say, "Capitalism is alive and well" to those free-market conservatives who grouse that there's too much supervision of our economy. Of course, many of these pushed through Congress (with Clinton's help) government regulation of the content of the Net, only to be overruled by the Supreme Court. What does this mean to the poor sap who doesn't know how to Web surf? You're missing out on a hotly contested American media frontier, bonehead. The Preston Royal Branch Library offers free classes for Internet beginners. The classes happen at 2 p.m. Wednesdays throughout December at Preston Royal Branch Library, 5626 Royal Lane. Call (214) 670-7128.