Stanya Kahn: Ever feel like you're a small cup running over with messages from radio, TV, movies, and the Internet? Stanya Kahn, a New York-based performance artist who made her first big splash in the performance spaces of San Francisco, is playing on your team. She brings her one-woman, four-character piece Delirium to the McKinney Avenue Contemporary as part of its "Conscious Chronicles: New Left Coast Performance" series. A showgirl being interrogated by a faceless corporate elite; a sexually ambiguous Michael Jackson fan; that character's overmedicated mother; and Chum Chum the Action Man, a superhero who shatters and reassembles everything from nursery rhymes to angry cultural complaints for your delectation--all of them are up late at night attempting to make sense of being on the receiving end of a flood of wire-crossed communication. Her performances happen December 12 and 13 at 8 p.m. at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary, 3120 McKinney. Tickets are $7-$10. Call (214) 953-1212.
The Nutcracker: As the only full professional ballet company in North Texas, FortWorth Dallas Ballet certainly can't be accused of helping flood the market with the story of a girl, her wooden love doll, and a rodent with a Napoleon complex. If a company does it right, there's a creepy, psychedelic quality to this ToyStory precursor that offsets the saccharine holiday aftertaste. Performances happen December 12-14 and 18-21 at the JFK Theatre, Tarrant County Convention Center, 111 Houston St., Fort Worth. Tickets are $9-$44. Call 1-888-672-8NUT.
Keith Carter: Twenty Five Years: Flannery O'Connor often advocated during her lifetime that writers should take drawing or photography lessons to help them learn how to observe. Nationally celebrated photographer Keith Carter, based in Beaumont, Texas, got that bass-ackwards, learning from a lecture by playwright Horton Foote how to observe his native Texas surroundings. The result is 25 years of lauded Texas landscapes and portraits, now included in a one-man retrospective appropriately titled Keith Carter: Twenty Five Years. It coincides with a new book whose introduction was written by the influential photography critic A.D. Coleman. Carter's photos are not the pastoral, hypersentimental regional imagery you might expect; he skews subjects and perspectives in provocative ways. The show includes a book signing and artist's reception 1 p.m.-4 p.m. December 13. The show runs through January 17 at Photographs Do Not Bend, 3115 Routh. Call (214) 969-1852.
Zoobilee of Lights: The best reason to come to the Fort Worth Zoo this yuletide has nothing to do with animals--they'll all be asleep by the time the really cool events of Zoobilee of Lights kick in. Much like the Fort Worth Zoo can be relied upon to offer a Halloween safe from weirdos for smaller children, they come up with a series of activities that don't rely on the freaky adrenaline that rampant commercialism instills in kids. There's nary a Mattel sign in the laser-light show; no Joe Camels are in the "Wild Winter Wonderland" of large animal puppets; and, as far as we can tell, no reindeer in Reindeer Ranch have corporate logos slapped on their sides. The Zoobilee of lights is open 6 p.m.-9 p.m. December 12 and runs every night at that time at the Fort Worth Zoo on Colonial Parkway in Fort Worth. Admission is $6-$8, and parking is $3 per car. Call (817) 871-7050.
A Christmas Variety Show: The older we get, it seems, the less well we really remember our childhoods. As a result, adults tend to project all kinds of hopeful fantasies of innocence and purity onto kids, who, although certainly demanding of our protection, remain little individuals. Keeping this in mind, something like Performance, Unlimited's annual children's extravaganza, A Christmas Variety Show, becomes more than just a cute collection of tykes from pre-school to 16 strolling around offering their original poetry, stories, songs, dances, and live compositions for grown-ups to bear with a generous smile. What does little Johnny's story of a reindeer who wins the respect of the herd say about what he thinks of his relationship to the rest of the world? Will Janie's alternately shy-aggressive tap routine transform itself into a high-powered career and three husbands? The event happens 7:30 p.m. December 12 and 13, and 3 p.m. December 14 at The Corner Theatre in the DeSoto Town Center, 211 E. Pleasant Run Road, DeSoto. Tickets are $5-$10. Call (972) 680-4466.
4th Annual Christmas Rock and Roll Expo: We're aware that the 4th Annual Christmas Rock and Roll Expo differs from the monthly Rock and Roll Expo chiefly by the inclusion of the word "Christmas" in its title. But, based on our occasional visits to this flea market of used and new albums, tapes, and CDs, we can say that no time is more appropriate for a foray than the yuletide season. Vendors from around the country peddle their wares, which means it's like visiting several new out-of-the-way record shops that benefit from the discarded treasures of people with no taste. There are also plenty of imports and wide-ranging catalogs of in-print artists. The best reason to visit? Everybody loves music, and you can leave here with a cool gift for under 15 bucks. The event happens 10 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Raddison Hotel, 6060 North Central and Mockingbird. It's free. Call (214) 750-6060.
Revelation: The great thing about shows at the Dallas Visual Arts Center is their not-so-hidden agenda--pushing the works of Texas artists, whether in the context of national styles or just in helping to develop a regional identity. The latter is the philosophy behind their "Establishment" series, which imports works by acclaimed Texas artists in smaller cities who have never been seen in this area. Their third "Establishment" show is called "Revelation," and once again, it's a gloriously chaotic grab bag of the funny, the sad, the angry, the horrifying, and the mundane. If you thought "Texas art" meant metal steer sculptures and paintings of cowboys crying in the prairie, come drink in some of the funky sights of these born-and-bred Texans. The show runs through February 20 at the Dallas Visual Art Center, 2917 Swiss Avenue. Call (214) 821-2522.
Ruckus Rodeo: Speaking of funky sights, we've never been a big fan of that venerable Texas tradition known as the rodeo: How much of a sense of accomplishment can a grown man really get from chasing down a calf and tying its legs together? But the late Red Grooms' gigantic installment Ruckus Rodeo has almost singlehandedly turned us into fans of this curious sport. It's among this artist's more famous works, and the Modern at Sundance Square, the downtown annex of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, is taking the 21-year-old, 1,237 square feet of high-strung rodeo action out of the vaults to coincide with the 1998 Fort Worth Exposition and Stock Show. Grooms' weirdly kinetic scene is like a three-dimensional cartoon that seems about to break out of its stasis and stampede you. Created in New York, but forged with a weird combo of urban irony and rural earthiness, Ruckus Rodeo is, to some of us, way more fun than the real thing. The display shows through February 15 at the Modern at Sundance Square in downtown Fort Worth. Call (817) 738-9215.
The Magic Flute: There's an exchange of high-brow culture in the Dallas Opera's latest production, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's The Magic Flute (Die Zuberflote). For this show, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra's music director, Andrew Litton, picks up the baton; in February, opera music director Graeme Jenkins takes Litton's podium for a symphony featuring works of Britten, Walton, and Elgar. Mozart didn't free himself from royal patronage until this comic work about ethereal love. Its popularity across two centuries suggests Mozart, had he lived beyond 35, would have conquered opera as surely as he placed his adolescent stamp on symphonic works. Performances happen at 7:30 p.m. December 12; 2 p.m. December 14; and 7:30 p.m. December 17, 20, and 27 at the Music Hall in Fair Park. Tickets are $29-$150. Call (214) 443-1000.