Cather County: In the age-old question of local talent vs. national talent for the establishment of a "world-class arts scene," Lyric Stage founding producer Steven Jones appears to have found a marvelous compromise: He scours the "theater capitals" of America for the best works-in-progress, then brings them to Dallas for their world premieres. If you thought musicals went from Webber to Ahrens-Flaherty, think again: Jones has a taste for musical adaptations of literary greats. He world-premiered After the Fair, based on a Thomas Hardy novel, and now offers Cather County, a musical version of five short stories by Willa Cather. Composer-librettist Ed Dixon sees his work realized on the Lyric Stage under Broadway director Drew Scott Harris. Lyric Stage Performances happen 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the Dupree Theater in the Irving Arts Center, 3333 N. MacArthur Blvd. Tickets are $12-$17.50. Call (972) 252-2787.
Bunnicula: Perhaps it's the unfortunate consequence of having seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail in third grade on a late-night Channel 13 broadcast, but the image of a fluffy bunny who'd sooner rip your throat out than entertain you at Easter has always held a special place in our hearts. It's what led us to Deborah and James Howe's 1979 kiddie classic Bunnicula (toned down from the Pythonian lepus, to be sure, but still coolly edgy), and what now has us craving the Dallas Children's Theater's stage version of Bunnicula. The plot actually involves pet jealousy between Harold the Dog and Chester the Cat, who want to prove the new pet in the household is actually a bloodthirsty hare. Performances happen 7:30 p.m. Friday; 1:30 p.m. Saturday; and 1:30-4:30 p.m. Sunday through March 1 at El Centro College Theater, Main and Market. Call (214) 978-0110.
The Last Year of the Tiger: The Writer's Garrett and the McKinney Avenue Contemporary are ringing in the Chinese New Year with a furious storm of movement, music, and words. The unprecedented star of the evening is nationally acclaimed National Endowment for the Arts grant winner Li-Young Lee, who's won accolades for his distinctive ability to unite the diametrically opposed sensibilities of East and West in his poetry. His infusion of the oft-tragic experience of Southeast Asian peasantry into the idiom of English poetry is rumored to produce fireworks. Live music by local jazzmaster Earl Harvin and a traditional mainland China "Lion Dance" from the Five Animal Shaolin Kung Fu School precedes Li-Young's words. The party starts at 6 p.m., with the dance performance at 7 p.m. and the poetry at 8 p.m. at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary, 3120 McKinney Ave. Tickets are $7-$12. Call (214) 828-1715.
El Corazon: With the approach of February 14, otherwise known as the single person's Day of the Dead, we're going to see all kinds of pictorial representations of the human heart. Anglo-American culture, which has always had a paranoia about body fluids, cleans up the chest muscle considerably so it can be a pretty exchange of affection. The Latino culture, which has always understood the religious-cultural-political significance of a little gore, has never been quite satisfied with the Hallmark-ization of our symbolic love-pain seat. In this spirit, local curator Jose Vargas brings you the fourth annual El Corazon exhibit, which features mixed-media representations of the human heart by artists from Dallas, San Antonio, and Austin. The show opens February 7 and runs through February 28 at the Bath House Cultural Center, 521 E. Lawther. Call (214) 670-8749.
Michael Feldman's Whad'Ya Know? Public radio trivia font Michael Feldman has reconfigured an age-old rhetorical statement as "Ask a stupid question, win a stupid prize." Actually, although trivial in the utmost, many of the topics he initiates (and then turns on audience members and callers, to test their memory) involve the kind of things that must be important because they stick in your craw. Ever since 1985, Michael Feldman has been broadcasting "Whad'Ya Know?" from Wisconsin as a homebase for his own mix of political satire, shooting the B.S., distributing prizes, and listening to jazz. Feldman comes to Dallas to broadcast his show 9:30 a.m.-noon in the Dallas Convention Center Theater. For ticket info call (214) 373-8000.
Richard Diebenkorn: California artist Richard Diebenkorn, who died five years ago at the age of 71, spent almost three decades of his professional career drawing gigantic abstract images of the California coastline. These light-refracted, sprightly, but majestic combinations of line and color are what a good portion of Diebenkorn's international reputation is based on, so the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth is looking to surprise us with a collection that emphasizes his less-celebrated works from his early years as a painter. Richard Diebenkorn contains studies with pencil or paint or a variety of media combined that come from his family estate, many of them never before seen. The show runs through April 12 at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, 1309 Montgomery St., Fort Worth. Call (817) 738-9215.
A Photographic Tour of Ulster: As a molten hotbed of the decades-old rivalry between Protestants and Catholics, Irish home-rulers vs. English imperialists, Ulster has functioned more as a stage for Northern Ireland's tragedy than a raw container of Irish history. Kay Tiller, a Dallas native of Irish descent, wants to remind her fellow North Texas dwellers that there is much beauty amid the bombing. A Photographic Tour of Ulster is a one-woman show of Tiller's Irish images, which she began collecting 21 years ago on her regular visits to Ireland. The show runs through February 28 at the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library, 1515 Young St. Call (214) 670-1400.
Renoir's Portraits: Impressions of an Age: Sure, Impressionist brushman Pierre Auguste Renoir could paint a pretty picture, but the question "Is It Art?" echoes inside our heads if we spend too much time staring at his gauzy portraits of doe-eyed children and busty maidens. The proliferation of calendar, coffee mug, and poster images of Renoir's work has only reinforced the impression of mass-produced disposability that already mars his paintings like an overly ambitious cologne. For the real scoop on why the nationally lauded Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth has devoted so much time and space to an artist of questionable reputation, read Christine Biederman's cover feature "Renoir shmenoir." Renoir's Portraits runs through April 26 at Kimbell Art Museum, 3333 Camp Bowie Blvd., Fort Worth. Admission is $6-$10. Call (817) 332-8451.
The Two Nations of Black America: Despite charges from some critics that he's too bold and from others that he's not bold enough, Harvard University's Henry Louis Gates Jr. continues to anger and enthrall readers (especially through his always stimulating essays in The New Yorker) with his non-doctrinaire opinions on race and class in America. In an hour-long documentary for the PBS series Frontline that examines "The Two Nations of Black America," he discusses how the two become intricately (and sometimes inextricably) tangled. Why is it, Gates wonders, that at the same time the African-American middle class has swelled to unprecedented numbers, half of all black kids grow up under the poverty line? The episode airs at 9 p.m. on KERA-TV Channel 13. Call (214) 871-1390.
Linda Genteel: The Piano Princess: We'd be in love with anyone who refers to herself as "The Piano Princess," but since we learned that the self-coronated Linda Genteel learned all her best piano tricks from the late Queen of Keyboards Liberace, with whom she toured around the world for two years, we know that her royal roots are firm. Genteel had already been earning plaudits from Chinese audiences and Las Vegas fans before the legendary showman passed on to that refrigerated mink locker in the sky. She sashays into town to support pediatric cancer research at Children's Medical Center. The show starts at 8 p.m. at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center in the downtown Dallas Arts District. For ticket info call 1-800-654-9545.
Rise&Shine: If you thought Irving Berlin wrote two kinds of tunes--patriotic numbers and drinking songs--then Theatre Three's Bruce Coleman, Jac Alder, and Terry Dobson want to educate you on the breadth of concerns in the late American master's oeuvre. Rise&Shine is the name of the "new" Irving Berlin musical they're premiering, a collection of Berlin classics and lesser-known material incorporated into the format of a late-'40s morning radio show called Rise&Shine. The show opens February 9 at 8:15 p.m., and afterward runs Tuesday-Friday, 8:15 p.m.; Saturday, 2:30 and 8:15 p.m.; and Sunday, 2:30 p.m. through March 8 at Theatre Three in the Quadrangle. Tickets are $5-$25. Call (214) 871-3300.