Most people's knowledge of anime--or Japanese animation--begins and ends with Speed Racer, the occasionally cheesy boys-with-toys series. Younger viewers may have been exposed to anime through MTV's airing of the Aeon Flux series (which ticked off many hardcore fans of the show, because the network chose to have the characters speak, something that was missing from its original incarnation). Even those with a limited exposure to the genre have a definite opinion of it, because anime doesn't leave much room for a middle ground. You are forced to either love it or hate it, and many people have chosen to align themselves with the latter category. They'll never get to see the brilliant Ghost in the Shell or the exceedingly silly Uresei Yatsura. Catering to those who are rabid fans of Japanese animation, Project: A-Kon is a three-day celebration of anime that has attracted fans from across the country for the last nine years. Among the highlights of this year's convention is an appearance by Amy Howard, the voice of "Nova" on the series Star Blazers. A word of warning: The festival will be open 24 hours a day; use some common sense. Project: A-Kon starts on Friday and continues through Sunday at the Harvey Hotel at D-FW International Airport, 4545 .W John Carpenter Freeway in Irving. Tickets are $35 for the weekend; single day tickets range from $15 to $21. Call (214) 834-AKON.
Plays like Terrence McNally's The Ritz worked in the early 1970s because America--despite outward appearances to the contrary--was still basically uptight. The Summer of Love hadn't filtered into Middle America yet, and the square-jawed morality of the late 1950s hadn't been erased. The nation had buttons left to push, subjects that were still considered taboo. The Ritz was a success because, like any good farce, it knew how to push those buttons to elicit a laugh, even if some of it was nervous laughter. Twenty years later, after Jerry Springer proved that only one subject is off limits (uh, bestiality), a comedy about a "super-straight" man hiding from the Mafia in a gay bathhouse seems pretty tame, practically run-of-the-mill. The capable team at Pocket Sandwich Theatre should be able coax a few laughs out of The Ritz, but more than likely, the play's four-week run will remind us that nothing's shocking anymore. The Ritz opens on Friday, May 29, and continues through June 27. Thursdays through Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Food and beverage service is available 90 minutes before show time. Tickets are $6-$12. The Pocket Sandwich Theatre is located at 5400 E. Mockingbird, Suite 119. Call (214) 821-1860.
In 1994, the United States was overcome with World Cup fever. For an entire summer, soccer consumed us. A few people even started calling it football, not unlike every other nation in the world. The fever lasted a few months after the tournament was over, and then we all went back to watching real sports: baseball, basketball, and football--the kind with the oblong ball and helmets (sorry Stars fans; hockey is, and will always be, Canadian). Unfortunately for Major League Soccer, the league hatched during the throes of our one-night stand with the sport, soccer may never break into the Big Three. It had a good run in its first year, luring stars like Alexei Lalas and wooden actor Andrew Shue onto the field. Now, it's an afterthought to just about everyone who isn't on one of the league's 12 teams. Sure, soccer is one of the most popular participatory sports in the country, but it still hasn't caught on as a major spectator sport. Our own entry in the league, the Dallas Burn, ranks behind the Stars, the Cowboys, the Rangers and--God forbid--the Mavs in terms of sports page attention. Most people probably confuse the team with their indoor soccer counterparts, the Dallas Sidekicks. The Burn are currently in second place in the Western Conference, sporting a respectable 6-3-2 record. It may not be the World Cup, but it's still something worth getting excited about. Sort of. The Burn face off against the Miami Fusion at the Cotton Bowl on Sunday at 3 p.m. Call (214) 979-0303.
Though Ayn Rand steadfastly denied that Howard Roark--the architect in her book (and later film), The Fountainhead--was based on legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright, the similarities are hard to ignore, especially in the 1949 film version. In the film, Gary Cooper (as Roark) practically mimics Wright's voice and speaking style, and Roark's architectural style is basically a ripoff of Wright's. But Rand refused to 'fess up to using Wright as a model. It hardly matters anyway, because the most intriguing aspect of the film version was the heat generated by the real-life affair between Cooper and co-star Patricia Neal, adding a smoldering intensity to their scenes together. It's not exactly a classic, but it's definitely worth checking out. The USA Film Festival screens The Fountainhead as part of its First Monday Classics series at 7:30 p.m. at AMC Glen Lakes Theatres, 9450 N. Central Expressway at Walnut Hill. Tickets are $7 ($6 for members) and are available one hour prior to show time. Call (214) 821-NEWS.
It's encouraging to see two of Dallas' up-and-coming theater companies--Soul Rep and Cara Mia--combining their resources to present Ambient Love Rites, the second installment in the companies' joint Cafe/Negro Arts series. The series is an attempt to bring Dallas' African-American and Latino communities closer together. It started off with a bang in February with a production of for colored girls who've considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf. Ambient Love Rites, an examination of how a single moment can be interpreted in any number of ways, figures to be even better. In the spirit of community, a talk with the artists will follow every show. Ambient Love Rites opens at 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Ice House Gallery, 1000 W. Page. The play continues June 3-6 and 11-13. Tickets are $10. Call (972) 386-9198.
Photographer Ken Wagnon's photos are ostensibly nudes, but they are less a celebration of the female body than a study in how it contrasts with the angular world around it. His exhibition at Photographic Archives Gallery, Structures, features black-and-white photos that are more about the lines and shadows than about titillation; in fact, the women in the photos are almost an afterthought. It's not like you'd want to take a group of teenage boys anywhere near the gallery, but it's definitely not lascivious. Structures hangs at Photographic Archives Gallery, located at 5117 W. Lovers Lane, through June 6. Call (214) 352-3167.
It's no wonder that Freaks--the 1932 film populated with real-life human oddities--wasn't much of a success when it was released. The film's ad campaign featured phrases like, "Can a full-grown woman truly love a midget?" Consequently, the sympathetic undertones of the movie were overlooked. Although it is filled with sideshow attractions like a human skeleton, a bearded woman, and a man with no arms or legs, they are just a backdrop to the film's tale of love and betrayal. The MAC gives viewers a chance to appreciate Freaks with a special screening at 8 p.m. The MAC is located at 3120 McKinney Ave., Suite 100. Call (214) 953-1212.