Old-Fashioned Fourth: The venerable downtown Dallas historical site known as Old City Park advertises its Fourth of July celebration as "first on the Fourth for families." This constellation of consonants is correct only insofar as the city of Dallas goes (see Arlington Parade below). Should you be off work today, and the kids in your care are bellowing for a proper Fourth--and don't require beer to survive each brain-flaying moment of family togetherness--head on over to the Park. Its Old-Fashioned Fourth features live demonstrations of crafts from the pioneer days of Texas (as well as the turn-of-the-century "Victorian" era that seemed to bypass the Southwest altogether). There's also a full-dressed Native American interpreter to ensure historical even-handedness, a parade, a hay ride, live music, and square dancing. Events happen 10 a.m.-4p.m. at Old City Park, 1717 Gano. Tickets are $2-$4. Call 421-5141.
31st-Annual Arlington Fourth of July Parade: Who says Arlington is just an ambitious suburb of Fort Worth? For 31 years now, Arlington's city parents have celebrated a Fourth of July parade that invokes the nostalgic best of mythological Small Town America with the drawing power that a major Texas city boasts. Indeed, at press time the 31st-Annual Arlington Fourth of July Association Parade had notched more than 150 entries for its procession, including every single high-school band from the Arlington area and many of the drill teams and cheerleaders from those schools. You can expect business-, government-, and private-sponsored floats, antique and classic cars, horses, clowns and other street performers, and a lot more. A street celebration begins after the procession; the parade kicks off at 9 a.m. at Mitchell and Cooper in downtown Arlington.
The Big Knife: The Richardson Theatre Centre presents the revival of a little-known play by a little-discussed playwright who was the most critically acclaimed theater artist of the '30s and '40s. Although he may have possessed the hair of George Kauffman, Clifford Odets was more or less being aped by John Turturro in the Coen Brothers' Barton Fink. With his odes to the struggle of the little guy (and girl), Odets rescued the American theater from its escapist preoccupations. Unfortunately, his muckraking moralism and working-class condescension haven't aged well, which explains why the Richardson Theatre Centre performs his latest as a campy, soapy melodrama. The Big Knife is a sordid tale of a screen actor who slowly disintegrates through perennial Hollywood temptations. Performances happen Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m. through July 27 at 718 Canyon Creek Square behind the Tom Thumb in Richardson. Tickets are $8-$10. Call 699-1130.
First Friday Stargazing: If gigantic bursts of light in the night sky is your way of celebrating American Independence Day, the "First Friday Stargazing" summer series at Richland College should easily light your fire. The Planetarium show that precedes the actual stargazing is known as "Richland Skies," and it's a large re-creation of the planets and stars you'd find in the raw sky this night. What you'll be seeing through the telescopes provided afterward by Richland College astronomers will be a spectacle considerably more beautiful than that provided by the incendiary doodads sold by East Texas roadsides, and stars--although very hot--have yet to set a single wood-shingled roof on fire. Any and all "First Friday Stargazing" events are dependent upon the good will of the weather, needless to say. Performances happen at 8 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. in the Planetarium of Sabine Hall, Richland College, 12800 Abrams Rd. It's free, but a small donation is appreciated and seating is limited. For info call 238-6013.
Pussy, Pussy, Pussy: It's a measure of how far sixth-grade humor has permeated civilized adult society at large that we must rush to provide a hasty explanation of the above title. "Pussy, Pussy, Pussy" is the name of a legendary single produced by North Texas bluesman Marvin "Smokey" Montgomery, who toiled in a medium which loved to sneak bawdy double entendres past the "adult, civilized society" (read "white people") for whom black practitioners often performed. Still, it's not the intention of the venerable Light Crust Doughboys to insult any potential ticket buyer. The fact that Montgomery himself was a Doughboy makes the reference that much more defensible. Come see "Pussy, Pussy, Pussy" and expect standards by Texas legends like Leadbelly, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Clarence "Pinetop" Smith, and others. Belter Sherrill Douglas makes a cameo appearance as Patsy Cline for a country diversion from this otherwise full-frontal blues program. The evening kicks off at 7:30 p.m. at the Pocket Sandwich Theatre, 5400 E. Mockingbird. Tickets are $10. Call 821-1860.
The Second-Annual Deep Ellum Summer Arts Festival: Speaking of festivals that celebrate the ever-thriving American blues tradition, the second-annual Deep Ellum Summer Arts Festival sweeps in with a live musical stage strictly dedicated to blues, jazz, and blues- and jazz-influenced performers like the Spin Doctors, Tablet, and the Freewheelers. The most American or un-American vision of the arts, depending on your impressions of the U.S. class war, is the Deep Ellum Summer Arts Festival Body-Art Exposition, in which folks with large, colorful, conspicuous tattoos are awarded trophies based on how colorful, conspicuous, and articulate their tattoos really are. Other visual arts are in the offing, as well as food and a host of strolling street performers. Festival hours are July 5, 7 p.m.-11 p.m.; July 6, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; and July 7, 1 p.m.-9 p.m. in Deep Ellum. It's free. Call 747-DEEP.
For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls and Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You: New York City-based playwright Christopher Durang might best be described as Woody Allen without the sentimentality. This staunch, Catholic-raised, bitterly funny playwright specializes in absurdist theater about adults who cannot escape the sentences of their childhoods. Lest you think this means Durang sides with the children, the first part of "Disgraceful Acts," Theatre Three's pair of Durang one-acts, should set you right. For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls is a caustic parody of Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie, whose childlike character, Laura, possesses "something sweet and sensitive that really got on my nerves." Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You is Durang's oft-performed, much-protested play about a tyrannical nun confronted by miserable former students. Performances happen Thursday-Saturday at 8:15 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at Theatre Three in The Quadrangle. Tickets are $17-$24. Call 871-3300.
Bows & Strings: The press information for Bows & Strings describes the North Texas-based quartet as "an outgrowth of recreational and self-enrichment rehearsal." Translate this to mean: We studied our instruments when we could find the time. What began as more or less a hobby turned into a business for violinists Priscilla McMullin and Monda Weir, violist Linda Perkins, and cellist Camilla Staggle, who discovered they were in demand for weddings, receptions, and community events (a tough, competitive business, as any musician will tell you). Bows & Strings joins with the city of Southlake and the Northeast Tarrant Arts Council for a musical performance the first Sunday of every month. The first show kicks off at 7 p.m. in the Bicentennial Park Community Center, 400 N. White Chapel. It's free. Call (817) 283-3406.
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Basically Beethoven: Speaking of kickoffs to free classical-music performances, the Basically Beethoven Festival '96 also gets under way this first Sunday in July. The performers in this presentation, The Fine Arts Chamber Players, as well as some special guests, are rigorously trained musicians you might normally pay 30 bucks to see (or you might not, as the case may be, which is one of the reasons for the shows). Highbrow guests for the debut of four concerts includes Yuri Anshelevich, associate principal cellist of the Dallas Symphony, and Motoi Takeda, associate concertmaster of the Dallas Symphony. Today's program includes Beethoven, Honegger, Franck, and de Falla. Three additional shows happen on the remaining Sundays in July. Today's performance happens at 3 p.m. in the Dallas Horticulture Center of Fair Park. It's free, but seating is limited. Call 520-2219.
We Love Our Children: It's a measure of the depressing climate of crossed wires and willful ignorance that surrounds homosexuality in this country that one of our largest gay-and-lesbian-related organizations is a "support" group. And the fact that PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) is compelled to label a public event "We Love Our Children," a touching but somewhat defensive declaration, speaks volumes about the stigma that certain social forces are working overtime to maintain. The topic for PFLAG's July general membership meeting is "Coming Out As Parents of Gay and Lesbian Children." Most of these "parents and friends" are not themselves homosexual, but discover they are in a peculiar position at work, family, and social gatherings when talk turns to relationships. Discussing your daughter and her boyfriend invokes significantly fewer disapproving silences and/or rude comments than mentioning your daughter and her girlfriend. Hear tales of "coming out" from folks who never thought in a million years they'd face that issue. The event kicks off at 7:30 p.m. at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center, 2701 Reagan at Brown. It's free. Call 528-4233.
Serie 1993-1996: Some of the top printmakers in Texas are represented in a touring art exhibition that originated in Austin, the vision of a man named Sam Coronado, whose Coronado Studios have been nurturing the art of the serigraph for three years now. Serie 1993-1996 is a best-of compendium from this three-year project and includes 35 prints. Coronado, who currently teaches printmaking at Austin Community College, and artists from San Antonio and Dallas are represented in the show, which is sponsored in this city by the Latino arts group ARTE (Artists Relating Together and Exhibiting). There's a reception for the artists July 13, 1-4 p.m. The show runs through July 31 in Gallery Four of the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library, 1515 Young. It's free. Call (512) 322-0109.
Othello: To be sure, The Shakespeare Festival of Dallas enjoys the patronage of well-heeled Dallas blue-hairs, international artists (Lynn Redgrave serves as honorary chairperson for this, the Festival's silver anniversary), and prominent national corporations, but it still needs all the change you can dig up from underneath your couch cushions. It's not widely known that the Shakespeare Festival of Dallas is the second-oldest festival of its kind in the country (New York is in the lead), but after the publicity blitz surrounding its 25th anniversary, you won't soon forget it. In a city that's unfortunately better-known nationally for its racial tensions than its cultural resources, Rene Moreno's mounting of Othello is a brave and startlingly relevant choice. Let's hope the cacophony of brie-munching doesn't drown the play's complex explorations of race, class, and pride. This week's performances of Othello happen July 4, 5, and 10 at 8:15 p.m. in Samuell-Grand Park in East Dallas. A Midsummer Night's Dream happens July 6, 7, and 9, also at 8:15 p.m. The shows are free, but donations are gratefully accepted. Call 559-2778.