Caroline Aiken: There are musical legends that you see on MTV and Grammy Awards broadcasts, and then there are musical legends you have to be turned on to by friends. Veteran singer-songwriter-instrumentalist Caroline Aiken falls into the latter category. She has performed her brand of smooth, supple, acoustic blues and folk for 20 years now, springing from the Atlanta music scene onto the national club circuit. Consider the more famous folks who have asked Aiken to collaborate--Bonnie Raitt, Lyle Lovett, Arlo Guthrie, the Indigo Girls (they were early, diehard fans), and the late Muddy Waters, among others. Aiken isn't a gut-bucket blues chanteuse, nor is she one of those guitar-strumming sob sisters who set bad poetry to anemic, folky melodies. The pain in her songs is as measured and articulate as the joy. Aiken is touring to support her latest CD, Live Bait, which is getting national airplay on folk-acoustic shows like "Acoustic Cafe" that have suddenly become more difficult to find on local radio. Her daughter, Sarah Page, makes her debut on the CD. If you love great voices, Aiken's will send chills down your spine. She performs at 8 p.m. at Poor David's Pub, 1924 Greenville. Tickets are $5. Call 821-9891.
Miss Julie: The major criticism of the legendary Swedish playwright August Strindberg was that he hated women. In many ways his plays can be seen as psychological torture sessions for his characters, as Strindberg examines issues of control and evolution in relationships. It's true that some of his female creations reflect a strange paranoia, but Strindberg, like most great artists, was able to transform his own prejudices into a lesson on human nature. Miss Julie is arguably his most famous play, a towering work of modern character exploration in which a bitchy aristocrat and her shallow servant develop a mutual obsession. Kitchen Dog Theatre gives performances Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through February 4 at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary, 3120 McKinney. Tickets are $6-$12. Call 871-ARTS.
Ann Cushing Gantz: You may not have ever heard of Ann Cushing Gantz, but rest assured, in Texas artistic circles, she is something of a matriarch--a woman who for the last 40 years has amassed awards and impressive showings for her enormous output as a painter. Her paintings, while often showing the influence of French impressionists, are deceptively "light"--the brush-strokes are assured, the colors vibrant--but faces stare out of a Cushing painting with a haunted expression. Most of the paintings for the retrospective exhibition, 1956-1996, have been donated by friends and students. An opening reception happens 8-9:30 p.m. The show runs through February 16 at Dallas Visual Art Center, 2917 Swiss Avenue. Call 821-2522.
ScubaFest '96: Scuba diving is one of those exotic sports that fascinate the uninitiated, but most of us don't ever expect we'll actually wear a snorkel someday. If you're dying to explore the universe underwater, check out ScubaFest '96, an afternoon and evening of seminars, workshops, demonstrations, and a swap meet at which seasoned divers can sell or trade old equipment. The more exotic events--at the bottom of an Olympic-sized, indoor, heated pool--include an obstacle course and a dance. Bring your own swimsuit and snorkel gear if you actually plan on getting wet. Hours are 1-8 p.m. in the Northlake College Aquatic Center, 5001 N. MacArthur Blvd in Irving. Call 891-3446.
Beyond Communion with Whitley Streiber: The enormous success of Whitley Streiber's 1985 non-fiction book Communion has earned the man something of a cult. Previous to that title's publication, Streiber was most famous as a writer of entertaining supernatural potboilers (he penned Wolfen and The Hunger), but no one expected what Communion would say--that the author had in fact been in direct contact with extraterrestrial creatures (in retrospect, Streiber's confessional predated the wacky talk-show culture). He speaks before the Eclectic Viewpoint about information he's never published before--claims about the steady increase over the last 25 years of UFO activity around the world. The show opens at 7:30 p.m. at the Unity Church of Dallas, 6525 Forest Lane. Admission is $15. Call 601-7687.
Beyond Race: Over the last couple of years, there's been a subtle but definite change in the ongoing debate over race in America. Because of a number of factors--the rise of the controversial Louis Farrakhan as a national spokesman, the O.J. Simpson verdict, troubles that riddled the venerable NAACP, a general national shift toward the right--Anglos and African-Americans have been more honest with each other than at any other time about issues of status. Actually, whites have finally been roused to confess their own mixed feelings about issues that black activists have been raising for decades. KRLD NewsRadio 1080 begins a program that attempts to provide an honest forum for people of all different races to attempt, if possible, to reach a consensus. Beyond Race is hosted by former civil-rights activist Peter Johnson, a man who knew both Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X and has distinguished himself for his decidedly non-inflammatory take on emotional issues. Johnson assures listeners that "every opinion will be valuable," but you have to wonder if he's ready for the nut cases and reactionaries who tend to make up the talk-radio audience. Beyond Race airs from 7 to 9 p.m. on KRLD NewsRadio 1080. For more information, call 445-6234.
A Remembrance and a Sigh: There's no satisfying explanation for what triggers the artistic muse. Fort Worth-based painter Ana Beaulac, for example, picked up the brush in 1989 after the tragic death of her son. She and husband Cirrus Bonneau, a photographer and sculptor, are featured in A Remembrance and a Sigh. Both are staunch Catholics who describe the act of creation as a kind of communion with God. Come see if you can locate the holy thread in these works. The show opens January 12 and runs through February 14 at Haggar Gallery, 1845 E. Northgate Drive in Irving. It's free. Call 721-5319.
Elektra: While people complain about how cold and arrogant the field of psychoanalysis is, Freud and the rest of his cronies were in many ways merely theoreticians who streamlined insights on human nature first provided by the classics of literature. Freud didn't create, but rather merely reorganized, concepts like Oedipus and Elektra complexes. The latter refers to an infantile stage of development in which a daughter (supposedly) becomes a rival with her mother for her father's affection. The Dallas Opera presents a highly stylized, erotic production of the Greek tragedy Elektra and we bet it'll be more fun than reading a Freudian essay on childhood sexuality. Performances are January 11, 17, and 20 at 7:30 p.m. and January 14 at 2 p.m. at the Fair Park Music Hall. Tickets are $20-$105. Call 443-1000.
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Grosse Fatigue: As part of its Independent Showcase, the USA Film Festival screens one of the most critically acclaimed comedies of 1995--a huge hit in France, where it was produced, as well as in New York City. Grosse Fatigue was written and directed by and stars Michel Blanc, the great comic-dramatic actor whose gnomish charisma would translate to superstardom only in Europe. Blanc plays himself, and rounded up a galaxy of French stars to play themselves, in this absurdist send-up of fame that involves a Blanc look-alike (Blanc again) who is taking over his career. The perpetually aghast actor soon discovers that the public doesn't really care who Michel Blanc is, as long as the image shows up on time. The screening kicks off at 7:30 p.m. at the AMC Glen Lakes Theatres, 9450 N. Central Expressway. Tickets are $6.50. Call 821-NEWS.
Paul Robeson Jr.: If you want to know what it's like to labor in the shadow of a profoundly revered public figure, then just ask Paul Robeson Jr. He is, of course, the son of stage-and-screen-actor-turned-activist Paul Robeson, a man who stands as one of the earliest, most public, and most eloquent advocates for civil rights in America. Robeson Jr. has carved out for himself a reputation as a journalist and archivist who continued his father's activism, but spreads a wider net with news stories that include the complex relationship between blacks and Jews and the fall of the Soviet Union. He comes to Dallas to address the South Dallas Cultural Center's Tenth Anniversary Public Holiday celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. The Breakfast and Scholarship Awards Ceremony happens at 8 a.m. at the Fairmont Hotel. Tickets are $25 per person. Call 670-0314.
C.J. Critt: With libraries all across the country (including Dallas) taking it in the teeth with municipal budget cuts, library officials are scrambling to find more ways to connect directly with the public. One of the ways you can show support is not painless, but it is downright fun: Attend the Spoken Word Coffee House, a Tuesday evening performance and "kaffee klatsch." Returning after her last warmly received performance in the House is C.J. Critt, the Dallas-based actress-poet-monologist whose credits include the footlights of Broadway and TV commercials (she was the original "ring around the collar" lady). Critt has performed her spoken-word show all around the country to ecstatic reviews. Critt performs at 7 p.m. at 3845 N. Garland at Apollo. A $5 donation for program and refreshments is requested. Call 205-2803.
The Sternheim Project: The Unmentionables and The Snob: Dallas Theater Center artistic director Richard Hamburger commissioned an original adaptation of two great (though rarely performed) turn-of-the-century German masterpieces by Carl Sternheim. The two short plays, The Unmentionables and The Snob, are being produced under the title The Sternheim Project. Both explore in broad comic terms the pursuit of money and social status and how they start to blur together in ridiculous ways as the chase gets more desperate. Co-adapters Paul Lampert, Kate Sullivan, and Melissa Cooper have updated the plays to explore the American 20th century's two crassest decades--the '50s and the '80s. Performances happen Tuesdays through Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.; Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 2 & 8 p.m.; and Sundays at 2 p.m. through February 4 at the Kalita Humphreys Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd. Tickets are $15-$39. Call 522-