It took awhile for me to get it, this whole slam poetry thing, which is odd, since I profess to like poetry. But poetry competitions, with teams and judges and points and awards? Poetry as stage performance and quasi-sporting event? That's not poetry; poetry comes in books, written mostly by dead people. It's "September 1, 1939" (I and the public know/What all schoolchildren learn/Those to whom evil is done/Do evil in return) and "Fra Lippo Lippi" ("This world's no blot for us/Nor blank; it means intensely, and means good") and thousands of words that went from a page to my heart. Living poetry? What's that? But then, I'm an idiot. Luckily for poetry and poets, Russell Simmons is not. He's one of the geniuses behind Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam, the Tony Award-winning "theatrical event" based on the unlikely assumption that underlies poetry slams--that even today poets have something to say that audiences will be excited to hear. The show comes to The Majestic Theatre, February 10 through February 15, when eight breathing artists, some of the slam competitors, will perform their works. Granted, their words haven't been filtered through academia, parsed by graduate students and given a stamp of approval by professors, but Def Poetry Jam makes up for these shortcomings by possessing a pulse and speaking today's language. Amazing. It's enough to make an idiotic old poetry-lover put down his book and leave the house. Performances begin at 8 p.m., with matinee performances at 2 p.m. February 14 and February 15. Tickets are $10 to $53 and available from Ticketmaster, 214-373-8000. --Patrick Williams
My crucifix is from the U.S. Virgin Island of St. Croix. The shopkeeper said it was an ancient artifact. This is possible: The brass is tarnished, the INRI placard (Latin abbreviation for Jesus of Nazareth, king of the Jews) above Christ's head wobbles, and his face is worn, making him resemble a sock monkey. But I doubt its age can be counted in centuries. What is not in doubt is that the crucifixion is one of the most pivotal events in the annals of western civilization. If you doubt this, take a peek at John McGreevy's classic biblical epic The Robe at the Garland Civic Theatre. The Robe tells the story of Marcellus, a Roman soldier who wins Christ's robe as a gambling prize and then embarks on a journey to discover the truth about the Nazarene's robe--a quest of spiritual longing that explores the crucifixion, the resurrection and ultimate redemption. Performances are 8 p.m. February 7 and February 12 through February 14 and 2 p.m. February 7 and February 14 at the Granville Arts Center, Fifth and Austin streets, Garland. Call 972-205-2790. --Mark Stuertz
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Take a Trip
Tell me this isn't the best advertising pitch you've ever heard for a play: "Betty's Summer Vacation, a black-comedy send-up of America's insatiable appetite for scandal and reality television, is a merry beachside romp featuring murder, mutilation and charades." Awesome. Anytime you can work "merry" and "murder" into the same sentence, you're onto something hot. The University of Texas at Dallas is putting on Betty's Summer Vacation--complete with the promised mutilation and charades--Friday through Sunday through February 15 in the University Theatre. Friday and Saturday performances will begin at 8 p.m., and Sunday matinees will start at 2:30 p.m. Tickets will be $15 for adults and $10 for students. Call 972-883-2787. --John Gonzalez
World to the Wise
Contemporary Ballet Dallas keeps the art, not the pretense
First position: Ballet sure is pretty to watch, all those gravity-defying, pointy-toed Betties floating across the stage. Second position: But it's a little, you know, stuffy. Third position: Which is why Contemporary Ballet Dallas is a nice aesthetic compromise, marrying the classicism of the form with music from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bach and local string quartet NEO Camerata. Fourth position: On Saturday at 8 p.m., CBD performs Terpsichore's World, a six-series performance inspired by Terpsichore, the Greek goddess of dance. Fifth position: The performance takes place at Southern Methodist University's McFarlin Auditorium. Call 214-528-5576 for tickets, which are $15 to $25. Sixth position: Hmm, what is that one again? Like your heels clicking together and your toes pointing outward? Oh, well. We'll leave that to the professionals. --Sarah Hepola
The Navy band brings high C's from the high seas
While their fellow sailors are busy on ships, planes and subs doing their part to protect us from The Evildoers, the men and women of the United States Navy Band have a different patriotic duty: to entertain the civilian masses. The band members will be picking up their instruments for a free concert at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, 2301 Flora St., on February 9 as part of the 2004 national tour. The concert will feature nine Texas musicians, four of whom are from the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Among the four is saxophonist and senior chief musician Timothy Roberts of Richardson, who will perform a solo during "Fantasy on an Original Theme" by Jules Demersseman. The concert starts at 8 p.m., and the free tickets are available at all three Elliott's Hardware locations. Call 214-670-3600. --Mary Monigold