Americans United For Separation of Church and State: You should know that Americans United For Separation of Church and State is not a bunch of godless pinko heathen, but a group of mainstream religious organizations like the National Council of the Churches of Christ, The Episcopal Church, and the American Jewish Congress. (The godless pinko heathen quotient is well satisfied by the ACLU, a supporting organization.) What AUFSCS seeks is the continued vitality of America's freedom of religion, which is not what many religious right groups seek, regardless of how often the Christian Coalition wraps its absolutist agenda in the Constitution. Bunnie Riedel, national director of chapters and faith groups for AUFSCS, comes to Dallas to rouse the devout into taking a stand against conservative fundamentalist tampering with public education, human rights, and various matters of conscience. The evening happens at 7:30 p.m. at the Center for Community Cooperation, 2900 Live Oak St. It's free. Call (214) 821-0911.
Romantic and Erotic Poetry: The week after Valentine's Day, long after we singles have snuffed out the Make-Close-Friends-Who-Are-Couples-Have-a-Messy-Split candle we bought at our neighborhood botanica, the Dallas Poets Community gathers together for an evening of "Romantic and Erotic Poetry." Featured performer for the show is wordsmith-performance artist Dalton James, who delivered a smashing mythological exploration of gay romance called Wet Willie Loves Pyro last December. Nimble with humor as well as pathos, James is the perfect guide for an unsentimental trek through the post-Valentine's wasteland. The evening kicks off at 8 p.m. in the Mc-Kinney Avenue Contemporary, McKinney and Bowen. Like love, it's free, but donations are gratefully accepted. Call (214) 953-1212.
22nd Annual Tri Delta Charity Antiques Show: For all you genuine antique collectors out there, here's the venerable Dallas show that for once really does traffic in rare and expensive old items, not the nostalgia stuff people pull out from underneath couch cushions and peddle at flea markets. This year's 22nd annual Tri Delta Charity Antiques Show features as its big attraction "British Regional Furniture of the 18th and 19th Centuries," a loan exhibition that elucidates the leg and back styles of furniture for those of us who have trouble telling a Louis from a La-Z (Boy, that is). The show runs February 20-23 in the East Hall of the Dallas Convention Center. For info call (214) 443-040.
Exhibits at 5501: Dallas historian-curator Alan Govenar's 5501 Columbia has packed four simultaneous exhibitions into one ambitious opening night. Art historian and bookmaker Judith Golden indulges her love of illustrated medieval and original manuscripts in a show called "Books," which features a retrospective of her own stuff created over the last 25 years. Nic Nicosia's "Life" is a first for that renowned photographer, a mixed media installation of life-size puppets that all feature plaster caps of Nicosia's head and hands on a series that illustrates the journey from birth to death. "Recent Acquisitions: Alonzo Jordan and Eugene Roquemore" spotlights the recent addition of Jordan and Roquemore's Texas black community photos to the Texas African American Photography Archives. New York University teacher and artist Ann Chwatsky investigates the blurring of gender identity and appearance with her photo show dubbed "The Androgyny Series." All exhibits open with a reception February 21, 6-8 p.m. All shows close June 7 at 5501 Columbia. For info call 823-8955.
13th Annual Dallas County RV Show: "Ma, load up the RV!" is a call for adventure from a subculture of Americans whose destiny is manifest in keeping those big wheels turning. The 13th Annual Dallas County RV Show is both mecca and affirmation for the hundreds of thousands of recreational vehicle owners who want to take advantage of the winter/spring series. Scintillating features of the new RVs include kitchen and entertainment center slide-outs as well as rain-sensored roof vents and gray hair for Baby Boomers, who've caused a 20 percent growth spurt in RV sales over the last couple years. The show runs daily February 20-23 at Market Hall on Stemmons Freeway.
Soul Food and Gospel: It's all well and good to peruse items of black history displayed behind glass cases, but Dallas public libraries offer you a pair of Black History Month celebrations you can taste and swing your hips to. MLK Jr. Library hosts a Soul Food Contest that invites everyone to bring a favorite dish to enter and be judged (please include a copy of the recipe). The Soul Food Contest starts at noon at the Martin Luther King Jr. Branch Library, 2922 MLK Jr. Blvd. It's free. Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church, Hamilton Park United Methodist Church, and Friendship West Baptist Church pool their choirs for a family program of gospel music entitled Lift Every Voice. The gospel fest happens at 2 p.m. at Walnut Hill Branch Library, 9495 Marsh Ln. Call (214) 670-6376.
Saluting Ourselves: African-American Lesbian and Gay History: The recently published One More River to Cross: Black and Gay in America is an unsparing, clear-eyed investigation into the no-man's land of being African-American and homosexual, an austere cultural place between the cracks that finds you being shunned by the conservative-minded black community for your sexuality and by the non-black community for your sexuality and skin color. One More River author Keith Boykin is the keynote speaker at "Saluting Ourselves," a program that offers dance, music, poetry, and historical tidbits about gay and lesbian African-Americans. The evening kicks off at 6 p.m. at Cathedral of Hope, 5910 Cedar Springs Rd. Tickets are $5-$10. Call (972) 504-6790.
Movie Magic: The majority of Americans love classical music--they just don't know it, since their primary access is through classics like Fantasia and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Great European compositions from both of those flicks are featured, along with original themes from Toy Story and Star Wars, at the Plano Chamber Orchestra's "Movie Magic." Movie music fans who've chosen not to reproduce must wear their most generous grins while sitting through artwork by Barron and Brinker Elementary School students, who've created art based on favorite movies that will be projected on large screens behind the orchestra. The concert starts at 7:30 p.m. in the Fellowship Bible Church, 850 Lexington, Plano. Tickets are $7-$13. Call (972) 985-1983.
The Comedy of Errors: As if to prove the deconstructivist and non-pejorative contention that the spirit of William Shakespeare is channeled through reruns of Three's Company and Love American Style, The Undermain Theatre presents a contemporary version of the Bard's The Comedy of Errors. Undermain clowns Raphael Parry, Lisa Lee Schmidt, Laurel Hoistma, and Kateri Cale team up with Classic Theatre Company's Greg Gormley to recreate the love disasters attendant upon the reunion of two sets of twins after a postnatal separation. Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m. and Friday and Saturday at 8:15 p.m. through April 5 at The Basement Space, 3200 Main Street. Tickets are $8-$18 (Wednesdays are pay-what-you-can). Call (214) 747-5515.
Measure For Measure: If one Shake of Willie's Spear doesn't satisfy your jones, bop on over to Fort Worth after the Undermain's opening night (after previews on the 21st and 22nd) to catch Stage West's production of Measure For Measure. This is easily the bleakest and most morally inquisitive of Shakespeare's comedies, the story of a Duke who appoints a rigid moralist to enforce the country's laws and the first man to fall victim to this new "zero tolerance" policy--a hapless fellow who makes the mistake of getting the woman he loves pregnant. Performances are Thursday, 7:30 p.m.; Friday, 8 p.m.; Saturday, 3 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, 7:30 p.m. through March 15 at 3055 South University Drive, Fort Worth. Tickets are $13-$16. Call (817) 924-9454.
Blake Clark: No whining about being a victim from TV star and standup Blake Clark, a battle-experienced Vietnam vet and a self-described "middle-class heterosexual Anglo male" who's too smart to join a "Defending the Caveman" club where he can kvetch with others about how hard it is to be a middle-class heterosexual Anglo male. Clark is a supporting regular on three ABC-TV sitcoms--Home Improvement, The Drew Carey Show, and Boy Meets World--who has prospered working the "regular guy" thing, but his standup is more interested in finding the humanity of blue-collar men than scoring points off aggrieved minority groups. Clark performs shows February 19-23 at The Improv, 4980 Belt Line, Addison. For time and ticket info call (972) 404-8501.
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Arts & Letters Live: Dallas' annual claim to literary significance, the winter/spring Arts & Letters Live series, opens with a "Texas Bound" program that features a group of A & L veterans reading short stories by Texas writers. The Spitfire Grill star and Broadway chanteuse Marcia Gay Harden; TV staple and "The Jeff Foxworthy Show" regular G.W. Bailey; and Dallas actress Sheriden Thomas (who played Harper in DTC's two Angels in America productions, a role which snagged Harden a Tony nomination) all converge to read works by Barbara Hudson, Larry L. King, and Winifred Sanford. Performances will be at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. at the Dallas Museum of Art, 1717 N. Harwood. Tickets are $10-$12. Call (214) 922-1219.
Penguin Island: The Fort Worth Zoo presents a new set of friends for your kids who'll keep them occupied with cool antics but won't introduce them to Harvester and other illicit kid pleasures. "Penguin Island" is the latest creature coup for the Zoo, a collection of African black-footed penguins for whom Texas summers are a little chilly. An underwater viewing area means the poor little buggers get no respite whatsoever from the prying eyes of you and your kids. To get to the Fort Worth Zoo, exit I-30 at University Drive in Fort Worth, go south at Colonial Parkway, take a left, and follow signs to the Zoo. Tickets are $3-$7 (kids under two get in free) and parking is $3 per car. Call (817) 871-7005.
Love Conquers War: The Art of Lindee Climo: The Mexican Cultural Center and SMU's Meadows Museum pool resources to present an art exhibition of a woman who has often preferred the company of sheep to other human beings. Canadian resident Lindee Climo hasn't broken any laws of man or nature in pursuing her love of these gentle animals; it's strictly an aesthetic and spiritual appreciation that has led this self-taught painter to create startlingly beautiful parodies of 20th century masterworks that substitute sheep and other farm animals for people and gods. Love Conquers War is the name of her very serious, haunting anthropomorphic forays. The show runs through March 30 in The Meadows Museum, Binkley and Bishop, at Southern Methodist University. It's free. Call (214) 824-9981.
Penn & Teller: One's short and narrow, the other's tall and wide. As a force of two, they've conquered just about every corner of high and low comedy you can name. The peculiar, bloodless nastiness that is Penn and Teller's trademark is a sublime hybrid of both, as they unite vaudeville and MIT (where they have been named Visiting Scholars) into a repertoire that might best be described as "Smart Human Tricks." Penn and Teller come to Dallas for a series of performances to try out new material that is Broadway-bound. Performances happen February 26-28 at 8 p.m. and March 1 at 7 and 10 p.m. at the Majestic Theatre, 1924 Elm St. Tickets are $20-$30. Call (972) 570-1637.