Rocket to the Moon: New Theatre Company picks up the Clifford Odets baton handed to it by the Richardson Theatre Centre, which staged a sumptuous Odets script called The Big Knife a couple months back. That one concerned the evils of Hollywood greed and was bedecked in gorgeous costumes; New Theatre Company's period melodrama Rocket to the Moon boasts Depression-era "little guys" and a pared-down script by actor-artistic director Bruce Coleman. Odets, a screenwriter and playwright with leftist sympathies in the left-happy artistic circles of 1930s New York, wrote slangy dialogue that will sound wildly dated unless you're willing to appreciate it for the era it strove to capture. Then the poetry emerges. Performances happen Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m. through September 21 at the Swiss Avenue Theater Center, 2700 Swiss Avenue. Tickets are $5-$10. Call 871-ARTS.
The Dallas Morning News Dance Festival: Every year Dallas' Only Daily is the megacorporate sponsor for the eponymous Dance Festival, which dares to celebrate the art of movement in a city that has all but turned its back on dance. Hearteningly, there are a list of other big bidnesses--Exxon and Trammell Crow, specifically--that recognize the lapse and throw in their support for four nights of performances that include luminaries like Dallas Black Dance Theatre, Fort Worth Dallas Ballet, Anita N. Martinez Ballet Folklorico, and Dancers Unlimited. Performances happen August 29-September 1 at 8:15 p.m. in Artist Square in the downtown Arts District, just east of the Meyerson Symphony Center. It's free, but come early to grab a good spot. Call 953-1977.
Westfest: Sometimes it seems like Texas is the most non-European land in the world, what with the overwhelming pressure on immigrants here to drop their previous traditions, buy a pickup truck, and develop an obsession for football. Since 1976, the organizers of the annual Westfest celebration have striven to let other Texans and the rest of the world know that there are ethnic flavors beyond Tex-Mex, and they can jibe perfectly with the aforementioned lifestyle. Westfest takes place every year in the Central Texas town of West, located about 15 miles north of Waco on I-35. It's a convergence of all things Czechoslovakian with food, dance, a parade, an arts and crafts tent, gymnastics, costumes, etc. If you love to eat and the word kolache isn't part of your vocabulary, Westfest is a must-do. Events happen at various locations August 30, beginning at 7 p.m.; and August 31 and September 1, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 a.m. Tickets are $2-$5. (Kids younger than 6 get in free.) For directions call (817) 826-5058.
North Texas Reptile and Exotic Pet Expo: As you can see by the title of the event, The North Texas Reptile and Exotic Pet Expo acknowledges that our scaly, cold-blooded neighbors on the planet can indeed be adapted as pets, so if you've had the urge to cuddle with an iguana, you are not among those addle-brained Homo sapiens who think it'd be really cool to keep, say, a leopard or a baboon around the house. One of the attractions of the event, sponsored by the North Texas Herpetological Society, is that professional breeders and the reptilian-challenged alike are offered demonstrations, talks, and sale and info booths to accommodate their passion. Expect to see plenty of God's creatures some of us might not swerve to avoid should they cross our path on the highway. Events happen August 31, 9 a.m.-6 p.m., and September 1, 11 a.m.-6 p.m., at the Arlington Convention Center in Arlington. Tickets are $6-$10. Call (704) 327-9910.
Hawkwood Medieval Fantasy Faire: Not intimidated by that vanquishing knight known as Scarborough Faire, the North Texas-owned and -operated Past Times Productions Inc. has thrown down the gauntlet to challenge you to another theme park based on the era of black plague, bad teeth, and and nary an HMO to be found. Hawkwood Medieval Fantasy Faire features more than 10 acres of 200-year-old trees that have been respectfully trimmed to create a shady fantasyland of wenches, ladies, mythological creatures, and strolling entertainers. There are archery tournaments, pubs, a village bakery, and six live performance stages among the attractions. The whole shebang is open every Saturday, 10 a.m.-midnight, and every Sunday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., through September 29 in a rural space just northeast of Fort Worth. Tickets are $5-$20; kids younger than 3 allowed free. For directions call (817) 430-4102.
Travels With My Aunt: Fort Worth's Stage West presents Gilves Havergal's wildly popular adaptation of Graham Greene's novel, Travels With My Aunt. Novelist-critic Greene created one of the most adventurous, iconoclastic women ever to grace Anglo literature--Aunt Pulling, the 75-year-old dreamer who drags her retired nephew around the world while she searches for a former Italian lover who has since delved deeper into the shady deals for which she fell so fondly in love with him. All the characters of Travels With My Aunt are portrayed by four men who eschew the tiresome trappings of drag to become these women in voice and spirit, not wardrobe. Preview performances happen August 30 at 8 p.m.; August 31 at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and September 1 at 7 p.m. The regular happens Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8 p.m.; Fridays at 7 p.m.; Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sundays at 7 p.m. through September 28 at 3055 South University Drive in Fort Worth. Tickets are $11-$14. Call (817) 924-9454.
The Great Escape: Part of the fun of being a film critic is concocting wild theories about the psychosexual undercurrents that run through popular cinema. Nobody did it better than the late, great gay critic Parker Tyler, who was actually rather conservative when it came to finding a closet door on classic movies; he didn't offer his humorous though serious-minded interpretation unless he saw a consistent thread throughout the film. The Great Escape (1963) is a beloved war thriller about guys who really love hanging out with each other that didn't escape Tyler's eye. Sometimes an underground tunnel is just an underground tunnel, but in Tyler's bawdy and not altogether far-fetched assessment of The Great Escape, the project these macho, womanless war heroes undertake involves bonding through their collective desire to deeply penetrate an orifice. Don't be a testosterone-dampened rag like Chuck Heston; join the fun and subtextualize! The Great Escape screens September 2 at 7 p.m. at the AMC Glen Lakes, 9450 N. Central, and September 3 at 7 p.m. at the AMC Sundance 11, 304 Houston in Fort Worth. Tickets are $6.50 for each show. Call 821-NEWS.
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Photographs and Papers: The federal government has passed anti-paperwork legislation to cut down on the landslide of documents it produces every year, but even that provision has caused a flurry of additional paperwork to keep it maintained. Faceless entities like the government and creditors store information about us in both software and hard-copy form, which raises an interesting philosophical issue--the conflict between official data and private lives. Dallas artists Kathy Lovas and Karen Simpson explore this issue in Photographs and Papers, their collaborative installation that features storage boxes, shredded documents, old and new papers, and a shredder machine. Interested less in stimulating the senses than provoking thought, these two artists want to know what became of us when we became nothing but a mountain of paperwork. The show runs through October 5 at Handley-Hicks Gallery, 6515 E. Lancaster in Fort Worth. Call (817) 446-5004.
Sun & Star '96: For more than a year now press kits, media alerts, and last-minute developments have been arriving for the much-ballyhooed Sun & Star '96, the 100-day, $10 million American-Japanese business celebration that includes visual art, performance, lectures, film, and what-have-you from Japan. Sun & Star '96 officially begins today with the opening of Sculptures by Tom Orr and Yonekichi Tanaka at the Conduit Gallery and a noon opening ceremony with Mayor Ron Kirk and Japanese dignitaries at the downtown Majestic Theatre. The Japanese know how to live; they mark an event with nothing so tedious as a ribbon-cutting. For them, only the breaking of the sake barrel will suffice. For info call 891-2923.
The Floating World: Japanese Woodblock Prints from the Ukiyo-e Period: If you're a visual art fan but you've never witnessed the enormous time and painstaking detail that go into the process of printmaking, then you'll love the discipline even more if you visit The Floating World: Japanese Woodblock Prints from the Ukiyo-e Period. This exhibition, which coincides with the general onslaught of Japanese-related events for Sun & Star '96, highlights the final decades of a 400-year period of popular art in feudal Japan so revered that the Ukiyo-e artists worked virtually free from the government's iron grip. More than 30 prints are on display, but the highlight of the show may be the step-by-step display of the woodblock printing process, which easily beats even watercolor-painting and photography for time-consuming, detail-oriented rigors. The show opens September 4 and runs through October 9 at the Haggar Gallery at the University of Dallas, 1845 E. Northgate Drive in Irving. It's free. Call 721-5099.
Buddy Holly Music Festival: Little Richard remembered him as the guy who loved women so much, he sometimes rushed with his fly open to start his shows; Lubbock and most of the rest of the world remember him as a seminal (pun intended) influence on American popular music who died too young. His scenic West Texas hometown hosts a four-day recognition of what would've been Holly's 60th birthday. Among the festivities are the Texas premiere performance of the musical Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, which has already wowed 'em in London and Germany; a sock hop; a classic-car show; a ceremony renaming Avenue H to Buddy Holly Avenue; and a street festival that boasts four outdoor and seven indoor stages with performances by, among others, Joe Ely and Holly's original backup band, the Crickets. Events happen at various times and locations September 4 through 7 in the city of Lubbock. Prices are different for individual events. Call 1-800-692-4035.