Utopia Danza-Teatro: Based on a reading of its press information, it would be tempting to describe the Mexican dance troupe Utopia Danza-Teatro as "experimental," but there is nothing new or uncertain about the themes that underlie its mixed-media work--economic instability in its homeland and the anonymity of the poorest segments of the population. Utopia Danza-Teatro comes to Dallas to give four performances of "Invierno 31:00:94" and "Letters from the Winter." These dancers are known for the emotional and physical extremes they undergo to put a performance across. Performances happen September 5-7 at 8 p.m., and September 8 at 2 p.m., at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary, 3120 McKinney Ave. Tickets are $8-$12. Call 953-1212.
Our Lady of the Tortilla: The Fort Worth Theatre, currently enjoying its 42nd season of live performance, kicks off its Hispanic series with Luis Santeiro's generational comedy, Our Lady of the Tortilla. Attitudes of three Latino generations are brought under the microscope about subjects including marriage, career, and interracial relationships when one family is forced to confront what appears to be the legendary Lady of Guadalupe--on a tortilla. The opening night performance happens at 8:15 p.m.; the show happens Fridays and Saturdays at 8:15 p.m. through September 21 at Orchestra Hall, 4401 Trail Lake Drive at the corner of Granbury Road in Fort Worth. Tickets are $5-$12. Call (817) 738-7491.
Tabibito--Traveler and Faces of Dallas/Faces of Sendai: In the "let's share our toys" spirit of Sun and Star '96, the 100-day Japanese-American exchange festival begun this week in Dallas, Photographic Archives Gallery presents two shows. Tabibito--Traveler presents portraiture by Tokyo native Yasuko Robinson and collages by Adrienne T. Rosenberg. As you might have predicted, they converge in interesting places. Faces of Dallas/Faces of Sendai is a joint project in which American and Japanese high-schoolers trained the camera lens on their own hometowns and came up with...you'll see. The shows open today and features a reception September 8 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. It runs through October 5 at Photographic Archives Gallery, 5117 West Lovers Lane. Call 352-3166.
Beyond Category: The Musical Genius of Duke Ellington: Informed sources have reassured us that David Hadju's new biography of the late gay composer-musician Billy Strayhorn, Lush Life, is a must-read both for ardent jazz fans and those who have only gotten their big toe wet venturing into America's greatest musical form. The book is almost as much about Strayhorn's long-time collaborator and pal, Duke Ellington, who might just be the closest this American century has produced to a Mozart. The African-American Museum opens an exhibition of the 50-year career of Ellington entitled Beyond Category: The Musical Genius of Duke Ellington. Specially designed environments provide musical settings for Ellington's scores, and there are also photos, manuscripts, instruments, and plenty of text on hand to trace this artist's vital jazz-pop-blues-big band contributions. The show opens September 7 and runs through December 31 at the African-American Museum in Fair Park. For information call 565-9026.
Bird Stories: Oklahoma native Y. Gale Gibbs was at an early age fascinated with the mythological iconography in much American Indian work. This led her to study the earliest drawings by indigenous peoples discovered on this continent that, in turn, led her to record images of her life in the pared-down graphic style of those early artists. Bird Stories features paintings and drawings that employ computer and Xerox to depict key points in Gibbs' life; she says she imagines that she was a separate artist inside herself, drawing images on the inner walls of her body to prove that she had existed. The show opens with a reception September 7 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and runs through October 4 at the Dallas Visual Art Center, 2917 Swiss Ave. Call 821-2522.
Snake-Eyes and Sixes: To kick off its 1996-1997 season, Gray Matters presents an exhibition called Snake-Eyes and Sixes that features the work of six artists from North, East, and West Texas. Included are Bruce Webb, who co-operates Waxahachie's Webb Gallery and is inspired by self-taught artists; Andy Emmons, who lampoons his high-school classmates with cartoonish colored-pencil drawings; Celia Eberle, who uses animal imagery to convey psychic distress; Robin Dru Germany, who explores gender myths through clothing; Tom Sale, a found-object artist; and Dottie Allen, who creates fictional lives with real photos and objects. The show opens with a reception for the artists and a convergence of Texas art cars September 7 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. It runs through October 26 at 113 N. Haskell Ave., between Main and Elm. Call 824-7108.
The Shores of A Dream: Yasuo Kuniyoshi's Early Work in America: After being closed for 12 weeks for renovation, Fort Worth's Amon Carter Museum opens with The Shores of A Dream: Yasuo Kuniyoshi's Early Work in America. Kuniyoshi, a painter and illustrator who died in 1953, came to America in 1905 at the age of 16 among a generation of Japanese immigrants who sought greater economic opportunities in the United States. The Shores of a Dream showcases 30 drawings and oils created in the early 1920s before Kuniyoshi, like so many of the so-called "modern artists" of this era, dashed off to Europe and absorbed their avant-garde tendencies. The show opens September 7 and runs through November 17 at the Amon Carter Museum, 3501 Camp Bowie Blvd. in Fort Worth. It's free. Call (817) 738-1933.
Plano P'Zazz: Speaking of Parents Day, as Charles M. Schultz and the Peanuts have already reminded us, there is a third certainty besides death and taxes:Every time any kid comes up to a parent and asks, "How comes there's a Mother's Day and a Father's Day but no Kid's Day?" that parent will always answer, "Every day is Kid's Day." Today certainly is in Haggard Park in Plano; the Plano P'Zazz Mini-Festival features storytelling, musician Eddie Coker, child-safety displays, art demonstrations, and more exclusively for kids. Events happen from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Haggard Park in Plano. They're free. Call 578-7188.
Grandparent's Day Antique Auto Show: Grandparent's Day should be celebrated with the same ferocity as Mother's and Father's Day, considering Grandma and Grandpa have raised children and survived to tell the tale. The Fort Worth Stockyards Station, the 80,000-square-foot shopping center at the Stockyards, tries to take up the slack with the Grandparent's Day Antique Auto Show, featuring more than 100 antique cars on display with information about their history. The display happens from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in front of the Fort Worth Stockyards, 130 East Exchange Ave. in Fort Worth. It's free. Call (817) 625-9715.
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A Tribute to Dr. Timothy Seelig: Dr. Timothy Seelig--artist, AIDS activist, humanitarian, and all-around nice guy--was introduced to the country at large as the most prominent talking head in the Emmy-winning KERA-TV documentary After Goodbye: An AIDS Story, which detailed the struggle of Turtle Creek Chorale members to confront the specter of AIDS in their own ranks. As the artistic director of Turtle Creek Chorale, Tim Seelig had already earned legions of local friends and fans through his 10-year association with that organization. Now his tenure is being honored with A Tribute to Dr. Timothy Seelig, which features performances by members of the TCC; Dallas Symphony Orchestra; Dallas Classic Guitar Society; New Arts Six; and Dallas Children's Theatre; among others. The evening kicks off at 8 p.m. at the Meyerson Symphony Center in the downtown Dallas Arts District. Tickets are $10 to $50. Call 871-2787.
FOCUS: Attention all movie fans! If you didn't know this already, please take note: Most of the film companies often referred to as "indie" are in fact owned by gargantuan, evil media empires. Miramax labors inside that sweatshop called Mauschwitz, otherwise known as Disney; Fine Line is lorded over by that gap-toothed despot known as Ted Turner. We could go down the list, but it's too depressing. If you want a taste of stuff that's really "independent," truly "alternative," catch FOCUS '96. There are short films, trailers, and clips of experimental, comedy, drama, suspense, documentary, and all manner of stuff that flourishes somewhere between those lines. FOCUS '96 includes scenes from Gretchen and Julie Dyer's Late Bloomers and Brad Keller's erotic thriller, Education Post, and entire short films by Kevin Lew (Zoo Clips) and Charlie Papaceno (Collared), among others. The event kicks off at 8:30 p.m. at Club Dada, 2720 Elm St. Tickets are $6. Call 744-3334.
State Theatre Koleso of Togliatti: Although you normally think of "traveling with an entourage" as a by-product of stardom in a capitalist society, the State Theatre Koleso of Togliatti makes its Texas debut with entourage intact--stage technicians, translator, a Russian TV crew, and a member of the Russian Ministry of Culture. It lands on the campus of Texas Christian University and will perform Moliere's The Rogues of Skapen and Gogol's Marriage Proposal in Russian with key dialogue spoken in English. Performances of The Rogues of Skapen happen September 7, 11, and 13 at 8 p.m. and September 15 at 2 p.m.; Marriage Proposal kicks off September 8 and 14 at 2 p.m. and September 10 and 12 at 8 p.m. at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. Tickets are $5-$10. Call (817) 921-7626.
Carlos Jurado: Photographs Do Not Bend boasts a real coup with its fall opening exhibition--the American debut of a one-man show featuring a celebrated Mexican artist. Carlos Jurado has been obsessed with the image almost since birth in 1927; his adult life has borne this out through alternating careers as a photographer, filmmaker, political cartoonist, muralist, and writer. He studied under Diego Rivera and Antonio Ruiz in the '40s, but it wasn't until 30 years later that his interest in photography blossomed. He established his allegiance with the pinhole camera and other low-cost means of reproducing pictures. The show kicks off with a reception September 7 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. It runs through September 28 at 3115 Routh St. It's free. Call 969-1852.