Words and Music: The Harlem Renaissance: Two decades of remarkably influential art from one American neighborhood are celebrated in the latest Arts & Letters Live program. The talent lineup for this evening dubbed "Words and Music: The Harlem Renaissance" should put the jelly in your roll: Actress and current associate curator for African Art at the Dallas Museum of Art Ramona Austin; Dallas-born 60-year-veteran jazz and blues musician Big Al Dupree; KERA-FM commentator, poet, and sometime Observer contributor James Mardis; one-woman Dallas musical hurricane Liz Mikel; and nationally published poet and essayist Lorenzo Thomas have been tapped to interpret the works of greats like Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, Eubie Blake, Duke Ellington, and others. The event happens at 7 p.m. in the Horchow Auditorium of the Dallas Museum of Art, 1717 N. Harwood. Tickets are $8-$10. Call 922-1220.
Pterodactyls: Open Stage wrapped its impressively low-key run of Nicky Silver's Fat Men in Skirts, and now the New Theatre Company continues Dallas' unofficial Silver Spring with a production of the playwright's Pterodactyls. In commenting on himself as a writer, Nicky Silver is unusually honest about his rejection of discipline and form so that his "unconscious can just vomit freely forth." The author's wildly bleak, often violent impulses--he incorporates rape, murder, incest, cannibalism, and other treats into the panorama of human comedy--may make some playgoers feel like they've been thrown up on. But like all good playwrights, it's his obsessions that distinguish his work. Pterodactyls is a typically searing, absurdist look at a man who returns to his family HIV-positive. Performances happen Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m. in the Swiss Avenue Theater Center, 2700 Swiss Ave. Tickets are $8-$10. Call 871-ARTS.
Steve Blow: Falling somewhere on the acerbic scale between John Anders (0) and Marlyn Schwartz (10), Dallas Morning News Metropolitan columnist Steve Blow is perhaps the most popular editorialist at Dallas' Only Daily, primarily because he exudes a genuine Nice Guyness yet still manages to get to the point by the end of his column. Or maybe it's because his space often feels like an interactive zone, Blow frequently incorporating the calls and letters of his readers. He gives a free public presentation about the travails of parenthood, "If Parenting Were a Job..." (a mysterious title, since it most certainly is a job). Listen to him live and decide for yourself whether Blow is so nice he deserves a hug or a punch in the nose. The talk kicks off at 7 p.m. in the Kleberg-Rylie Branch Library, 1301 Edd Road. It's free. Call 670-7838.
Tour of Taste Travel Auction: KERA-TV Channel 13, like PBS stations throughout the country, has a reputation to maintain. You can't be an elitist purveyor of leftist propaganda draining the public till and not behave with the public airs of an overstarched society matron (albeit one who's funneling vital state secrets to Communist concerns). Only the riffraff who can summon $35 will be permitted into the Tour of Taste Travel Auction, a benefit for Channel 13 that offers packages to Hong Kong, New Zealand, Singapore, and Indonesia. The "Taste" part of the title refers to the food and wine samples that will be provided by Sipango, Martini Ranch, The Green Room, Sambuca, and Mediterraneo, among others. The event kicks off at 7:30 p.m. in the Westin Galleria. Tickets are $30-$35. Call 871-2787.
12th Annual Main Street Days Festival: Although it's only mid-May, we're already well into the unofficial season of North Texas outdoor festivals. The 12th Annual Main Street Festival Days has a croquet tournament, living history demonstrations and re-creations (all that vaguely suspicious stuff about Indians and Anglos living in harmony is revived), drag racing, cooking, live music and performance, fun runs, a tractor and farm show, and so forth. Events happen Friday, 6-11:30 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-11:30 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. in the historic Main Street district of Grapevine. Admission is $1-$5 or $10 for a weekend pass; kids younger than 3 get in free. Call (817) 481-8444.
What It Is: African-American Folk Art from the Regenia A. Perry Collection: The African-American Museum hosts a traveling exhibition that includes 240 works from the largest African-American folk-art collection ever held by an African-American. Regenia Perry, national curator and 25-year instructor at Virginia Commonwealth University, is the collector behind the exhibit, What It Is: African-American Folk Art from the Regenia A. Perry Collection. The show specializes in some of the lesser-known works by the leading so-called self-taught artists, including photos and gum sculpture by Nellie Mae Rowe; bone sculpture and paintings by woodcarver William Dawson; a geometric quilt by Clementine Hunter; and mechanized woodwork by George W. White Jr. The show opens May 17 and runs through August 31 in the African-American Museum in Fair Park. For admission information call 565-9026.
AmeriFest 1996: How can AmeriFest, now in its third year, hope to compete with the aforementioned Main Street Festival Days in Grapevine? What do you offer to entice people away from The Winn Dixie Beef Stew Contest? As it happens, AmeriFest has the muscle of a multibillion-dollar corporation (AT&T) behind it. The chosen strategy is to out-multiculti the competitors, with construction of homey little "villages" from American-Indian culture, Africa, China, Germany, Mexico, and the Caribbean. (The final village is Texan, a subdivision all by itself of the human race.) Events happen Saturday, 10:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m., and Sunday, noon-7 p.m., up and down Main Street in downtown Dallas. It's free. Call 699-5757.
1996 Tour D'Arlington: Since its inception in 1987, the Tour D'Arlington biking competition has attracted a wildly fluctuating level of participation that peaked at 3,000 (more than twice the number of its first year) and dipped to 1,600 last year. Weather had a lot to do with it, but this is a familiar story for many charitable fund-raisers, attracting attendance for which is an annual struggle on a shoestring nonprofit budget. The Tour D'Arlington benefits the Arlington Boys and Girls Clubs, and offers 100-kilometer, 100-mile, 50-mile, 25-mile, and 10-mile courses for bicyclists and 10- or 20-mile routes for in-line skaters. The races kick off at 8 a.m. at James Bowie High School, 2101 Highbank Drive in South Arlington. Registration is $20; spectatorship is free. Call (817) 265-7211.
How and Why Men Cheat: Jokae's African-American Books hosts a discussion and signing about infidelity from a uniquely honest, African-American perspective. Michael Baisden is the author of How and Why Men Cheat, a nonfiction book whose title is exceeded only by the audacity of Baisden's personal confessions. As an admitted "cheatin' dog" in recovery, Baisden offers warnings, advice, and suggestions both to men who want to cure themselves from their wandering eyes and women who want to know what their men are doing when they say they're out for milk and bread. Expect one hell of a lively discussion. The talk happens 3-5 p.m. at Jokae's African-American Books, 3917 Camp Wisdom Road. It's free. Call 283-0558.
Forbidden Broadway 2: The Metro Players describes its newest production as "the Never Land where the hits get panned" and "the underside of Broadway." Forbidden Broadway is a beast that was birthed just outside the Great White Way in New York City and has metamorphosed into countless editions, including a recent Forbidden Hollywood version. The operative principle behind these parodies of flatulent Broadway musicals is simple--"the meaner the better"--although all participants involved in Forbidden Broadway 2 admit they wouldn't turn down the paychecks or the spotlight. This sequel features brand-new parodies of Sunset Boulevard, Victor/Victoria, and Miss Saigon. Bring a friend who actually still believes Broadway is a legitimate cultural force in America. Performances happen Thursday-Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 6 and 9 p.m.; and Sunday at 3 p.m. through May 18 at the Dupree Theater of the Irving Arts Center, 3333 N. MacArthur Boulevard in Irving. Tickets are $10-$14. Call 252-ARTS.
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International AIDS Candlelight Memorial: The International AIDS Candlelight Memorial is the biggest annual coordinated event on the planet, encompassing 370 cities and towns and more than 55 countries. The global scope is appropriate as a reminder that the face of HIV-related illness worldwide is far different than the afflicted who get the most attention in America. Throughout Asia, Africa, Europe, and Central and South America, AIDS kills far more heterosexuals, people of color, women, and children than white gay adult men. The dynamic in the U.S. is shifting slowly but inexorably to reflect this reality, which gay-baiters like Congressman Robert Dornan ignore to everyone's peril. The event kicks off in the Oak Room of the Fort Worth Botanic Garden Conservatory in Fort Worth. For more information call (817) 335-1994.
Natural Classicism and New Formalism: You may want to fall face-first asleep into this issue of the Observer reading the above title. "Natural Classicism and New Formalism" is the latest in WordSpace's Spring 1996 PoetTalk series and features a discussion by internationally celebrated University of Texas at Dallas poet Frederick Turner. You needn't be a scholar of world verse (although an appreciation of poetry is a prerequisite, naturally) to understand Turner's contention--that meter and other traditional poetic forms not only beat the snot out of that lazy junk known as free verse, but work a measurable chemical influence on the brain (Turner participated in neurological studies which purport to have established this). The talk happens 8-10 p.m. at 1910 Mecca St., west of Skillman between Oram and Lewis near Live Oak. A $5 donation is requested. Call 942-7012.
The Meadows Collection: Masterpieces of Spanish Art For Texas: Sometimes it seems that throughout the Southwest all you need is a lot of money and a wife with big hair to plant your name on an arts institution. There are blue bloods who can clumsily collect one stick of second-rate art after another, then dedicate the whole thing as a collection. And there are those who develop a real taste for a particular time, place, or school and explore the medium itself rather than rely on a paid art historian to guide their purchases. By all accounts, Algur H. Meadows, the Georgia-born Texas oilman who died in 1978, was a genuine lover of Spanish art. His prolific hunger is the driving force behind the exhibition The Meadows Collection: Masterpieces of Spanish Art For Texas. The show traces the creation of The Meadows Museum from the oilman's initial donations to acquisitions after his death. The show runs through July 7 at the Meadows Museum on the campus of Southern Methodist University, Mockingbird and Hillcrest. It's free. Call 768-2516.
The Puppets Delirious: The Undermain Theatre presents its newest production, a collection of four short works about the cruel fancy of fate directed by Undermain co-founder Katherine Owens and Dallas-based writer-director Julia Dyer, who co-helmed with sister Gretchen the feature-film treat Late Bloomers. The Puppets Delirious includes Ellen McLaughlin's Iphigenia in Aulis and Iphigenia in Tauris, two tales of family turmoil inspired by the Orestes trilogy; Louis-Ferdinand Celine's Monsieur Van Bagaden, the tale of a hugely obese ship captain and the materialism that deludes him; and Howard Barker's All He Fears, about a philosopher whose arrogance undoes the life he's come to live. Performances happen Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m. and Friday and Saturday at 8:15 p.m. through June 8 in the Basement Space, 3200 Main St. Tickets are $10-$16. Call 747-5515.