Let's Play School: With the explosion of high-quality children's entertainment during the past decade, the consistent craftsmanship and wit that infuses the Children's Television Workshop's Sesame Street is a measure of the love behind it. Those of us who learned numbers, letters, and a fine satirical sense as preschoolers can still flip to Channel 13 in the mornings and laugh ourselves silly over the sheer ingenuity of the writing. It's no wonder that during the thick of last year's congressional PBS-bashing, public-television officials trotted out the normally reticent Big Bird as their most effective weapon. One hour of Sesame Street a day more than justified the limp nature shows, stale Britcoms, and comatose Masterpiece Theatre episodes in which public television had become mired. Let's Play School, a new touring production that features Cookie Monster, Big Bird, Elmo, Zoe, and the others, emphasizes education over inventiveness, as the gang runs through a musical series of basic math and spelling lessons taught by the high-strung Professor Grover. If you don't have kids, grab one you love as cover and check it out. Performances are February 22-25 at University of North Texas Coliseum, 622 Avenue D in Denton; and February 29-March 3 at Tarrant County Convention Center, 111 Houston Street in Fort Worth. Tickets are $10.50-$17.50. For more information, call 373-8000.
The Internet Show: Barbara Ehrenreich wrote a recent essay for Time magazine that pretty much blew the glamorous lid off the information superhighway: Communicating online with worldwide strangers might be a nifty new technological development, she agreed, but it does nothing in itself to raise the level of conversation among people. (Topics introduced to Ehrenreich included, "What kind of drugs have you tried?" and, "Can I lick your thighs?"). Indeed, anonymity encourages risk-taking, which, in turn, blurs the line between boldness and idiocy. This is the dumb new world satirized by 4 Out of 5 Doctors' new show comedydocs.com: The Internet Show. Chat-room sightings of Elvis, new methods of IRS terrorism, and other cybertopics are covered. The show happens every Wednesday at 8 p.m. through April 10 at The Improvisation, 4980 Belt Line Road. Additional performances happen Fridays and Saturdays at 11 p.m. through March 23 in the Pocket Sandwich Theatre, 5400 E. Mockingbird Lane. Tickets for both venues are $8. Call 404-8501 or 821-1860.
The Passing Show: The second decade of the 20th century is widely recognized as "The Age of Upheaval." By some inexplicable intellectual harmonic convergence, philosophers, psychiatrists, painters, writers, and politicians took a hard look at the new technologies springing up around them and introduced radical new methods, schools, and subject matters. Cliburn Concerts, in association with Fort Worth's RetroFest '96, presents a concert of period pieces entitled The Passing Show: Popular Entertainment in the Decade 1911-1920. Cast members include Pulitzer Prize-winning composer William Balcom, Emmy-winning actor Andre Shields, soprano Joan Morris, and mezzo-soprano Angelina Reaux. The show was created and directed by Michael Feingold, theater critic of the Village Voice. Performances are presented February 23 & 24 at 8 p.m. and February 25 at 2 p.m. in downtown Fort Worth's Caravan of Dreams, 312 Houston. For information, call (817) 738-6536.
Barbara De Angelis: Unhappiness is a lucrative business, as a glance at almost any New York Times nonfiction bestseller list of the past 15 years will prove. Whereas people used to turn to the Bible, or great literature, or community involvement to better understand themselves and their place in the world, nowadays The Big Questions are answered with alarming simplicity by Oprah guest panelists. Barbara De Angelis, Ph.D., has been one of those. A self-proclaimed relationship expert, infomercial star, million-selling author, and, to be fair, a certified professional counselor, she focuses on "making love work." Her suggestions are perfectly reasonable, even compassionate, but like those of every media figure who has earned big bucks telling people how to be happy, hers can't possibly tap the real sources of misery with a series of bumper-sticker diagnoses. She appears at 7 p.m. at Unity Church of Dallas, 6525 Forest Lane. Tickets are $30. Call 233-7106.
Eartha Kitt: The patrons of the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center owe cabaret legend Eartha Kitt an apology. A quarter of the way into her Meyerson concert last year, whole rows of tuxedoed blue-hairs rose and exited. By the time of her show-stopping finale with Eric Carmen's "On My Own," a good third of the purchased seats were empty. Could it be that Kitt is still haunted by her notorious White House comment to Lady Bird Johnson about the unfairness of black men serving a racist homeland in Vietnam? That undeniably true appraisal snowballed, causing a hefty FBI file in her name and many years of being blackballed. Kitt, whose career spans five decades of movies, TV, stage, and recording, bounced back in last year's hit Unzipped, after designer Isaac Mizrahi paid fealty to her timeless, self-deprecating sexiness. Consummately professional, she works hard for your money. She performs February 22-24 at 8 p.m. in the Dallas Theater Center's Kalita Humphreys Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Boulevard. She makes a special in-store appearance to sign her new album, Back in Business, at 2 p.m. in Crossroads Market, 3930 Cedar Springs. Tickets are $40. Call 521-8919.
E.C. Scott: The "earth mother" aura that surrounds the great blues divas is both a tribute and a trap. It honors their role as chroniclers of the emotional pulls most people can barely put into words, let alone sing about, but it also locks them into a spiral of expectations from audiences that is, at its worst, self-destructive (a diet of gutbucket alone guarantees you an unhappy end), and at the very least limiting. San Francisco-based institution E.C. Scott has many similarities to the great black blueswomen--her background was gospel as a child, jazz as a young woman, but her fire was too raucous to effectively deliver either--but unlike many of her foremothers, Scott takes pride in writing much of her own material. A now-legendary performance at Slim's in San Francisco landed her a multi-album deal with the prestigious Chicago label Blind Pig. Her show kicks off at 9 p.m. at Blue Cat Blues, 2617 Commerce. Call 744-CATS.
All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten: Former Unity minister and professional nice-guy Robert Fulghum is sort of like Garrison Keillor without the intriguing thread of spleen that runs through the latter's works. Fulghum has earned a fanatical following--14 million books sold, standing-room-only lectures, his words translated into 27 languages--based on his folksy observations about growing up, the perils of being an adult, and growing old. While some diabetics have been known to need extra insulin hits during Fulghum talks, it's undeniable that the man offers lighthearted, commonsensical wisdom in a world not exactly overflowing with sweetness. Theatre Three presents the Texas premiere of Texas native Fulghum's latest foray, live theater. A musical adaptation of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten is performed Tuesdays-Fridays at 8:15 p.m.; Saturdays at 2:30 & 8:15 p.m.; and Sundays at 2:30 & 7:30 p.m. Theatre Three is located at 2800 Routh in The Quadrangle. Tickets are $10.50-$23. Call 871-3300.
Putting Animals Into Politics: One of the glories of American democracy is the proliferation of what some critics have termed "liberal special interests"--relatively small but intense causes that challenge the mainstream's consensus on topics seldomly otherwise thought about. One of the top national representatives of a much-lampooned group--animal rights activists--speaks before the Animal Connection of Texas. Kim Stallwood, former executive director of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, delivers a talk entitled "Putting Animals Into Politics." He will offer suggestions about ways in which animal rights can be wedged into the campaign season (can you say "baboon plasma transplant" three times fast?). Judge for yourself how realistic A.C.T.'s agenda is. The presentation happens 1:30-5:30 p.m., on the fifth floor in Room B of the Tom Landry Center, 411 N. Washington. Tickets are $5. Call 373-7867.
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Fruit Bowl '96: The annual Fruit Bowl is a Dallas sporting event like no other, a bowling tournament and fund-raiser that is, more than anything, an excuse for people to dress up in silly costumes, engage in some spirited competition, and generate money for an extremely worthy cause. All funds earned from the event benefit the gay-and-lesbian counseling and HIV/AIDS wings of Oak Lawn Community Center. Potential prizes include a bowl of unscratched lottery tickets, cash prizes, and raffles. If you are allergic to fruit, move on. The event kicks off at 1 p.m. at Don Carter's West Bowling Center, I-35 and Walnut Hill. Bowling costs $10, and each bowler is encouraged to gather as many pledges as possible. For more information, call 520-8108.
Actors Offstage: Some of the city's finest theatrical actors have been asked to assemble for an evening of dramatic interpretations of material that has grown more and more neglected in our sub-literate world. The performance is part of a series that Borders Books & Music has established entitled Actor's Offstage; this particular show is called "Reading Sonnets and Letters." The lineup expected tonight includes three performers from (arguably) the city's top ensemble, the Undermain Theatre: Timothy Vahle reads Theodore Roethke and Elizabeth Barrett Browning; Jeremy Schwartz reads Robert Graves and Groucho Marx; Kateria Cale reads Frida Kahlo and Dorothy Parker; and Raphael Perry reads W.H. Auden and Ludwig van Beethoven. Also, Classic Theatre Company's Constance Gold reads e.e. cummings and Katherine Mansfield, and Sally Nystuen reads Rosa Luxemburg and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The evening begins at 7:30 p.m. at Borders Books & Music, Preston and Royal. It's free. Call 363-1977.
Breast Implants on Trial: The single largest class-action suit in American legal history was filed by women with large (or enlarged) breasts. Ever since 1992, when the Food and Drug Administration halted breast-implant production until manufacturers could prove they were safe, hundreds of thousands of women have maintained that the silicone implants they received as cosmetic enhancement have destroyed their health through a variety of autoimmune diseases. It might sound like a fairly simple case of a marauding corporation placing profits above public safety, but there are a number of twists: Independent scientific data has almost unanimously established that women with breast implants have no higher incidence of these diseases than women without; and how much, exactly, is an individual who eagerly accepts sacks of silicone into her body responsible for negative consequences on her health? The PBS-TV documentary Frontline examines all sides with a show entitled "Breast Implants on Trial." It airs at 9 p.m. on KERA-TV Channel 13. Call (617) 783-3500.
Rethinking the Natural: The image is the main currency of a national exhibit currently on display at the University of Dallas. Rethinking the Natural is a collection of 46 photographs, mixed media constructions, paintings, and computer images that all, in some way, reflect the enormous changes that humanity has wrought on the natural landscape, how has the look of planet Earth has changed and has been changed by technological influences. The exhibit runs through March 13 at the University of Dallas, 1845 E. Northgate. It's free. Call 721-5099.