According to the Jenga-like stack of publicity materials covering my desk, Kennedy season has peaked. Plays. Readings. Art shows. Lectures. Films. Acrobats. Clown cars. Kitten parades. Cooking demos -- who the hell knows? It's getting JFKrazy out there.
When chaos smothers meaning, we look to the arts for answers. From historical movie theater re-enactments to ensemble musical offerings, we've found eight events that are worth your time. (Psst: A 75 year-old exotic dancer is looking to take you back to the Carousel Club, 1963.)
Friday 11.15 Safe Room presents Things do not happen. Things are made to happen. Lauren Gray's newish gallery space is nested upstairs inside Texas Theatre. Her newest group show, Things do not happen. Things are made to happen., opens this Friday, November 15, and will still be up during the historic theater's JFK programming marathon on the 22nd. So if you miss its big reveal, consolidate visits next week.
The group exhibition tackles Kennedy's ruminations, then filters them through the minds of Dallas' most wonderfully eccentric local artists: Tom Sale, Homer Henderson, Randy Murphy, Bruce Lee Webb and Chuck & George. (Actually, after re-reading those names, I'm a little nervous about this one.)
(6 to 10 p.m. on Friday, November 15, at 231 W. Jefferson Blvd. It's free.)
Daniel Kusner presents 214 Trans4m + JFK50 Local photographer and general view-alterer Daniel Kusner brings a multimedia talk to the Dallas Public Library on Thursday, November 21. That's where he'll charmingly punch through his unconventional thesis: "Can drag artists lift the veil of shame surrounding a presidential murder scene?" (Obviously, I fall into the "Yes, they can" camp.)
You may have seen his take on that iconic Jackie image, poised in front of DMN at last year's Art Con seed auction. It featured a transgender Jackie, wired up with an audio recording from the authentic First Lady. It was stunning. So good, in fact, that it sparked a helluva bidding war. (Things got "wings out," as the kids say.)
Kusner's series has also shown at CentralTrak and the Kessler and was recently turned into a photobook, designed to re-mythologize the Kennedy-Oswald Affair, starring all-transgender models.
For this program you'll hear the artist's thoughts on how the assassination affected the gay community, both locally and beyond. How it piped through John Water's early Eat Your Makeup, inspiring the director to cast Divine as America's favorite pink-suited gal. And how the queer threads got knotted up in all things Oswald. Don't worry, Kusner will pick through those frayed ends.
(6:30 to 8 p.m. at Oak Lawn Branch Library, 4100 Cedar Springs Road on Thursday, November 21. Free.)
Martin Sheen Reads Noah's Ark Admittedly, this could be terrible. It could also be: campy, peculiar or surprisingly good. Really, Noah's Ark is a dark horse candidate.
Happening at Martin Sheen's request, this new play is inspired by James Douglass' best selling book JFK and the Unspeakable. Sheen reads the character of Trappist Brother Thomas in a story centering around military White House insider Colonel Benson.
Will other actors read the other roles? Probably. We got hypnotized by Martin Sheen's hair and, understandably, didn't finish the press release. Donations benefit the Dallas Peace Center.
(7 p.m., Thursday, November 21 at Unity Church of Dallas. Tickets cost $15.)
Friday 11.22 Texas Theatre Oswald's arrest during a screening of War is Hell cemented Texas Theatre's role in the those fated events. (It was also a reminder that sneaking into movies is extremely poor form.) Those history buffs at Aviation Cinemas have decided to tell the story in its entirety, beginning at 1:20 p.m. Friday with a partial afternoon airing of War is Hell, followed by a full screening of Cry of Battle at 2:45. Even the ticket price is charming, with each admission set at 90 cents.
The arthouse lobby converts into a photo gallery for the day, detailing Lee Harvey Oswald's presence in Oak Cliff. The exhibition was curated by John Slate of the Dallas Municipal Archives.
Since Texas Theatre's staff enjoys reaching beyond the projector, they'll perform a staged, theatrical recreation of interviews from the Warren Commission. Happening at 6:30 p.m., the presentation will focus on first-person accounts from ticket taker Julia Postal, concessions operator Butch Burroughs and shoe salesman John Brewer, the man who spotted Oswald entering the theater.
Then, at 8 p.m., they'll show Oliver Stone's Dallas-filmed JFK, in archival 35-mm. (You get the Warren Commission reading and JFK for $10, combined.) This all happens on Friday, November 22 ... and may be the nerdiest thing Texas Theatre's ever done. That's saying quite a bit.
The Artists' Commission at Grey Matters Sally Warren curates this look at mourning, collective denial, identity and celebrity through the work of 20 respected local and national artists. It's a strong showing of talent, with contributions by Mary Walling Blackburn, Susan Teegardin, Christopher Blay, Celia Eberle, Heyd Fontenot, Ann Glazer, Annette Lawrence, Susan Magilow, Louis Mallozzi, Francisco Moreno, Kurt Mueller, Ruben Nieto, Savannah Niles, Laray Polk, Ryder Richards, Vincent Ramos, Carolyn Sortor, Noah Simblist, Terri Thornton and Vance Wingate.
Explore artists' interpretations of the culture trail, splitting from the 50-year event.
(7 to 9 p.m. on Friday, November 22 at the impossible-to-find Grey Matters, 113 N. Haskell Ave. It's free.)
Saturday 11.23 #JFKDAY of Service Look beyond the terrible hashtag and be a conduit for the president's legacy of community service. There are more than 2,500 Dallas volunteer slots available on Saturday, November 23, so pick one and pitch in. Choose from the North Texas Food Bank, Boys and Girls Club of Greater Dallas, SPCA, Special Olympics, Salvation Army, Goodwill, cleaning up White Rock Lake or any number of other organized acts of volunteerism. Or, go rogue. Help a neighbor study for their GED, donate bulk food -- whatever, just pan out and look beyond yourself. Get involved here.
(All day, all over Dallas. Saturday, November 23. Free. Visit jfkday.com.)
Soundings: New Music at the Nasher Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of President Kennedy's Death Yellow Barn presents a program by the Brentano String Quartet, clarinetist Charles Neidich and pianist Seth Knopp as part of the Nasher's Soundings series. It's designed to express musically those feelings that remain difficult to discuss.
They'll play compositions by John Cage and Olivier Messiaen, and also premiere a newly commissioned piece by Steven Mackey called One Red Rose. Mackey's latest came to being through joint sponsorship from the Nasher, Yellow Barn and Carnegie Hall.
(7:30 p.m., Saturday, November 23, at the Dallas Performance Hall. Tickets cost $10 to $25. Get them here.)
Friday, 11.29 Tammi True, Former Dancer at Jack Ruby's Carousel Club, Derobes at 75 I adore this woman.
The subject of a recent documentary by local film company AMS Pictures, True was Jack Ruby's lead dancer back in 1963. She did it to support her children -- and to have a little fun -- but when Ruby shot Oswald, her world crumbled. True is still the sassiest, coolest broad in Texas. She'll prove that on Friday the 29th at House of Blues when she takes the stage with local bombshells Ruby Revue. Don't worry, True's still got her shimmy.
(8:30 p.m. on Friday, November 29, at House of Blues. Tickets range $20 to $40.)