Throw your plans out the window. We scoured the state in search of the top events and offerings, from South by Southwest in Austin to “Mythbusters” in Grand Prairie. Here’s our super select guide to the things you absolutely can’t afford to miss.
[March 9–March 15]
The Papers Trail
Arizona legislators have followed their controversial immigration policies with the passage of House Bill 2218, which prohibits schools in their state from teaching certain ethnic studies for fear they might promote, among other things, the overthrow of the United States government. As a result, a number of books by Latino authors are being taken out of the classroom, including The House on Mango Street, the bildungsroman by the San Antonio writer Sandra Cisneros. “I’ve read The House on Mango Street twenty times, and I have not read where the young protagonist, Esperanza, said a word about overthrowing the government,” said Tony Diaz, who has organized the Librotraficante project to restore these books to Arizona classrooms. “They’re playing with words and thoughts and sabotaging the American Dream for our young.” Join Diaz’s cadre of free-speech advocates as they caravan from Houston (with a symbolic send-off at the Alamo, in San Antonio) to Tucson, establishing “underground libraries” along the way that comprise these banned titles. Cisneros and a fellow Texas writer, Dagoberto Gilb, whose books Woodcuts of Women: Stories and The Magic of Blood are getting the same treatment, will read and conduct writing workshops. This is your chance to join a revolution. “We’re not violent,” Diaz said. “We’re a bunch of book nerds.”
The Alamo, March 12, 4 p.m. librotraficante.com
People used to attend South by Southwest for the music. They still do, but now the festival draws as many people, if not more, to its film and interactive sessions. In a culture where social currency is wielded by the early adoption of the next big thing, people can’t afford to miss even one of these ten days at the center of the universe. But ultimately, your experience will be measured by what bands you see. This year includes a bunch of superstars. Bruce Springsteen will play an intimate set, Jack White will host a showcase, and Jay-Z will rap at a party for a credit card company. Also, Arcade Fire, though not confirmed, would seem a sure-thing since the band is speaking about Haiti at the University of Texas the Monday after the close of the festival. These sets will be hot tickets, and unless you know someone in the band or someone who runs the festival, you won’t get in. But the beauty is that the next incarnation of these acts could be just around the corner.
Various locations, March 9-18, various times. sxsw.com
What Is Art?
The Houston International Performance Art Biennale will allow the artist Nestor Topchy to do something he has long wanted to do: use his fourteen years as a Judoka (a person who performs Judo) to make a twenty-foot-by-twenty-foot “action” painting. “Me and another Judoka will each be a brush,” Topchy said. “Where we land on the canvas, the impact will create the print.” Topchy is the co-creator of this debut extravaganza of innovative role-playing that will unfurl over the weekend like a Matthew Barney “Cremaster” movie. What you witness will be bewildering and perhaps you’ll be looking around the room to see if you are the only one who is about to burst out laughing at the entertainers’ wild machinations. “If there were any shaman left in the modern world,” Topchy said, “they would be performance artists.”
Various locations. March 9-10, various times. lonestarexplosion.org
Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, the hosts of “Mythbusters,” the popular Discovery Channel show that demystifies science and makes it fun, carry out experiments that appeal to brows both high and low. They have traveled to the White House to test the Archimedes solar ray myth with President Obama, and they have appeared on an episode of the “The Simpsons” to get to the bottom of whether or not cats really do land on their feet. At shows on their “Behind the Myths” tour, Savage and Hyneman will enlist some lucky audience members to join them onstage to probe even deeper than usual.
Verizon Theatre, March 12, 8 p.m. mythbusterstour.com
The Dolly Show
Before “American Pickers,” there was Dolly Johnson, who drove across the country in her station wagon dubbed Uncle Sam in pursuit of Americana collectibles; and while she is no longer with us, her spirit and keen eye are channeled through the Dolly Johnson Antique & Art Show.
Will Rogers Memorial Center, March 9-10, 9 a.m. dollyjohnsonantiqueandartshow.com
Smoke on the Waters
We all need a good gross-out to affirm our morality, and a night in a 97-seat theater with the filmmaker John Waters for his show “This Filthy World: Filthier and Dirtier,” will take you to the outer limits of temperance.
Diverseworks, March 14, 8:30 p.m. diverseworks.org