1. THE COLOR PURPLE
The Alliance Theatre presents the world premiere of a Broadway-bound musical based on Alice Walker's acclaimed novel. Purple features La Chanze as Celie, a down-trodden African-American woman who triumphs over her oppressive husband Mister (Kingsley Leggs) with the help of a juke-joint singer (Adriane Lenox). The creative team includes Pulitzer Prize-winner Marsha Norman as the librettist, Grammy winners Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray as composer/lyricists and Avenue Q choreographer Ken Roberson.

Sept. 9-Oct. 17, Alliance Theatre Company, Woodruff Arts Center, 1280 Peachtree St. 404-733-5000. $20-$40. www.alliancetheatre.org.

2. AMERICA! QUESTION
What does it mean to be an American? Decatur's CORE Performance Company collaborated with Berlin's Tanzcompagnie RUBATO to ask Georgians from all walks of life about the condition and meaning of life in post-9/11 America. Set to widely diverse videotaped interviews, they choreographed this multimedia modern dance that toured first in Germany and Houston, and comes home to Atlanta on the third anniversary of 9/11.

Sept. 10-11, 8 p.m.; Sept. 12, 7 p.m., 7 Stages, 1105 Euclid Ave. 404-523-7647. $10-$15. www.severaldancerscore.org.

3. ATLANTA BOOK FESTIVAL
Ayodele Heath and a whole bunch of authors who didn't win second prize in Creative Loafing's 2004 Fiction Contest come together for several days of readings, signings and discussions, crafting a convincing excuse for drinking champagne before noon. Several events for young readers as well.

Sept. 10-19, various times. Atlanta-Fulton Central Library, the Carter Center and other locations. 404-683-0388. Most events free. Champagne, Books and Brunch, $60. www.atlantabookfestival.com.

4. CHRIS VERENE: FROM GALESBURG TO ATLANTA
Southern-fried native son-turned-New York City arriviste Chris Verene will revisit some of his well-known work in a mid-career retrospective including pinup alter-ego Cheri Nevers, his Camera Club and Self-Esteem workshops, and his documentation of family and friends in Galesburg, Ill. Also featured will be Verene's early black-and-white documentary work in Florida and Atlanta, where he charted the fits and starts of the city's music-centered counterculture.

Sept. 11-Oct. 23, Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, 535 Means St. 404-688-1970. Tues.-Sat., 11 a.m.-5 p.m. www.thecontemporary.org.

5. WHAT REMAINS
Photographer Sally Mann became famous for picturing the earthy sensuality of her own children and returns again to the gaps and conjunctions in the material and spiritual worlds in her latest project, What Remains. The artist's five-part examination of mortality, seen for the first time in Atlanta, features cadavers in a forensic lab, the Antietam Civil War battlefield and her own children's faces.

Sept. 16-Oct. 30, Jackson Fine Art, 3115 E. Shadowlawn Ave. 404-233-3739. Tues.-Sat., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. www.jacksonfineart.com.

6. DEBBIE DOES DALLAS: THE MUSICAL
It's always risky to tamper with a classic: Erica Schmidt's adaptation of the legendary 1978 porno film adds songs, dances and gender-bending jokes. In Dad's Garage Theatre's regional premiere, Kristi Krabe plays the title character, who bends over backward (and that's just for starters) in her quest to become a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader. Her pals Lisa, Roberta and Tammy are played by Katy Carkuff, Jen Caldwell and ... Tim Stoltenberg.

Sept. 17-Oct. 23, Dad's Garage, 280 Elizabeth St. 404-523-3141. $15-$20. www.dadsgarage.com.

7. THE SOUTHEASTERN LITERARY MAGAZINE AND SMALL PRESS FESTIVAL
Oprah-anointed author Brett Lott headlines two days of readings, writing workshops, panel discussions and a book fair with editors and publishers from The Paris Review, The Georgia Review, Algonquin Books and many other independent literary lights who make like they don't want some of that Oprah action. Mark Bauerlein, director of the National Endowment for the Arts' Office of Research and Analysis, will talk and answer questions on the NEA's recent "Reading at Risk" report.

Sept. 17-18, various times. Carter Center library, Georgia Perimeter College (Dunwoody Campus) and other locations. 770-551-3019. Free. www.gpc.edu/~gpccr/festival.html.

8. USHER
His baby-faced good looks and (let's face it) largely formulaic R&B aside, there's a case to be made that Usher's hit single "Yeah!" is this year's "Hey Ya!" The song's ingratiating crunk hook never gets old (good thing, considering its ubiquity), and it showcases an all-star Atlanta lineup -- Ludacris, producer Lil Jon and Usher himself -- at its peak. He doesn't have the range or sheer chutzpah of OutKast (who does?), but Usher Raymond is our musical ambassador of the moment, and he's doing a remarkable job.

Oct. 2-3, Philips Arena, 1 Philips Drive. 404-878-3000. $49.50-$69.50. www.philipsarena.com.

9. PIXIES
What's made the Pixies' reunion tour one of the year's biggest concert draws? The band's tense, whisper-to-a-scream dynamic was a big influence on Nirvana, but its impact reaches far deeper than the roots of early '90s grunge. Jagged, elliptical arrangements and singer Black Francis' surrealist, egghead lyrics resulted in pop music that was visceral, catchy and unsettling, and all the more exhilarating for its sheer improbability -- a far-reaching aesthetic that resonates from Radiohead to the Flaming Lips and beyond.

Oct. 13-14, Fox Theatre, 660 Peachtree St. 404-881-2100. $37-$62 (sold out). www.foxtheatre.org.

10. DANCE THE WORLD BACK
Decatur's Gathering Wild has been turning some heads up in the NYC this year with several performances of this new repertory of work by artistic director Jerylann Warner and George Staib. Now they're bringing it back home for its Atlanta premiere, along with the world premiere of "TRIBE," a pop-cultural inflected look at group-think, collective obsessions and what Warner calls the "circus-like antics of everyday life."

Nov. 19-20, 7 p.m. Beacon Hill Arts Center, 410 W. Trinity Place. 404-378-9018. $3-$10.

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