Sally Nystuen Vahle. photography by Trevor Paulhus

Best of Big D 2010: Culture

The city's top offerings in arts, entertainment, and media.

Best Actress

Sally Nystuen Vahle
It didn’t take much to remind us who the lioness of our local theater scene is. Coming off a phenomenal few seasons, Dallas Theater Center company actor Sally Nystuen Vahle returned as Linda in the new production of Death of a Salesman. She succumbed with grace, overwhelmed with strength, and gave the play, as the Dallas Morning News’ Lawson Taitte put it, its “heroic thrust.” Vahle proves why the DTC’s acting company is so vital to our city.

Video: Take an Acting Lesson With the Best Actress in Dallas

Best Theater

Undermain Theatre
For nearly three decades, the Undermain Theatre has been a bright light on the local scene, but some seasons everything just comes together. Opening with one of the year’s standout performances (Jonathan Brooks in The Black Monk) and continuing with a bizarre, ambitious, and acclaimed world premiere (Len Jenkin’s Port Twilight or the History of Science) and a hilarious one-man show import (Taylor Mac’s The Be(a)st of Taylor Mac), the perfect season was capped with Stan Wojewodski Jr.’s production of Samuel Beckett’s Endgame, called by one critic “the production that others will be judged by.” 3200 Main St. 214-747-5515.

Dwaine Caraway. photography by Trevor Paulhus

Best Politician

Dwaine Caraway
Politicians can be dull. Not Caraway, district 4 Dallas city councilman and mayor pro-tem. He made national headlines when he launched a campaign to get kids to keep their britches up (he’s on Wikipedia’s “sagging” entry). He’s Giuliani-style anal enough that he wants to clean up storefronts with too many signs on their windows, yet he threw his weight around to protect a poker house he’s frequented. On top of all that, Caraway is a clotheshorse. We like the cut of this guy’s jib.

Best Local Athlete

Mike Modano
When he arrived in 1993, Mike Modano proved he could handle a puck as well as the pressure of selling hockey to a city of football-crazed fans. Modano sealed the deal as the darling of Dallas when he hoisted the Stanley Cup in 1999. Number 9 has just turned 40 and might play for another team next season. But we’ll always remember what he did to make Dallas a hockey town.

Best Radio Broadcaster

Krys Boyd, Think, KERA 90.1
She doesn’t have the highest ratings in town. She just has the hardest gig. Boyd does a two-hour, two-topic show four days a week, meaning that she might have to read eight books in a week to get prepared for anything from Mark W. Moffett on ants to Charles Bowden on the drug wars on the Mexican border. Boyd doesn’t rely on a lackey producer to do the research for her. An often-heard refrain from her guests: “That’s a good question.”

Pete Delkus. photography by Joshua Martin

Best TV Broadcaster

Pete Delkus, ABC Channel 8
He’s easy on the eyes, yes. And he banters well with Dale Hansen. But we love Delkus for how he handles big weather. First, he knows how to express concern over dangerous storm systems without crossing the boundary into alarmism. Second, you can tell how bad the weather is by how Delkus is dressed: full suit for fair, coat doffed for thunderstorms (always French cuffs), and Jim Cramer-style rolled-up shirtsleeves for hellfire and/or brimstone.

Best Comedy Club

Arlington Improv
The new A-town outpost offers the best all-around experience. The venue looks almost like a living room, with a small stage that puts the front few rows right on top of the comic. There are no bad sightlines. The attached restaurant, Dos Pianos Restaurant and Piano Bar, is a good dining option. Then there’s the comedy itself. The Arlington Improv books younger acts than its Addison cousin. 309 Curtis Mathes Way, Ste. 147, Arlington. 817-635-5555.

Video: Go behind the scenes at the Arlington Improv.

Best Columnist

Evan Grant, Dallas Morning News
We were going to say that no sportswriter in the area brings the mixture of unique insight and dogged reporting that Grant does to his work as the Morning News’ lead baseball writer. But that’s too limiting. No writer, regardless of beat, can match Grant when it comes to finding the news and finding an engaging way to explain why it’s important. (Even if he is a no-good traitor.)

Scott Cantrell. photography by Joshua Martin

Best Critic

Scott Cantrell, Dallas Morning News
Opening a new opera house is no small feat for a company, but it is an equal test for a city’s classical music critic. Whether tuning his ear to the Winspear’s acoustics or heralding openings and debuts to the wider world, Cantrell’s voice is always clear, informed, and engaging. As important, he doesn’t balk at spurring the opera or the symphony to challenge their audiences, to push our expectations, and raise the city’s level of artistic quality.

Best Radio Station

Sportsradio 1310, The Ticket
Other stations might have loyal listeners, but none are as steadfast as the Ticket’s army of P1s. The Ticket isn’t their favorite station; it is their only station. Why? Maybe because the shows—from The Musers in the morning until The Hardline in the afternoon—are nominally about sports, but they end up being about everything else. (Well, except during Norm Hitzges’ 10 am to noon timeslot. That’s only about sports, and don’t you damn call there again if you think otherwise.)

Bruce DuBose. photography by Trevor Paulhus

Best Gallery

Marty Walker Gallery
Perhaps the most exciting art event in Dallas this year was an innovative installation in an abandoned Washington Mutual bank. If you looked closely, you would have noticed many of the artists involved were represented by Marty Walker Gallery. The show-stopping installation at the DMA’s “Performance/Art” exhibition by Tom Orr and Frances Bagley? Marty Walker artists. And in her gallery, Marty Walker continually reimagines her downsized gallery space, somehow turning lack into asset. 2135 Farrington St. 214-748-0066.

Best Actor

Bruce DuBose
If the Undermain has a secret weapon, actor Bruce DuBose is it. The longtime company actor and executive producer spent much of the season in strong supporting roles, most notably originating the dual role of rabbi and B-movie producer in Len Jenkin’s Port Twilight or the History of Science. But in Samuel Beckett’s Endgame, the actor showed his deep emotional range. From fury to roguish flirtation, DuBose can scare you one minute and have you laughing the next. And we haven’t even mentioned his role in Long Way Go Down.

Video: Watch DuBose perform a monologue.