Best of Big D

Culture

Featured in The Best of Big D 2015

Best Local TV News Team

ABC Channel 8

When a deranged gunman opened fire on Dallas police headquarters, only one station was equal to the challenge. While Fox Channel 4 was airing infomercials and CBS Channel 11 was airing pet shows, there was stalwart John McCaa, anchoring the news desk early on a Saturday morning.

Readers’ Pick: Fox Channel 4 has an HD signal and we never get tired of studying sportscaster Mike Doocy’s toupée on the evening broadcast.

Best Critic

Mark Lamster

The architecture critic for the Morning News marshals a more robust vocabulary and draws from a deeper well of allusions than any other critic in town. He’s also fearless. Whether it be billionaire developer Tim Headington tearing down history or Mayor Mike Rawlings and his phony “dream team,” Lamster tells it like it is.

Best Radio Show

Think

Pretty much every year we debate whether we should give this to Krys Boyd’s stalwart KERA program again, and every year, we can’t think of anyone that does it better. Or even as well. Boyd has a fantastic, diverse roster of guests—she got Mike Miles the day after he resigned as DISD superintendent—and asks them smart questions, borne out of relentless research and natural curiosity.

Readers’ Pick: Kidd Kraddick in the Morning is still admirably chugging along after its founder and namesake’s death.

Best TV Broadcaster

Dale Hansen

The ABC Channel 8 sports anchor is the last of a breed. Grantland profiled him earlier this year, following him from a bar to the 10 o’clock newscast and back again. Only Hansen could lambaste the Cowboys for signing Greg Hardy the way he did. He’s fun, he’s loud, and he’s full of himself. We love him for it.

Readers’ Pick: Fox Channel 4’s Tim Ryan is a lovable curmudgeon in the morning.

Best Saucy Bar

Shakespeare in the Bar

Not long ago, a group of young theatrical talent—led by Katherine Bourne, Alia Tavakolian, and Dylan Key—banded together to make Shakespeare fun again. Held in the backyard of Wild Detectives, their productions are, in their words, barely rehearsed. The actors shout for lines and drink beer. The audience, a smiling, laughing, drinking crowd of hundreds, eats it up. The July event (they’re always free) had more than 4,000 people listed as “attending” on Facebook, forcing the organizers to create an EventBrite. Tickets were gone by 4 pm the same day. Keep an eye on the Facebook page for upcoming performances.

Best Dance Company

Dark Circles Contemporary Dance

Joshua Peugh, the young artistic director of Dark Circles Contemporary Dance, stepped into the considerable void left by Bruce Wood’s death, in 2014, and did a beautiful job choreographing the Dallas Theater Center’s production of Colossal, a play about football that relies heavily on modern dance. DCCD is only a couple years old, but it has already impressed with meaningful original choreography and a willingness to embrace technique while still remaining free. The result is exquisite.

Readers’ Pick: Count on Texas Ballet Theater for quality performances throughout the year, in both Dallas and Fort Worth.

Best Publisher

Will Evans, Deep Vellum

When Evans arrived in Dallas and said he would launch a publishing company that specialized in works-in-translation, everyone thought he was nuts. But in his first year, Evans has proven doubters wrong. Not only has he brought great authors like Sergio Pitol and Anne Garreta to English-language readers, he offers Dallas an unmatched energy and enthusiasm for building a true literary community.

Best Performing Arts Venue

Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre

Thanks to the Elevator Project, a series that invited six small-budget arts groups to the Arts District, you could walk in to the Rem Koolhaas-designed, ultra-flexible Wyly last February and see a different play in every possible performance space: the ninth-floor rehearsal room, the sixth-floor black box, the big main hall. Add that to DTC’s inventive staging of Colossal, a play that turned the theater into a football stadium, and you’ve got a perfect demonstration of the building’s unique and seemingly endless capacity.

Readers’ Pick: Seeing a concert at the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House is an incredibly comfortable sonic experience.

Best Theater

Undermain Theatre

This was one of the long-running theater’s strongest seasons in years, delivering a perfect mix of the brashly odd and avant-garde (a thrilling premiere of Gordon Dahlquist’s futuristic Tomorrow Come Today) and contemplative contemporary work (Annie Baker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Flick). And even if we didn’t love The Testament of Mary, we were still glad they did it. Overall, the season served as a reminder of Undermain’s continued import to this city’s cultural conscience.

Readers’ Pick: Dallas Theater Center’s bold production of Stagger Lee, a new musical written by SMU’s Will Power and starring hometown-boy-made-good Cedric Neal, was a highlight.

Best Local Tweeter

Pete Delkus (@wfaaweather)

When Delkus unhooks his signature French cuffs and rolls up his sleeves, you know he means serious weather-related business. But you can almost always find him on Twitter, where he has 119,000-plus followers, responding personally to crazy storm photos and travel questions, all while stirring the pot with sassy, increasingly power-mad jokes like “Still trying to decide if I’m going to cancel school Thursday!” His Twitter bio proclaims that he’s “just your weather guy,” but he’s more like our social media-friendly Prospero.

Readers’ Pick: Michael Gruber (@tweetgrubes) mostly tweets about sports.

Best Columnist

Tim MacMahon

When Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle wasn’t exactly forthcoming regarding his benching of point guard Rajon Rondo, ESPN Dallas’ MacMahon wouldn’t give up. He kept pressing. “How many other ways do you want me to answer the same question?” Carlisle finally barked. MacMahon didn’t miss a beat: “One. You haven’t answered it yet.” You want your sports columnist to do that when he has to.

Readers’ Pick: Pretty much everything the Dallas Observer’s Jim Schutze has written about the Trinity project has proven to be true.

Best Sports Team

Dallas Cowboys

When the Cowboys kicked off the 2014 season—which seems like a million years ago—conventional wisdom said they would, at best, finish 8-8 again. They ended up finishing one botched call (DEZ CAUGHT THAT BALL!) away from the NFC championship game. Finally, there is hope again.

Readers’ Pick: Speaking of bad referees, a blown goaltending call kept the SMU men’s basketball team from winning its first NCAA tournament game since 1988.

Best Local Attraction

The Trinity River

The rainiest May in Dallas history (and the third-rainiest month overall) gave people a chance to see the Trinity when it actually—what’s that?—looks like—could that be?—a river. People lined the Continental Avenue Bridge just to see the sunset glistening off the water. That’s right. People in Dallas made a point to go see a sunset. Forget a park or a road. Just give us some water.

Readers’ Pick: Klyde Warren Park is a miracle: a bustling patch of greenspace hovering above a highway.

Best Place To See Graffiti

The West Dallas Graffiti Warehouse

The most exciting place to see art in Dallas these days is a warehouse in West Dallas where property owners have let the graffiti scene run wild (as long as they leave nearby properties alone). The result is something like a graffiti cave painting, with artists layering murals over every square inch of the building—and on top of each other—creating a kind of collective artwork that is continually made new.

Best Radio Station

BOOM 94.5 FM

There is no other station in town that is such a consistently rewarding listen, offering a little something for everyone (at least everyone who enjoys hip-hop recorded between 1980 and 2000, roughly). West Coast g-funk, East Coast boom-bap, Dirty South drawl, Miami bass, genre-defining masterworks, one-hit wonders, regional curiosities, deep cuts—it’s all here, and usually in the same hour.

Readers’ Pick: Sportsradio 1310 The Ticket has lost a little bit of ground to its competitors recently but is still the industry standard.

Best Sports Venue

Moody Coliseum

A $40 million renovation of the almost 60-year-old arena was completed midway through the 2013-14 season, as the SMU men’s basketball program came alive with it. Last season it became the hottest ticket in town, and the Mustangs streaked to their first NCAA tournament berth in two decades.

Readers’ Pick: American Airlines Center remains a very solid place to see a Mavericks or Stars game, and the concession options have gotten better.

Best Bookstore

Wild Detectives

Before there was a Wild Detectives, there was no Dallas literary scene to speak of. Now, from author readings to Shakespeare in the Bar, this 1,000-square-foot converted home in Oak Cliff is changing the way the city embraces the written word. And its tiny stock is so well curated that if we stop off for a beer, we inevitably leave with a book.

Readers’ Pick: Half Price Books’ flagship store is difficult to beat when it comes to sheer volume of titles on sale.

Best Actress

Sally Nystuen Vahle

Dallas Theater Center’s production of Euripides’ Medea was smartly staged in the basement of the Kalita Humphreys Theater, but the real stroke of genius was casting Vahle in the title role. Her keening wails and shrieks of rage recall an animal backed into a corner, forced to fight its way out. But Vahle also finds tenderness in the murderous madness of the terrifying mother and scorned wife, offering moments of such raw honesty that she cannot be dismissed as simply monstrous. Her stunning, memorable performance stuck with us.

Best Actor

Zak Reynolds

The 22-year-old from Fort Worth tackled three different roles—an emotionally unavailable soldier in WaterTower’s wonderful production of Dogfight, a silly chihuahua in Skippyjon Jones at Dallas Children’s Theater, and a cocky romantic who lives to twist the truth in Theatre Three’s The Liar—showing off impressive range and a gorgeous singing voice, to boot.

Best Director

Lee Trull

If you’ve seen something interesting, provocative, or just plain good on a Dallas stage lately, there’s a decent chance Trull had a hand in it. He took DTC artistic director Kevin Moriarty’s overstuffed version of A Christmas Carol and streamlined it into something poignant; directed his own new play, Wilde/Earnest, to dizzying heights at Kitchen Dog; and elicited rigorous, nuanced performances from some of the theater scene’s most promising actors with Belleville at Second Thought Theatre. His shows are infused with energy and understanding, marked by strong choices and solid acting. Let’s hope he stays this busy.

Best Movie Theater

Texas Theatre

Now that it has turned five years old, the once-upstart Texas Theatre feels like a veritable establishment. Signs of maturity are apparent. The theater offers a smart balance of mainstream cinema alongside adventurous programming, a great bar scene, and one of the best venues for live music in town.

Readers’ Pick: The Alamo Drafthouse’s participatory, sometimes off-the-wall programming (plus in-theater dining) is a fan favorite.

Best Public Official

Philip Kingston

Kingston has been criticized for being too friendly to reporters and too chatty on social media, but in a city that struggles with transparency, sometimes fighting to free up information is exactly what serves constituents best. It may not always make him the most effective council member, but it makes him the most necessary.

Readers’ Pick: Mike Rawlings is the mayor of Dallas.

Best Art Space

And Now

James Cope’s And Now gallery keeps an impossibly low profile, so much so that it is probably better known outside Dallas than inside. Step inside the ramshackle bungalow in the Cedars and enter an ultra-white, severely lit gallery space that in the past year has hosted shows by Elizabeth Jaeger, Sebastian Black, Daniel Turner, and Dan Colen.

Readers’ Pick: Fort Worth Contemporary Arts, TCU’s progressive contemporary gallery, offers the best of the area’s art scene peppered with thoughtful, internationally minded exhibitions.

Best Pegasus

The Original

The flying horse that had soared above the Magnolia Building since 1934 disappeared after it was replaced with a new model in 1999. But everyone knows you can’t keep a flying horse down for long. After the original Pegasus was tracked down in a warehouse near White Rock, it was restored to its former glory and set atop a 22-foot oil derrick in front of the Omni.

Best Music Act

Leon Bridges

From his voice to his very particular style, there has perhaps never been a more natural performer to come out of North Texas. This year saw Bridges go from washing dishes and performing at coffee shops to taking the stage at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. What’s more, every last drop of success is well deserved.

Readers’ Pick: Sarah Jaffe’s evolving brand of eclectic songsmithing continues to enchant loyal audiences.

Best Conspiracy Theorist

Jim Schutze

For years everyone thought Schutze was nuts. The Dallas Observer columnist decried shady dealings at City Hall, powerful business interests manipulating the public process, and all sorts of other wheelings and dealings that sounded (to him, at least) like conspiracies. He even wore a hat cam to a business breakfast. But then, much to our horror, we found out that Schutze was right about so much all along, and so we’ve learned to listen more closely to Dallas’ Chicken Little.

Best Worst-Named Festival

Dallas Medianale

The scrappy and inventive Dallas VideoFest rolled out a new standalone event this year to showcase video art, and the result was one of the best art exhibitions of the year. Particularly important in a city that—Zhulong Gallery excepted—hasn’t made media art a front-and-center focus, the Medianale offered a rare opportunity to see works by artists like Francis Alÿs and Gary Hill.

Best Museum

Nasher Sculpture Center

The flimsy, all-over-the-place Thomas Heatherwick show aside, the Nasher excelled this year in offering incisive, important shows of some significant if historically overlooked artists like Melvin Edwards and Phyllida Barlow. Plus, the newly launched Nasher Prize could reposition the museum on the international stage, while new artist grants may really impact the local scene.

Readers’ Pick: The Perot Museum of Nature and Science welcomed its 1 millionth visitor just eight months after opening, in 2012.


View Map of the Best of Big D Winners

Editor’s Choice: Attractions

Readers’ Choice: Attractions

Credits

  • Photographer Billy Surface
  • Photographer Andi Harmon
  • Photographer Elizabeth Lavin
  • Photographer Kristi and Scot Redman

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