Best of Dallas®

Best Of 2016


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Readers' Choice


Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment

Best Theater Teacher
Jeff Swearingen

Normally, it takes a very generous person to willingly watch high school students perform in a production of anything. If it's your child, sure. But nieces, cousins, children of friends? Unless you're a saint you're probably not going to sit through The Crucible for them. But you would if Jeff Swearingen were directing it. Along with Bren Rapp, he heads up Fun House Theatre and Film in Plano where young kids act in roles normally reserved for people much older. Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman came together beautifully in November, with Swearingen acting in the lead role and 14-year-old Kennedy Waterman giving a moving performance as his wife, Linda. The age disparities, though they sound awkward, are handled with grace, and the quality of the performances matches or exceeds that of many of the serious small theaters in town.

1301 Custer Rd., Plano, 75075
Best Art Exhibition
Jackson Pollock: Blind Spots at the Dallas Museum of Art

It comes as no surprise that an exhibit of work by abstract expressionist luminary Jackson Pollock would be a draw for the Dallas Museum of Art. There's a reason his drip paintings are ubiquitous. They're good. Really good. But the exhibition Blind Spots, organized by DMA curator Gavin Delahunty, focused on Pollock's later work, a series of rarely seen black enamel paintings. Curated in low-ceilinged, carpeted rooms, the exhibition gave the viewer a mid-20th century experience. Yet, it felt new and exciting, and ultimately emotional. The turmoil, the chaos of Pollock's work was on full display, and with more than 70 works, the exhibition demanded numerous visits to the museum.

1717 N. Harwood St., Dallas, 75201
Best Actor
Brandon Potter

This has been Brandon Potter's year. In just a few months, the unknown MFA student at Southern Methodist University became one of the city's most promising acting talents. The dude's in his early 30s and he played a believable 55-year-old President Lyndon Baines Johnson in All the Way at Dallas Theater Center. In the same year, he played a killer King Richard first at Shakespeare in the Bar and then at Shakespeare Dallas' Shakespeare in the Park. Sure, they're both conniving powermongers, but Potter made them irresistible.

Best Actress
Joanna Schellenberg

Mary Tyrone is one of the American theater's most iconic characters. The matriarch losing touch with reality in Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night is a role rife with complications. It's a challenge for even the most serious actress and one rarely available. So, it's a treat to see an actress as gifted as Joanna Schellenberg step into the character. An actress seen so rarely on Dallas stages it's criminal, Schellenberg gave a bone-rattling performance as the drug-addled, fading woman.

Best Theater Company
Ochre House Theater

In a year in which theater companies struggled to hold onto — or even find — performance spaces, Ochre House Theater remains the little theater that could. Against all odds, playwright/director Matthew Posey's company continues to produce new works in a small storefront in Exposition Park. Attending a production is an investment in the unexpected. The only thing your ticket promises you is something you've never seen before. And the risk itself is worth the $15 price of admission. From a play about an egg salesman to a bawdy musical about a small town girl named Indigo Sue, there's no end to the creativity at this little company.

Readers' Pick:

Dallas Summer Musicals

825 Exposition Ave., Dallas, 75226-1743
Best New Play
<i>Jonah</i> by Len Jenkin at Undermain Theatre

There are a number of playwrights whose names you hope to see on an Undermain Theatre season announcement. The company has its go-to living playwrights, like Erik Ehn, Meg Miroshink and Len Jenkin. They work closely to commission or develop work by these writers, often to incredible results. Such was the case with Jenkin's Jonah, which Undermain's artistic director, Katherine Owens, developed alongside him at the Sundance Theatre Lab. Owens directed the world premiere of the work this year to critical acclaim. The frenzied take on the Biblical beach tale featured kaleidoscopic characters and heartwarming stories interwoven in a way that was meaningful, intellectual and fun — an Undermain hat trick. It was also one of the best uses of the basement theater space we've ever seen, thanks to John Arnone's theater-in the-round design, which put the audience inside a circus tent.

3200 Main St., Dallas, Dallas, 75226

Best Theater Teacher: Jeff Swearingen


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