Best Local Actor and Best Local Playwright 2005 | Steven Walters | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer
As one of the young founders of the year-old Second Thought Theatre company, this Fort Worth native and 2003 Baylor grad already has earned impressive credits as a writer and actor. He played the sensitive husband in Classical Acting's exquisite Gift of the Magi and the perpetual student in their Cherry Orchard. His new play Apathy and Angst in Amsterdam was a standout at last spring's Out of the Loop Fest. This summer Walters, 24, was the fall-out-funny title fool in his own adaptation (with Allison Tolman) of King Ubu for the Festival of Independent Theatres, and he opened Second Thought's new season this fall co-starring in Wonder of the World. He'll be on tour in his play Pluck the Day in 2006. Acting since the age of 17, Walters also is under contract to translate scripts into English for some of Cartoon Network's late-night Japanese anime series. And in his spare time, he joins other Second Thoughters for improv comedy at the West End Comedy Theatre. Talented? Much.

Readers' Pick
Chamblee Ferguson
Despite the name, this troupe quickly has become a top choice among avid theatergoers looking for exciting new works and attractive young actors serious about entertaining with intelligent scripts. These recent Baylor grads are putting down roots here. "We would like to continue to grow and become a staple of Dallas' theater community," says co-founder Steven Walters, who writes new plays for the company as well as acts in them. "We want to become an Equity theater one day and leave the indie theater status behind." Last season they earned strong reviews with the quirky Anton in Show Business and noirish Earth and Sky. On weekends they drop by the West End Comedy Theatre and do improv as "The STDs." Among the young actors drawn into the ensemble are Meridith Morton, Joey Oglesby, Jack Birdwell and Kristin McCollum. Second Thought moves this season--their second--to Addison Theatre Centre's Black Box, a nice step up from flea-ridden Frank's Place at DTC.
Most people at the Double Wide were too young when Urban Cowboy was released in 1980 to remember the two-step craze that got city slickers putting on big hats, tight jeans and snakeskin boots to be like John Travolta and Debra Winger. These urban cowboys are more likely to be wearing flip- flops, Vans or Chuck Taylors, and that's all right; they work just the same on the dance floor (and maybe hurt a little less when two-stepping on toes). The free dance lessons are Tuesdays in the music venue part of the bar; DJ Snakebite from the Boys Named Sue spins records, too. Take Barbara Mandrell's advice and be country when country isn't cool. You never known when two-steppin' will be back in style.
Lee Harvey's feels like home. Maybe not your home, but that great party house you used to hang at. The bar actually is an old house, divided into small spaces crammed with barstools, booths, vintage arcade games and a DJ table, forcing you outside to the spacious yard--the prime real estate. There are long wooden picnic tables and benches, fire pits and a covered porch. But Lee Harvey's is better than those party house memories. Drinks may not be free, but they're so cheap they might as well be. The food, served till 10 p.m. on Tuesdays through Fridays, is miles beyond chips and dip and cheap hot dogs on the grill. There's live music--bands on Fridays and Saturday and DJs throughout the week. Best of all, when you show up at 1:30 a.m. on a Tuesday, no one's roommate is going to yell at you.
Monday night openings are a little weird. Theatre Three's the only theater in town that does that. But it does cut down on the competition, and to make it more worthwhile, they host an after-party in the lobby. A buffet of snacks themed to each show is provided free for audience and actors, who spill out to the Quadrangle's pretty patio to mix and mingle for an hour or two. Since the theater usually "papers" the first-night crowd with free tix for local actors, it's a great opportunity to meet and greet some of the performers from other stages. Nice bonus: Jerry Haynes, Dallas TV's beloved "Mr. Peppermint," is usually there, looking not a day older than he did wearing the striped jacket for his kiddie show.
With her Dallas debut in Second Thought Theatre's Anton in Show Business last year, this 23-year-old Baylor grad impressed critics and theatergoers with her natural ease onstage and her ability to turn in a breathtaking performance without seeming to hog the spotlight. Described by her Second Thought colleague Steven Walters as "ridiculously intelligent," Tolman visited New York, L.A. and Chicago before deciding to launch her acting career here. Smart move for her and good news for theater lovers. "Every day Dallas becomes more my home theatrically and geographically," says the Houston native. Tolman sings, too. Ridiculous.

Readers' Pick
Marisa Diotalevi
Granted, we've only observed this Wednesday night spectacle from the safe confines of the Barley House patio, but it sure looks like fun if you're into that sort of thing. Based on the data we've accumulated, it seems the drummers gather in a circle, allowing the hippies to congregate in the middle and perform their traditional loose-limbed mating dance--a combination of body spins and raised hand twirls that looks really stupid but apparently gets them laid. If a number of hippie males are vying for one female, the competition gets intense, so much so that one dude might even up the ante by pulling out his devil sticks and performing the most mystical of all juggling routines. Every third Wednesday is the Rainbow Potluck, where the hippies bring offerings of munchies to the drum gods. So bring your djembes and your congas if you got 'em, but don't forget that old anthropology textbook. You're gonna need it.
Just when we were convinced that she was the master of staging only mega-serious dramas by Chekhov and Albee, director Susan Sargeant turns around and makes The Miss Firecracker Contest at Contemporary Theatre of Dallas into the madcap comedy of the summer. This native Bostonian has worked in D-FW theaters for more than two decades. She is the founder and artistic director for WingSpan Theatre Company. She's also an actress, appearing onstage at Dallas Theater Center, Theatre Three, Dallas Children's Theater, Stage West and others. As one of a handful of professional theater directors in town, Sargeant is booked with assignments a year in advance. She's known for her strict (but respectful) attitude with actors and her meticulous research on every show. Thespians fear and love her. "She's a force of nature," says busy actress Elise Reynard. Sargeant helmed several of the best shows of the past year, including CTD's The Dining Room and Circle Theatre's A Moon for the Misbegotten. And for that, we salute her.

Readers' Pick
Doug Miller
There were no people more happy to see the swing dance fad die than the Dallas Swing Dance Society. First, they had to endure all the Swingers-lovin' hipsters snagging all the cool threads in their lust for lounge, and then they couldn't turn on the tube without seeing their beloved dance steps used to sell khaki pants at The Gap. But six years later, they're still swinging even if swing isn't. Every Wednesday, the DSDS members take over the wood-floored ballroom of Sons of Hermann Hall with free lessons and dancing to DJ-ed music, and enough people attend that you can hear the old polished floor creaking in the bar below their jumpin', jivin' and wailin'. Plus, the second and fourth Saturdays of each month is Swing on a String--a low-cost dance preceded by lessons. Those who scoffed at the Lindy Hop on its latest go-around can catch up with workshops around town and by instructors from at home and across the country. Swing still rocks; just don't tell any advertising execs.
Library? Too quiet. Bar? Too loud. Restaurant? Too expensive, plus not everyone wants to eat the same thing. If you've got picky people who need to meet, Half Price Books has tables and chairs and a couch in the café. It's free; it's quiet, but not too quiet; people can eat and drink or not feel guilty if they don't. It's the perfect place for study groups, knitting circles, scrapbook aficionados and, of course, book groups, whose members can track down their next assignment in the store's aisles. There's no sshhhhh-ing, no evil eye-giving, no "buy something or leave" looks. And, best of all, you don't have to clean your house.

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