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
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.
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Andy+Hanson
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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
Across The Street Bar
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.
Half Price Books
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.
Contemporary Theatre of Dallas
Now in its fourth season, this venue for live theater just keeps getting better with age. Located in a converted church one block off Lower Greenville, CTD had to add more seats to accommodate their growing audiences for PG-13 fare such as Steel Magnolias and the recent Miss Firecracker Contest. Artistic director and founder Sue Loncar and her right-hand man Tom Sime (he left The Dallas Morning News theater beat to work here) set this theater apart by creating a cozy, welcoming atmosphere for every production. Instead of squeezing into rows of hard chairs, patrons are seated at large round tables decorated with centerpieces themed to every show. The proximity of a full bar at the back of the theater means you can sip a highball or green appletini even when the lights go down. No expense is spared on productions, with sets and costumes that rival bigger Equity houses. Because Loncar pays reasonable wages to actors, CTD attracts the area's top talent.
Who needs therapy when you can study acting under local Meisner Technique teacher Terry Martin? Local actors, including standouts such as Regan Adair and Tippi Hunter, swear by Martin's 12-week course, which uses a step-by-step approach to breaking down emotional barriers and exploring dialogue through lengthy repetition. Martin, who is WaterTower Theatre's producing artistic director, trained under both Sanford Meisner (founder of New York City's legendary Neighborhood Playhouse) and Meisner protégé Fred Kareman. The class is tough, a real emotional boot camp, say former students. "I never cried so much in my life," says Contemporary Theatre founder and lead actress Sue Loncar. An interview is required for admittance to each fall's select group of students. Now where's the class to prepare for the interview?

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