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?
The Meridian Room
Can you tell the difference between a voice scratchy and raw from a nasty case of bronchitis on the verge of pneumonia from one harmed by four hours spent in a smoky bar and performing a scream-filled rendition of Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It"? Nope. And neither can your boss. See, Skaraoke--hosted every Thursday night from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. by DJ Mr. Rid--is a reason and an excuse to take a three-day weekend. The long-running (first at XPO Lounge and now at Meridian Room) event features a real karaoke machine with books offering more than a hundred pages of song choices. The standing-room-only crowd is always full of liquid courage and ready to sing along. All you have to do is make your request and remember to set your alarm early enough to call in "sick."
After a late-night cup of java at Standards and Pours on the bottom level of this artists' community, venture your way to the main lobby, find the elevator and ride all the way to the top. The roof caters to the residents of this renovated Sears building with sitting areas, a pool and jogging track. People even live up there! Stand in front of the huge neon sign, face Dallas and try not to gasp. Even city naysayers can't resist this spectacular view. Big-time bonus points in your favor if taking a date.
Take it from our mom, Rose-Mary Rumbley is a rock star among Dallas' senior set. Her lively speeches and informative neighborhood history tours are sellouts months in advance. Her breadth of knowledge about all things Dallas is spectacular. Historian, humorist, author and actress, Rumbley, who appeared in the movie Paper Moon, is this area's most in-demand public speaker. Making more than 300 appearances a year at church groups, community colleges, book review clubs, senior centers and business luncheons, Rumbley can make any subject fascinating. She speaks with authority on dozens of topics: Dallas parks, the history of Oak Cliff, old-time radio, vaudeville, Broadway shows, Sam Houston, Texas' small-town food festivals and many others. She's written a book, Century of Class, about the history of public education in Dallas, and wrote The Unauthorized History of Dallas for the city's 150th birthday in 1991. Always on the move, Rumbley recently completed a trip along Route 66, gathering material for another book. Forget retirement. Dr. Rumbley's always ready to rumble.
It's not every weekend you can paint your self gold and do "The Swim" on a go-go girl platform. But it is every eighth weekend. The Lollipop Shoppe is an every-other-month themed party usually held at the Avenue Arts Venue in Expo Park. Music (provided by resident DJs Panda Flower and Tiger Bee, guest DJs and live bands) and decorations are tailored to fit the motif, which has included Space Out, Beach Party or Spy Night. Costumes are encouraged; dancing is, too. And it's usually BYOB. That's six more excuses beyond Halloween to hit the thrift stores and costume shops. But you don't have to go all out to be part of the in crowd. Simply standing, watching and drinking is groovy, too.

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