Lee Harvey's
There are many bars you can go to around town if you're looking to hook up. Of course, the blaring music, exorbitant drink prices and plethora of douchebags in striped button-down shirts may make it a challenging task, but it can be done. Enter a revolution in the bar scene: a cool, cheap dive known for great music, a diverse crowd and an excellent name. Lee Harvey's. Take a stroll through Lee Harvey's giant front yard one breezy weekend evening. If you meander around the picnic tables, listening to the live band tear it up in the distance, you'll note one important thing. You might actually meet somebody at this bar. Outdoor seating--and Lee's has plenty of it--just makes people friendlier. So does a bucket of Lone Star for your hottie of choice and his or her friends. In no time, you'll be enjoying the benefits of an outdoor romance, no matter what the temperature. If it's cold, you can snuggle up around one of Lee Harvey's outdoor fires. If it's hot, well, we may need to head home a little early, since that tank top just looks so, so very constricting.
You'll spot her dressed in expensive workout clothes as she comes in search of yogurt-covered pecans, free-range chicken and organic strawberries. She looks a little harried and more than a little forlorn. Her husband is working late while her kids are easily placated with a frozen pizza from Minyard's. She's not here for anyone but herself, looking for fresh produce and lean turkey so she can retain her youthful figure. Not that he'll notice, but that won't stop her from trying. The Whole Foods Market on Lower Greenville offers the freshest grapefruit juice, the richest chocolate, a range of natural foods and some of the best-looking older women in Dallas, many of whom seem like they're looking for love in all the organic places. Maybe it's Whole Foods' close proximity to Lakewood or the surrounding M Streets neighborhood, or perhaps the allure of Lower Greenville reminds many a MILF of a more exciting period in their lives, but this particular natural grocery store brings all the girls to the yard.
Time Magazine calls it one of the top five professional theaters for kids in the nation. But at any performance in the gorgeous, audience-friendly acting spaces at the 58,000-square-foot Rosewood Center for Family Arts, more than half the crowd will be happy grown-ups, many seeing the show without any children in tow. That's how good they are here. Founded by Robyn Flatt (daughter of Dallas Theater Center pioneer Paul Baker), DCT goes all out on every production, casting the best actors, using top directors and spending what it takes to make shows artistically masterful. While other theaters struggle to sell tickets, DCT plays to packed houses, garnering international acclaim (they took their tour version of The Stinky Cheese Man to China this month for the 2006 Shanghai International Children's Culture and Arts Expo). In their theater education classes, they're developing young theater lovers, for which all theaters should be eternally grateful. Financially, it's in great shape too. And they do have eyes for talent. Emerson Collins, who co-starred in the road tour of Southern Baptist Sissies at the Majestic recently, got his start as a teen at DCT, playing Hans Brinker. On this season's DCT lineup, catch Night of the Living Dead (October 13 to November 4), The Velveteen Rabbit (November 17 to December 17) and The Miracle Worker (January 26 to February 18).
The Old Monk
This selection is perhaps unduly influenced by the unfortunate fact that we're reporters. Attorneys might prefer Ghost Bar; doctors drown their sorrows at Primo's. Laborers at insurance firms likely choose to forget about life for a while at any chain restaurant offering some variation of the Bloomin' Onion. We prefer the Old Monk, which is an affable and engaging setting for anyone who likes to talk to old friends and meet new people. The haphazard way the Old Monk is laid out allows for friends to drink together and strangers to stumble onto each other, which basically is a reporter's MO: Meet new sources, maintain old ones. An impressive selection of import beers on tap, a spacious outdoor patio and a central location contribute to the Old Monk's allure.
Kitchen Dog Theater
Now in its 16th season presenting plays they hope will "provoke, challenge and amaze" (according to their mission statement), Kitchen Dog Theater, founded by SMU theater grads, is one of the few local theaters to host a full company of artists. Some 29 actors, directors, designers and playwrights comprise KDT's professional company, making for a diverse and exciting artistic family. Among them: actors Ian Leson, Rhonda Boutte, Shelley Tharp-Payton, Christina Vela and John Flores; playwrights Lee Trull and Vicki Caroline Cheatwood; designers Christina Dickson, Russell K. Dyer and Emily Young; and co-artistic directors Tina Parker and Christopher Carlos. Opening the current season with Neil LaBute's controversial Fat Pig (through October 21), Kitchen Dog just keeps turning up the heat.
Ginger Man
The Ginger Man offers 77,343 different beers on draft. At least that's what it looks like when you're saddled up at the bar staring at the glorious line of taps offering visions of a beer-soaked paradise. Offering every type of beer imaginable, including those flavored with apricots and coffee, the Ginger Man is to discerning drinkers what the Apple Store is to people with a Mac fetish. Located on Boll Street on the fringes of Uptown Dallas, the Ginger Man has its share of 30-something frat boys who refer to beer as brewskies and inexplicably appreciate the bar's frumpy taste in live music, but after a drink or seven even Kappa Alphas don't seem so bad.
Actors trust Cheryl Denson, a longtime Dallas theater actor and now a much in-demand director. She's not a crack-the-whip type, doesn't bury herself in trivial research, never screams at the slackers. She just gets it done, making the process a lot of fun. An expert with comedies but no slouch with musicals and dramas, Denson, a Baylor grad with an MFA from Trinity University, deflects praise that comes her way. "It's not about just me. I watched directors work when I acted all those years and watched them make it about their work only. I hated that as an actor," she says. Theater, she says, ought to feel embracing and it ought to feel safe. "We're all exposing the rawest part of ourselves to do that. You can't have fearful actors." Booked a year in advance with directing jobs, Denson next takes the reins of Last Night of Ballyhoo at Contemporary Theatre of Dallas, then Master Class at Lyric Stage. Next time you see a really good show, check for Denson's name in the program. Good directors such as her rarely get the applause they deserve.
Adair's Saloon
There are joints that bill bigger acts (Billy Bob's), and there are joints where ladies ride mechanical bulls (Gilley's), but nothing says honky-tonk like Adair's Saloon in Deep Ellum. It's where you go if you want to hear no-frills, stripped-to-the-bone country. It's a rough and tumblin' kind of place, a shitty little dive with a small stage, small tables and plenty of beer. And it's one of the last places in town where for a couple bucks you can hear real country, as opposed to that Kenny Chesney sun-going-down Caribbean bullshit.
In Danny and the Deep Blue Sea at the Bath House, she was Roberta, desperately needy and starved for a sexual connection with somebody, anybody. In A Moon for the Misbegotten at Circle Theatre, she was Josie, an Irish-American pig farmer's wife, desperately needy and starved forwell, you see the pattern. Playing beautiful but quirky women with a certain seething sexuality, Heather Henry, 33, has made an unforgettable impression on theatergoers in a series of tough roles over the past year. A SUNY-Purchase grad (like Edie Falco and Stanley Tucci), Henry arrived in Dallas after not acting for six years. Her comeback role was a doozy, playing a boozy slattern in Killer Joe at the MAC. "I think I was cast because I was willing to do it naked. I had to come onstage in a white T-shirt and my frickin' double-D boobs," Henry recalls. She's since worked at WaterTower and Classical Acting Company, where she recently co-starred as the woman who seduces Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman. She's also lost 100 pounds she'd gained during the lay-off from showbiz. "Now directors don't know what to do with me!" she says. Giving her more good roles would be a start.
If you bought a ticket to any Dallas theater this past year, you probably saw Ian Leson onstage. The guy worked everywhere, getting roles he admits put him on an enviable hot streak. First, Bug, a sell-out at Kitchen Dog with Leson playing a meth-crazed guy holed up stark naked in a motel room. Then Living Out at WaterTower, as a Yuppie liberal who almost jumps in the sack with the nanny. Then Visiting Mr. Green at Contemporary Theatre of Dallas, a two-hander starring Leson as a gay New Yorker doing court-ordered visits to a grouchy old widower (the grand Jerry Russell). Throw in appearances at the Out of the Loop Fest, plus staged readings here and there, and Leson, who owns a Preston Center Pilates studio with wife Jennifer, barely had a night off. The SMU theater grad is a director's fave and recently was named a company member at Kitchen Dog, where he's playing the male lead in Neil LaBute's Fat Pig through October 21. Now, says Leson, "I have this urge to do a musical. Because it would terrify me."

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