As the title character in Matt Lyle's silent film homage The Boxer, Jeff Swearingen, 31, showed off physical comedy finesse inspired by Keaton, Chaplin and maybe a bit of PeeWee Herman. He teamed with Lyle again to play Blork, the Franken-Romeo in the silly-romantic Hello Human Female. A veteran of several improv groups, the actor got his start at The Dallas Hub and has worked with theaters all over North Texas. Next he'll play an alcoholic magician in Audacity Stage's Milky Way Cabaret in November. And look for him as Ebenezer Scrooge (his favorite character) at Plano Community Theatre. When did he realize he was funny? "When I was about 6, a group of adults were talking about how funny Bill Cosby was, and my older brother walked up and informed them that nobody was funnier than I was," Swearingen says. "I learned comedy by making my brothers laugh." When Swearingen is on a stage, everybody laughs.

Since her local theater debut in Dallas Children's Theater's Charlotte's Web in 2005, this UT-Austin grad has been popping up in comic roles on both sides of the Trinity. Shivers, 29, was a stitch as the lady cop in Circle Stage's hit Unnecessary Farce and made Ochre House audiences roar as Timmy in Matt Lyle's Hello Human Female. Inspired by Carol Burnett and Lucille Ball, Shivers says she dreams of playing frazzled maid Dotty Otley in the ultimate farce, Noises Off. Shivers' secret of comedy success? "Just be fearless. If you're playing it safe, it won't be as funny as it can be. Don't be afraid to look like an idiot."

Artisan Center Theater--theater-in-the-round

Proprietor Richard Blair has created a community theater beloved by its surrounding community. There's never a weekend dark at this 150-seat, in-the-round playhouse tucked beside an old movie theater in a Hurst shopping center. Double- and sometimes triple-casting roles, Artisan gives amateur actors lots of work in shows like My Fair Lady, Grease, Nunsense and other family-friendly titles. The house is always full (tickets are only $12), and the atmosphere is casual (snacking is allowed and encouraged). The recent hiring of Broadway veteran John Wilkerson as full-time artistic director is a good sign that Artisan's already popular shows might be getting more professional polish.

If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of being charged with a petty crime and without sufficient funds to pay your debt to society, you'd be damn lucky if you landed in the courtroom of Teresa Tolle. A former nun, Tolle wears her compassion on her robe and is willing to buck the district attorney's standard plea recommendations for fines, and even the length of probationary periods, in order to accommodate financial hardship. Needless to say, she is adored by the criminal bar, though prosecutors may worry that her standard of proof is different from theirs. But in a job in which seeing humanity's masses daily offer lame excuses for conduct that ranges from the cruel to the idiotic to the benign, she manages to care. And that says something.

Burns was the Morning News investment columnist for 21 years until three years ago when he walked out the back door in one of the News' draconian staff cuts. But he's still in the paper on Sundays and Thursdays as an independent "syndicated" columnist, meaning he works for himself now and sells his column back to the News and 82 other newspapers around the country. Let's not even try to understand why the News would allow Burns to leave but keep Steve Bloviatin' Blow on the payroll. The point here is that Burns has always churned out smart, people-centric investment advice without a drop of churn-and-burn hype. The fact that he is semi-retired himself—and an entrepreneurial success in his golden years—only adds to his credibility. For a straight-on treatment of financial issues in language you can understand, Burns can't be beat. And who knows? Stay in a state park some day: He might be that bald guy in the Airstream next to you.

Fallout Lounge

Don't expect a red carpet or a VIP list here—it's a divey sort of place where you can never be sure what lies in store. Relatively small and cave-like, with a rustic concrete floor and DJs spinning on the weekends, it tends to turn into an all-out dance party on Friday nights. Like any dance party worth its salt, this includes a decent dose of '80s music, along with some contemporary tracks in the mix. The crowd is generally laidback, the same people who patronize The Amsterdam and The Meridian Room nearby. Occasionally the place is surprisingly empty, which we think is cool, because it means you can create your own private dance party for special occasions.

With the advent of new dog parks around the metroplex, this competition has gotten downright dog-eat-dog. (Sorry.) It would be easy to bark up the same old tree (another apology) and give the Mockingbird Point Dog Park at White Rock Lake, which teaches socialization skills for both man and beast, our annual nod. But there is a new canine scene in town, Unleashed, and it has amenities other dog parks can't match. First off, it's indoors, has 25,000 square feet of K9Grass, an antimicrobial, easy on the paws (and the human nose) synthetic grass, and safe environs, with attendants on call to break up any fight between territorial terriers or whomever. Yes, there's a fee, but it's worth it, particularly during long bouts of inclement weather when Rover just can't rove without getting heat stroke or mud-caked paws. There's a café and a lounge and on-site grooming—a one-of-a-kind experience for dog and dog lover. The only thing missing from the indoor park is well, the outdoors, and that's in the park's future.

We know you guys love Salim Nourallah. He's won the Best Producer award at the Dallas Observer Music Awards for, like, eleventy years now. But you guys are dead wrong on this one, as Nourallah isn't even close to the best producer in North Texas—especially considering that world-class talents like Stuart Sikes (White Stripes, Dove Hunter), Matt Pence (Centro-matic, American Music Club) and John Congleton (St. Vincent, The Paper Chase) reside here. That's not even counting our personal favorite sound engineer, the Echo Lab's Matt Barnhart, who not only worked on two of last year's best records—Shearwater's Rook and The New Year's self-titled release—but also found time (when he wasn't on the road running sound for A.C. Newman, Lift to Experience or The New Year, that is) for a slew of locals, including Deep Snapper, Les Americains, The Angelus, Nervous Curtains and his own Tre Orsi. Consider this a wake-up call for your ears, dear readers. Vote Barnhart in 2010.

Don't let the Uptown yuppies in their Polo shirts and Banana Republic slacks fool you: There is, indeed, quite the hip streetwear fashion scene in Dallas—and it's growing every year. Case in point: Kixpo, Dallas' annual sneaker and streetwear expo. Run by a group of sneaker and streetwear fiends who collectively call themselves Dead Stock, the annual event draws sneakerheads and fashion-savvy skate-punks from far beyond North Texas into town for a weekend of hip-hop, basketball and, most important, a couple hours of showing off. The third annual event, held this past July 25 at Life in Deep Ellum, saw a room full of sneaker collectors, streetwear fashion boutiques and mixtape makers showing off their own collections' finest pieces. And, even though few items were actually for sale—"Don't Touch!" signs littered the display booths covered in some of the flashiest kicks you've ever seen—around 2,000 squeezed into the room to jealously stare down the materials being flaunted. With an increasing fan base and not too many other national sneaker conventions to speak of, the sky seems the limit for this foot-obsessed, fetishy upstart.

Lots of countries have a can-do spirit, but if there's one that combines serious fun and frolic with theirs, it's Ireland. After a potato famine as well as civil, political and religious unrest for years, the island of Éire and its people still know how to party (that's probably why they know how to party, now that we think about it). Thus, the North Texas Irish Festival makes for one helluva weekend. You get the full-on guts, the humor, the dances, the music (the festival books an impressive roster of Irish and Celtic performers, both modern and traditional) , yes, the potent potables of the fair green land, perfectly imported for Dallas. We're not sure Ireland is really known for its face painting, but the NTIF often has that too, should the kiddos demand it. More than 60,000 people attended this last year—which is impressive for a festival celebrating but one culture—so really, who are we to doubt the shamrockian shenanigans?

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