Every spring brings another three-week onslaught of new plays, one-person shows, music, dance and other entertainments to the theater complex under the water tower in Addison. Performers fill the three acting spaces and sometimes spill out into the lobby for bursts of song and comedy. This year's biggest draw was the One Man Star Wars—all the movies, all the characters in just more than an hour—performed to sell-out family crowds by Canadian actor Charlie Ross. Unusual acts like that make Out of the Loop a fresh, fun celebration of non-traditional stage performances.

Downtown Dallas Arts District

When people come to Dallas, they usually go to a strip club, see where JFK was shot, eat atop Reunion Tower or visit a sports venue (two of which are 20 miles away in Arlington). Some choose more than one, and others may add Deep Ellum or White Rock Lake to their lists, but those leaving town without a stay in the Arts District are missing the best of what the city has to offer. With the Dallas Museum of Art, the Nasher Sculpture Center, the Trammell and Margaret Crow Collection of Asian Art, the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts opening October 12 and the Woodall Rodgers Park on its way, Dallas has quickly established itself among the art hotspots in the county, and it's also making noise worldwide.

She sure doesn't look like a dean, but with Tracy Rowlett now out of the local television news business, Clarice Tinsley, who started at Channel 4 in 1978, is now the longest-running news anchor in the market. She was 24 years old when she took the job. During her tenure Tinsley has done lots of solid journalistic work, including a series she co-wrote with investigative reporter Fred Mays in 1984 called, "A Call for Help." Larry Boff, a Dallas man, had called 911 three times begging for help for his dying stepmother. Twice 911 personnel argued with him and hung up. When an ambulance finally got there, his mother was dead. By the time Tinsley and Mays were done with the story, people were fired and major reforms instituted. The series won a Peabody Award. Tinsley's solid reporting experience and familiarity with the city are all there when she reports the news every afternoon at 5 p.m. and evening at 10 p.m. It doesn't get any better than Clarice.

On the one hand, maybe it's not fair to pit Good Day against the full-bore 5 and 10 p.m. newscasts. On the other hand, half the world thinks Jon Stewart's Daily Show is a newscast, so what are the rules anymore anyway? Good Day is a blend of local street reporting, weather, headlines and talk, delivered in a zeitgeist somewhere between morning drive, Letterman and AC 360. The departure last winter of co-host Megan Henderson, who was witty and easy on the eyes, hurt us a bit, but the real backbone continues to be host Tim Ryan. Perhaps the best description of Ryan is in the station's promo piece: "He's had the same coffee mug for 12 years...doesn't Twitter...his MySpace is wherever he's standing. He's the crankiest anchor on TV, and more North Texans wake up to him than anyone else." Good Day's ratings regularly beat the national morning shows it's up against. It survives by telling an audience of people who have to get up at 5 in the morning what they need to know for the day and then getting them to laugh on their way out the door. No easy trick.

Dallas Children's Theater's Young Adult Relevant Drama series (nicknamed "y.a.r.d.") presents plays that entertain the "tween" generation and explores topics important to that age group. This past year's lineup—the B-movie spoof The Mummy's Claw, the new play dont u luv me? about obsessive teen relationships, and the Anne Frank drama And Then They Came for Me—were beautifully produced, directed and acted by casts that featured some of Dallas' best adult actors alongside young performers getting their first roles in a professional setting. This series is sensitive to the issues faced by tweens, but finds fresh ways to address them while stimulating a love of live theater.

It's tough to say who's behind this Twitter account that hates on all things little d, calling out people by name and doing so without remorse. And, actually, it can get pretty harsh at times. Like when a certain musician got called out for looking like "one of Prince's illegitimate children" and for having a questionable fashion sense. Or when another musician got called out as being ugly. Or when DJs get called out for not being able to mix well, despite computers. Or when the account called out the people who run a house venue in the college town, calling them "dumb bitches." OK, so WhyDentonSucks is pretty harsh all the time. But it's also a pretty fascinating look at the at-times petty inner workings of a close-knit musical hotbed, serving as proof that, despite all the praise the town earns in even the national media, it's just as insecure and fucked up as the rest of us. Oh, and, well, the rest of us aren't exactly out of range either. In only the seventh tweet ever sent by the account, WhyDentonSucks took aim at Dallas, proclaiming that the reason Denton sucks is "because Dallas is only 38 miles away." Thank goodness for the rest of us, then, that it feels so much farther than that.

Art shouldn't be scary. Even if a person hasn't been creative since preschool finger-painting, making art (granted, not necessarily good art) can be as easy as making a beautiful piece of paper or printing a simple design. The owners and proprietors of The Center for Art Conservation, Shannon Driscoll Phillips and Tish Brewer, want to share the joy of creation, one fun workshop at a time. Through their Paper Works by Paper Nerds series, the paper conservators and paper artists aim to "promote the exploration of paper art and craft" through hands-on lessons on cyanotypes, fold books, long-stitch binding, collage, paper ornaments, paste paper and marbling, silk-screen printing and more. Prices range from $30 to $95 for a four-hour class, and the proof that anyone can be an artist is in the pretty paper.

In Second Thought Theatre's Lobby Hero, his second professional Dallas theater role, Drew Wall, 24, wowed audiences and critics as a slouchy doorman. With a thick Irish brogue, he was disturbingly twitchy in A Skull in Connemara. Then he turned in a fine performance as a sweet, confused rich kid in Upstart Productions' staging of Kenneth Lonergan's This Is Our Youth. Now one of the second generation of producers of Second Thought, Wall, a Baylor grad who grew up in The Colony, is maturing into a more interesting actor in every role he plays. "I play angry young men a lot," he says, "guys that are down on their luck but still kind of charming." Never so charming as Drew Wall.

This graduate of Wylie High School and UT-Arlington ('08) burst onto the Dallas theater scene this year in Echo Theatre's remarkable production of The Nibroc Trilogy. Justiss starred opposite Ian Sinclair in the three plays: Last Train to Nibroc, See Rock City and Gulf View Drive. "When I was cast, I knew we were going to do all three plays, but I didn't realize that we were going to do them all within three weeks," the red-haired actress says. "Then I calmed down and said to myself, 'OK, this is good, get yourself pumped.'" She followed up with a turn as a waitress near the gas pumps of Ellsworth Schave's new play, Under a Texaco Canopy, at the Festival of Independent Theatres. We look forward to more shows that stretch this tall actress' talent in new directions.

Web extra: Founder and producer Tim Shane leads a video tour of the no-frills Dallas Hub Theater.

Dallas Theater Center can spend $400,000 to mount a single production. Contemporary Theatre of Dallas spends up to $40,000.

Budget for a really big show at Dallas Hub Theater? $40.

"In most cases, we're actually at zero for the budget," Hub founder and producer Tim Shane says. "New directors will come here and say, 'We need this kind of paint,' and I'll go, 'Do we really need to spend that 15 dollars?'"

The Hub, a two-stage, 100-seat space on Canton Street in Deep Ellum, puts on 25 productions a year and rents its stages for 25 other low-budget shows by fledgling companies such as Level Ground Arts or Upstart Productions. Most major Dallas theaters schedule only six to 10 productions a season. The Hub keeps humming nearly year-round with main-stage shows, late-night comedies, dinner theater parties and the annual Dallas Fringe Festival. Shane recently launched Cyber Fest, an online new play showcase that had playwrights around the globe beaming in readings of their scripts via Skype.

Almost everything the Hub does, it does on the fly. Shane doesn't sell season tickets because he's never sure month to month what shows he'll be able to afford to produce. He routinely recycles scenery and has no shame about begging Theatre Three or the SMU drama department to loan out or donate used costumes. The Hub's actors, some of them high school and college students, work for a small cut of the box office take, typically topping out at about $75 apiece for an entire three-week run. And unlike other theaters, The Hub doesn't allow actors to comp in friends and family for performances. Everybody buys a ticket. This is a no-frills, low-thrills theater that recently turned to Shakespeare (in abbreviated versions) because the scripts come royalty-free and bookings by school groups help fill the coffers.

"We're using the same set for Romeo and Juliet and Othello," Shane says. "Whenever we build something, we try to think of two or three more shows we can use it for."

A Chicago-born former academic, Shane recently took a corporate day job but he spends every night and weekend at his theater. He earns no salary from The Hub, which he opened in 2005 after producin

g low-budget shows in other spaces. "From a business point of view, The Hub doesn't make any sense," he says. "It is a money pit. But I always wanted to be an artistic director, to have full creative control of a theater. I feel like I'm building toward something."

Shane says his inspiration for The Hub came from the book Sam Mendes at the Donmar: Stepping Into Freedom, which chronicles director Mendes' creation of London's now-legendary Donmar Warehouse. Mendes, best known as a filmmaker (American Beauty) and as husband of actress Kate Winslet, walked by a boarded-up building in 1990 and decided it would make a great venue for independent, experimental theater productions. Mendes ran it as artistic director for 10 years, launching new works by Tom Stoppard and other major playwrights and sending numerous shows, including Frost/Nixon and an acclaimed revival of Guys and Dolls, to award-winning runs in London's West End and on Broadway.

So far, The Hub can claim only modest success as an incubator of new talent, mostly by helping to boost other theaters' interest in exciting young Dallas actors. Jeff Swearingen has played a variety of roles in Hub shows, including the lead in Hamlet and the part of Maverick in Top Gun: The Musical. This summer Swearingen starred at the New York International Fringe Fest in The Boxer, a show that started in Dallas, though not at The Hub.

"I do hope The Hub has its day in the sun someday," Swearingen says. "The place has courage and spunk to be holding on this long. If someone truly cares about the Dallas theater scene, institutions like this can't be left to die. I have a lot of admiration for all of the artists who experienced growing pains with The Hub."

Shane says his dream is for his theater to evolve into the Second City of the Southwest. Second City is the Chicago proving ground for comic actors and comedy writers. Among its hundreds of successful showbiz alumni are Tina Fey, Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert.

"Dallas needs a place for artists to develop their craft before they're discovered," Shane says. "That happens in fringe spaces like ours."

First-time playwrights are welcomed at The Hub as long as they're willing to forgo royalties to get scripts on their feet. Writer Charlotte Miller premiered her drama Traumnovela there and then took it to New York and Barcelona."

We can take risks on new shows that theaters that have large budgets can't," Shane says. "We can try and fail miserably and be able to bounce back. The inverse of that is if too many things are failing at the same time here, we're in trouble."

Over the summer, Shane battled a balky air-conditioning system (he finally got one donated). There have been plumbing problems, and during the production of Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, the building reeked. The source of the odor turned out to be a plate of barbecue someone had wrapped in a towel and left to molder in the hot prop room for a couple of months. "We now have rules in our contracts about cleaning up backstage," Shane says.

Aesthetics are never a high priority at The Hub, whose dreary ambience local critics have compared to an abandoned coal mine and a serial killer's crawlspace. Shane doesn't take offense. "Everything in this theater is a piece of another theater that they were throwing out," he says. The larger stage is from Pocket Sandwich Theatre. There are bits of the defunct Pegasus Theatre in The Hub. The seats came from an old vaudeville house in Virginia, whose owner offered them to Shane for free. Shane made the drive with a rickety trailer, unbolted each seat himself and drove them back to Dallas through blizzard conditions.

The Hub keeps expenses low because its overhead is high: $12,000 a month rent on the 11,000-square-foot building. That's a good deal as Deep Ellum real estate goes, but a lot for a theater getting by on $15 and $20 tickets. "Month by month it's a miracle that we make it," Shane says. "I'm always a nervous wreck, but something always happens to get us where we need to be."

On his wish list: insulation, more a/c and stage lights that don't suck so much power. "On certain light cues, we have to turn the air-conditioning off," he says.

He may be the Rodney Dangerfield of Dallas theater producers, but Tim Shane is determined to make The Hub a theater worthy of respect. Right now, though, he's got roof leaks to patch and rat traps to check. "I always said I wanted to be an artistic director," he says with a heavy sigh. "But now I'm a plumber and a maintenance man most of the time. You can't have an ego at all in this place. I like to say I'm the chief executive artistic producer- abbreviated, that spells out CHEAP." Elaine Liner

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