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

Other Winning Culture Suggestions From Our Readers

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Ron Radwanski
http://www.ronradwanski.com

Best Public Sculpture
The Traveling Man
DART station in Deep Ellum

Best Radio Morning Show
Kidd Kraddick

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Web extra: Video of DJ Drop at a Definition DJs meet-up.

Before a team on MTV's America's Best Dance Crew tackled B-Hamp's "Do the Ricky Bobby," before Shaq and Lebron performed their best takes on the GS Boyz' "Stanky Legg" at the 2009 NBA All-Star Game, and even before The New York Times reviewed the debut release from Dorrough and announced that the national hip-hop party has "landed in Dallas," there was a meeting.

And it was at such a meeting—or rather at a series of such meetings—where DJ Drop, along with the 30 other DJs who work for his Dallas-based Definition DJs collective, essentially launched the craze for what would eventually become the defining national hip-hop trend of 2009: This, you see, was the year that Dallas finally made good on its potential to become the next big hip-hop hub of the South.

And Dallas did so, well, because of Drop, to a degree. And because, oh yeah, of those meetings.

See, it's at these meeting where Drop and his fellow DJs, with their nightly bird's-eye-view of area dance floors, discuss the trends they see, the changes in tastes that they're noticing among the crowds, comparing notes on crowd reactions and sharing observations on the latest up-and-coming dance moves. It's at these meetings where the Definition DJs carefully listen to and dissect as many new artists' songs as they can. 'Cause here's the thing: It's at these meetings—little-known outside the innermost circles of the hip-hop community till, well, right now—where DJ Drop, weeks in advance, starts putting into motion the process that, weeks later, finds Dallas-area talents popping up on the national radar, looking like fresh-faced overnight success stories.

It's a more dedicated—and complicated—process than the cause would seem to merit. But, of course, there's a reason for all this rhyming.

"We talked about the 'Stanky Legg,'" Drop says while readying his staff for yet another one of these meetings, held somewhat inconspicuously at the Ice Barr on Commerce Street downtown. "Before it blew up, we were speaking on that record. Two weeks later, it was on the radio."

That's not just a coincidence either, ensures the 33-year-old Drop, born Charles Robinson. It's all part of what's become the pretty standard practice for aspiring hip-hop artists in the region: Cut a record, then go get feedback from Drop and his Definition crew. If they like it, they'll try it out in the nightclubs (the smaller ones first) and see how the crowds respond. If the crowds respond well, the tracks get placed into rotation at the bigger clubs. And, if the bigger clubs respond well, that's when radio comes knocking.

Translation: If you wanna be the next Dorrough—who, for better or worse, with his smash hit "Ice Cream Paint Job," has become the face of the Dallas hip-hop scene—you wanna be in with Drop.

It's simple: "If we [approve of] a record," Drop says, "we put it into power-drive."Putting a song into "power-drive," is simple enough too: If a song's got the potential to be a smash, Drop's DJs—the entire collective—will relentlessly play a record that gets a good club reaction. Radio jocks then, picking up on those trends and wanting to keep up with the songs the audiences are eating up on area dance floors, start to do the same over the airwaves.

"Dallas DJs are just standing up for Dallas music," Drop says, matter of factly. "The songs can be popular, but if we don't co-sign it, it won't blow up."

If Drop's boast sounds a little conceited, well, maybe it is. But KBFB-97.9 FM The Beat program director John Candelaria puts it all in perspective: When his station runs its weekly tests on its listener demographics, results show local artists scoring as highly as national mainstays like Kanye West and Jay-Z. And the radio jocks and fans alike are first learning about these artists and their new songs in the same fashion—through the clubs.

And there have been plenty of new artists popping up in the past calendar year: Aside from mainstays such as Tum Tum, Big Tuck and Play-N-Skillz, we have recently seen the rise of newer artists such as Lil Wil, Fat Pimp, Fat B, Trai D, Big Hoodboss, Paper Chaserz—and plenty more.

"With all those guys," Drop says, "we were a major part of breaking those artists."Given the process behind breaking them, it's easy to see why. Kind of turns the whole thing into a science, really.

"It's been great," Drop says. "Dallas is getting its due, but there's a lot more to come. The only thing people have seen is the dance and club music. Thing is, we're still in the first phase of it all. Wait till people hear everything else that's about to come out. This is just the start.

"If anyone would know for sure, it's him. Y'know, 'cause of the process.And those darn meetings.

-Pete Freedman

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