The newest member of Dallas Theater Center's elite Brierley Resident Acting Company also is the co-founder and current artistic director of Second Thought Theater, which just ended its seventh and strongest season. A handsome, lanky, angular leading man, Steven Walters played Prince Hal in DTC's action-packed Henry IV last year and opened this fall's DTC season as the romantic Ferdinand in Shakespeare's The Tempest. In between, he donned nerd glasses for Second Thought's manic one-man show Thom Pain (based on nothing) and had supporting roles on TV's Chase and Friday Night Lights. He also writes plays and has sold a screenplay for indie production this fall, but Walters made the decision last year to move back from Los Angeles to anchor his career in Dallas. Bravo.
At age 8, Matt Tolentino, a kid in East Dallas, became enchanted by the great Adrian Rollini, an early 20th century jazz instrumentalist best known for his bass sax in the speakeasy era just before the advent of big band swing music. Lucky for Dallas, Tolentino never came out from under Rollini's magic spell. Now in his mid-20s, Tolentino is proprietor of the city's coolest, quirkiest, retro jazz group, the Singapore Slingers, a full 18-piece orchestra with five strings, four reeds, three brass, five rhythm players and, of course, tah dah! ... Tolentino on the bass saxophone. They play the Pocket Sandwich, the Kessler, Sons of Hermann and a host of venues around town. Google Matt Tolentino or Singapore Slingers for dates.
We're not ashamed to admit we're biased when it comes to the Video Association of Dallas' 24 Hour Video Race. With the advent of the Mixmaster, the Dallas Observer arts and culture blog, we finally got up the guts to enter the annual contest. Regardless of the award outcome (third in our division, high five!), we persevered from midnight to midnight, staying awake (sorta), eating (an obscene amount of) packaged snack food, achieving levels of insanity in which creating meat helmets seemed totally logical and, ultimately, accomplishing the task of writing, shooting, editing and scoring a five-minute film in 24 hours (naturally) based on a theme, prop, location and line of dialogue given to us as the challenge began. The VAD staff was funny, patient and supportive with an "emergency" hotline (for those techy questions easily solved had sleep been possible). If building bonds through sleep deprivation and/or seeing your work in a real video festival is a goal, well the former is a definite and the Dallas Video Fest this year features a screening of winners. Your first 24 Hour Video Race is certainly "a day to remember."
Dallas International Film Festival, March 31 to April 10 this year, offered more than 200 films to choose from. USA Film Festival, April 27 to May 1, supplied film lovers with nearly two dozen more. For one month, that may seem like a lot of celluloid (or whatever filmmakers are using these days) ground to cover and a lot of time spent in dark theaters' seats with strangers, but take into account that not only do most attendees love approximately three-fourths of the movies they see (based on our own unscientific surveying between films), both festivals also provide a good number of celebrity asses in the seats. From directors to screenwriters to stars, both festivals bring in the famous, the soon-to-be and the should-be for Q&As, panels, chi-chi red carpets and more. Better still: If you questioned going to the movies solo, you won't anymore with all the "I'll watch your seat if you watch mine" buddies you make spending up to 12 hours per day landing in the same screenings. April should really be called Dallas Film Lovers' Month.
On the one hand, we feel for Mark Abuzzahab, the new guy in charge over at KKXT-FM 91.7 KXT. We really do. He's taking over a station that, only a few months ago, was being slaughtered in the Twittersphere, nitpicked for every song choice its DJs would make. Clever social media types took to Twitter in particular to voice their bitches — and they were unified in doing so through their use of the hashtag "#kxtfail," which allowed fellow complainers to catch up on what everyone else was bitching about. Their complaints were probably a tad unfair: The region placed far-too-high hopes on KXT's shoulders when it launched back in November 2009; everyone crossed their fingers and blindly expected it to champion the local music scene and for the station and scene to become the envy of the rest of the country. That was never gonna happen — not in the station's first few years, at least. But here's the silver lining: Clearly, there's a large population of devoted KXT listeners out there. And that's where we think that Abuzzahab actually has it made: The dude's inheriting a passionate listenership that knows exactly what it wants. Kind of sounds like a dream job, actually.
Over the years Allison Smith has offered various themes in her self-published zines, from iPhone (Can You Hear Me Now?) and Lomo (An Issue With Lomos) to her love for the Lone Star State (Things I Like About Texas). Her April 2011 release, "40 Days," featured shots created via the Hipstamatic app and it didn't disappoint, giving up both ethereal colors and vivid scenes. If you were a superfan and ordered within the designated number, you got a free signed print. That shit's legit and it doesn't come cheap in the real world, folks. While many artists have become complacent between exhibitions and dependent on blogs and digital galleries (she has those too), Smith is keeping the small art book going in Dallas, snapshot by Superficial Snapshots.
Local animator Deanna Molinaro writes and illustrates storybooks that would traumatize most children but that, in truth, aren't any scarier than Grimm's fairy tales. With a few exceptions (she's marked innocuous, all-ages books "OK for children"), the stories explore that sort of nightmarish what-if world that smart kids tend to imagine early on. Molinaro says she writes the books "for fun, and without a single thought of the audience for them or what's right, wrong, appropriate." The often-wide-eyed hand-drawn characters are both lovable and haunting, and her black humor is reminiscent of the great Charles Addams. Her most recent release, this year's A Boy and His Sheep, is the story of a spoiled boy who is so cruel to his doting mother that she finally — well, we don't want to ruin the specifics for you, but let's just say it doesn't work out for everyone. Molinaro sells her books on her website (along with signed prints) but also offers them for viewing entirely online. "It's always surprising to find out anyone likes them," Molinaro says. "I guess as long as I continue to have crippling self-doubt they will all be free online to read." With seven strong offerings in print, she really shouldn't doubt anymore.
G'Nosh
Luckily for the artistically challenged, there's a whole crop of art studios that tout their abilities to turn finger-painters into pseudo-Van Goghs. And they encourage you to bring your own booze to swig while you make your own "Starry Nights." Some of the teachers at these classes have made us wish we just went straight to happy hour, but not the talented staff at G'Nosh, home of our favorite teacher, Margo. Margo doesn't roll her eyes when you decide to go another direction with that skyline painting and add the unfinished Museum Tower. No, she doesn't judge. She encourages creativity and fun, which is what a painting class that involves booze and cheese plates is all about.
You can find Sober in the club — or at a bar spinning to the post-brunch crowd, or in a retail spot entertaining the shoppers, or at a corporate event educating the cubicle-dwelling masses — but you'll never, ever find him with a bottle of bub. Will Rhoten's DJ name isn't a gimmick; the dude straight-up doesn't drink, which may or may not be at least part of the reason that he's the best spinner in town. It helps that he's never even buzzed — it means he's never sloppy. He's professional to a T, and, better yet, the guy has taste. He can spin whatever — classic hip-hop, indie electronica, R&B and funk, you name it — and he often does. Trick is, when he switches things up, he does so smartly: He knows more than just how to build a vibe, but also how to keep it, and, more important maybe, how to alter it slightly without killing it. There's a reason his free-to-attend Beauty Bar residency, Big Bang!, which hosts nationally touring guest DJ appearances and live performances from even the likes of Spank Rock, is so popular — and it's not just those names-in-bold. At one point a key member of the super-popular area DJ collective The Party, Sober, now solo, still knows where it's at. Oh, and he's an illustrator and clothing designer, too.
They say one bad apple can ruin the bunch, but let's hope that's not the case with Los Angeles promotion company Insomniac Events' Electric Daisy Carnival, which back in June returned to the city-owned Fair Park complex for the second year in a row. The electronic music festival, which since coming to Dallas has brought in the celebrated likes of Moby, Diplo, Benny Benassi, Kaskade and Rusko to play for tens of thousands, is a true sensory overload. In addition to the music, there's visual art, decked-out masses and an open-arms vibe from the crowds. It's a great time, even if some of the negative effects of rave culture are present too; at this year's event, dozens were hospitalized after overheating, and a 19-year-old Argyle resident died after his friends saw him take ecstasy. Thing is, you really don't need any drugs to enjoy EDC's offerings — you just need the wherewithal to grasp that Dallas could use this kind of all-are-welcome entertainment. Maybe some earplugs. And some good sense, too — which, we hope, the city showcases next year when the time comes for the festival to return, realizing that, in EDC's case, the good really does outweigh the bad.

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