Best Theatrical Comeback 2014 | Margo Jones Theatre | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

For too long, the Margo Jones Theatre in the middle of Fair Park went unused by theater artists. As the Magnolia Lounge, it was a visitors' center for the State Fair. But Dallas theater director Matt Tomlanovich had ideas for how to turn one of America's landmark small theaters back into a place to see new plays. He became the Margo Jones' re-inventor, welcoming local performing companies including Soul Rep, Audacity Productions, Nouveau 47 and others. Now, except for the fall months of the fair, the little Art Deco building buzzes with shows. This year brought in the first Dallas Solo Fest, produced by Brad McEntire, and on the 2015 calendar are premieres of new plays by Dallas actor-writers Van Quattro and Danny O'Connor. Theater pioneer Margo Jones, who started the legendary Theatre 47 in this space in 1947, believed in giving a showcase to new work outside of New York City. Her namesake playhouse is back in the business of doing just that.

The zine is a tricky art form, but if anyone in Dallas has mastered it, it's the team at THRWD magazine. This avant-garde publication continues to exist as a result of spunk and determination, delivering the work of the underground art scene issue after issue. It's a labor of love and a much-needed publishing company, shedding light on the artists who are just inches away from the spotlight. They feed stories directly into the machine and they do it with a perspective of which the new journalists of the 1970s would be proud. THRWD is decidedly part of the scene, with the writers both participating and critiquing young, outsider artists. Curious what you're missing? Visit to learn when you'll be able to grab the next issue.

Maybe you've heard of the Goss-Michael Foundation because one of its founders was pop singer George Michael. Or perhaps you know this West Dallas nonprofit for its programs featuring British art. But it's more than all that — it's also a foundation dedicated to achieving some good. Under the watchful eye of Kenny Goss (Michael has mostly moved on at this point), the space hosts year-round educational initiatives and fundraisers, like the annual MTV:Redefine, a high-profile contemporary art and music showcase that primarily benefits the MTV Staying Alive Foundation, an HIV prevention program. And this year, GMF stepped up its game with the (FEATURE) program, which presents the work of a hand-selected local artist to exhibit alongside mid-career and emerging artists from across the pond.

He's the nicest man you're likely to meet at the theater. And if you go to the theater, you're likely to meet him. James Stroman volunteers at almost every theater in town like it's his full-time job. He helps build sets, assists with opening night parties, ushers and then at the end of the run he helps tear the sets down. You'll see him at Shakespeare in the Park, Kitchen Dog Theater, Upstart Productions, Margo Jones Theatre and anywhere else where there's a tool belt for him to wear. He's truly the best man to have behind the scenes or sitting down the aisle.

When it comes to commercial galleries in Dallas, the Design District is the hotbed of the Dallas arts market and Dragon Street is the epicenter. But for the most part, the area presents fairly standard fare. Few galleries break the predictable mold while still retaining a reputation as a go-to gallery quite like Circuit 12 Contemporary. In this last year, they've added fashion programming to the docket and rearranged their space to redefine what the gallery can do. Muralists demonstrate the scope of their work on the white walls; conceptual artists disguise the gallery as a spaceship. And still the art you'll find in the gallery retains its bold, contemporary aesthetic.

A good retrospective walks you through the stages and phases of an artist's career, like a road map for a career's journey. A great retrospective takes you on the trip. The joint exhibition between the Nasher Sculpture Center and the The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth succinctly walked visitors through the career of David Bates, pairing early works with later iterations and telling a narrative of the artist's preoccupations with the Gulf Coast. His early work seemed almost prophetic when placed next to his series of paintings about Katrina that filled several rooms in the Modern. Then, a trip to the Nasher saw a man interested in rendering a canvas into something three-dimensional. His sculptures were a new story of a painter reinventing himself late in life to deal with something more corporeal. This collaboration didn't just shine a light on a Dallas-based artist's four decades of work, it also told an interesting story about one man's lifelong journey with artistry.

Does anyone else remember lock-ins? Those all-night gatherings that locked a bunch of elementary or middle school kids into a gymnasium or some other school-condoned space where kids would eat candy, play games and wreak havoc until their parents came to pick them up? This year for its 35th birthday, the Dallas Contemporary hosted an art lock-in, only this time you could come and go as you pleased. Oh, and there was booze. For 35 hours straight, the ultra-hip West Dallas art space hosted bands, comedy shows, temporary art pieces, performance art, early morning yoga and anything else they could dream up to keep a bunch of drunk arty adults occupied. The crowd ebbed and flowed, peaking around 11 p.m. and tapering off around 3 a.m. only to pick back up as the midday sunshine arrived Saturday. And no matter which hour you stuck around till, it was much cooler than the lock-ins of yesteryear.

Dallas is so overrun with festivals that it can be a little overwhelming. Picking and choosing is a necessity lest one suffer from a bout of festival fatigue. No matter how selective your list of must-attends is, though, Index Festival should be on it. The festival, which takes over Deep Ellum for the third consecutive fall this year, has grown to a three-day, 90-plus-band extravaganza that highlights the best of Dallas' best music neighborhood. Catch the big-name acts on the outdoor stages early, then stick around for the venue-hopping late-night fun that comes after. You never know what you'll find, but it won't be disappointing.

We know people who look down on big traveling art exhibitions, those money-makers larded with masterpieces that draw masses who line up to rent headsets for the audio tour. Well, screw those canape-nibbling hater snobs. We like the big shows. Take, for example the Kimbell's exhibition from earlier this year, The Age of Picasso and Matisse: Modern Masters from The Art Institute of Chicago. Now, the Art Institute is one of our favorite places on earth, but it's a long haul to Chicago, so the chance to drive to Fort Worth to see an expansive, sharply curated survey of Modern masterworks, plus get an informative lecture on the links between the artists and the development of styles, made for a wondrous day. The Kimbell, wide open, glowing with light, is the perfect place to take in a show like Modern Masters, which is why we're looking forward to Faces of Impressionism: Portraits from the Musée d'Orsay this October. Thanks, Kimbell, for delivering beautiful art on our doorstep and giving us such a magical space, especially the new Renzo Piano Pavilion. Walking through its mix of gentle curves, blond wood and translucent glass make you feel like you're aboard a sailing ship that floats on air and light.

The Continental Avenue Bridge spanning the Trinity River west of downtown reopened in June as a multi-million-dollar renovated park. It now offers playground equipment, a bocce court, spray fountains, incredible views of downtown and, most important, a walking path. While this may not have the pizazz or glamour of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, walking on Continental at least gives one a nice view of the former, and unlike Margaret, Continental is actually built for pedestrians. No cars are allowed.

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