David Finfrock is an institution in this town. Every kid growing up in Dallas was glued to the Finfrock's coverage when there was even a hint of a tornado or flood or other sign of impending Armageddon. He's been with NBC forever (or since 1975), and is always incredibly soft-spoken and calm in the face of natural disaster. But more than someone who seems very nice on TV, he's someone you'd want to be your grandfather. He likes gardening and maps (he's the editor of the Texas Map Society newsletter, which is as awesome as it sounds) and nature hikes. He would probably bake you chocolate chip cookies for no reason. Also you could write sonnets about that mustache, and many people probably have.

On Sunday nights when long-time local radio host and musician Paul Slavens takes over KXT's signal for a few hours, the otherwise dull, listener-supported station comes to life. You can hear literally anything from Slavens' show: experimental music from locals, French standards, Italian horror soundtracks, an actual person of color, even. That's because Slavens has built a reputation on great taste and actually listens to what his listeners suggest he plays. Think of it as supported-listeners radio.

On the air since 1983, Lambda Weekly claims to be the longest-running gay and lesbian radio show on the air anywhere on Earth. We were unwilling to do the work required to substantiate that claim but considered it irrelevant anyway: Lambda Weekly is just such a great show, gay or lesbian or longest-running or not. Captained by the genial and always well-informed David Taffet, the show is an informative and thoughtful window on local and national issues. With his very smart and loyal lieutenants, Lerone Landis and Patti Fink, at his side, Taffet has interviewed Charo, Lisa Loeb, Jagger, The Dixie Chicks, SONiA, Jaston Williams and Joe Sears (), Alan Sues (Laugh In), Dan Butler (Frazier) — a bunch of celebrities and many important national political figures. It's never a mistake to catch Lambda Weekly on Sunday.

OK, so Mark Lamster wins this by default since he's the only professional architecture critic in Dallas, but don't let that take away from his importance. Imported from New York City through a partnership between the University of Texas at Arlington and The Dallas Morning News, he is a public intellectual, which is rare around these parts. He not only critiques Dallas' fancy new buildings — though there's plenty of that — he casts a critical eye on how the city is built. He's not the only one doing this, but he's the most visible, and he's too intelligent and too good a writer to be ignored.

Alamo Drafthouse

It may not technically be in Dallas, although a new location is expected to open in The Cedars sometime in 2015, but this Austin transplant stands out for what it has, and what it doesn't. For a movie theater, the food and beer selections are fantastic, as is the chain's special programming, like sing- and quote-alongs and screenings you can't catch anywhere else. What you won't see is anyone texting or peeking at Twitter after a movie has started — that merits an ejection from the theater after one warning, seriously — or any unaccompanied kids, as every person at every showing must be accompanied by someone 18-plus.

A good actor doesn't just act when he or she is speaking. Acting is reacting, and Stormi Demerson, a veteran of DFW theaters and star of recent productions at Amphibian Stage and Theatre Three, is expert at listening and reacting to the actors around her. Always enhancing the roles she plays with just the right touches of humor and vulnerability, Demerson is a strong, sure presence in any show. In Death Tax at Amphibian, she was a nurse crushed by the pressure of a Faustian bargain with a dying patient. In T3's By the Way, Meet Vera Stark, she played an aspiring actor in 1930s Hollywood, tired of being cast as mammies and maids, commanding the scene where her character railed against the racism of showbiz. Good acting, says Demerson, is good storytelling that goes beyond the relationship between the viewer and the viewed. "Our energies are dependent on one another," she says. "But I have a responsibility to help tell a story that will make the audience feel something when they leave."

Over the past decade on Dallas stages including Undermain, Kitchen Dog, Shakespeare Dallas and Second Thought Theatre, Drew Wall has matured past roles as the goofy kid and silly sidekick. Now in his early 30s, the Baylor drama grad, part of Second Thought's regular acting company, is a confident, handsome leading man. This season he gave his best performances yet. In Second Thought's Nocturne, a one-man show by Adam Rapp, Wall delivered a wrenching 90-minute monologue about the lasting effects of childhood traumas — a stunning tour de force that left audiences weeping. In the debut of Steven Walters' Booth, Wall was comic relief as part of John Wilkes Booth's band of conspirators. Wall's acting résumé lists his extra skills: ice skating, juggling and welding. We'd happily watch him do any of those.

Many theater directors have wrestled with the most difficult works of Shakespeare, Albee and Stoppard. Only one we know of has done them to critical acclaim with actors under the age of 16. Jeff Swearingen is director and resident playwright at Fun House Theatre and Film, the all-youth company he founded three years ago with partner Bren Rapp. He takes the craft and art of acting seriously and is passing along all he knows to budding actors, some as young as 6, who clamor to be in his Fun House shows. This summer he wrote and directed two new comedies, Game of Thrones Jr. and Stiff, which both sold out their two-week runs. Strict about behavior when he's working, Swearingen allows no flip-flops, food or texting at rehearsals. Now if only he could direct the audiences.

Uptown Players

A solid season of comedies, dramas and musicals has boosted Uptown Players, the gay-centric company that gets bigger and better by the year. Its regional premiere of Christopher Durang's Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, a send-up of Chekhovian themes, featured a tight, comically fine-tuned ensemble (Bob Hess, Wendy Welch, Diana Sheehan, Nadine Marissa, Evan Fentriss, Julia Golder) and astute direction by B.J. Cleveland. Then came another dark comedy, The Lyons, starring roaringly funny Terry Vandivort. The boffo season-ender was The Boy from Oz, a glitzy musical bio of gay Aussie composer-singer Peter Allen that no theater anywhere had staged since it closed on Broadway 10 years ago. Director Cheryl Denson gave Dallas' own Alex Ross the starring role — he was spectacular — proving that there's no place like home for talent at Uptown Players. This season brings Uptown favorite Cleveland back to star in The Nance, followed by musicals Catch Me if You Can and Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Uptown just keeps upping their ante.

If playwright Matt Lyle hadn't already decided to return to Dallas from Chicago (where he did some time at Second City), we'd have sent out a posse to get him back here. With Barbecue Apocalypse, given its world premiere this summer directed by Lee Trull as the centerpiece of Kitchen Dog's New Works Fest, Lyle established himself as an explosively good writer for the stage. Set in bland suburbia, the two-act comedy of modern manners shredded keeping-up-with-the-Joneses, selfie-obsessed culture by dropping a bomb on three couples and seeing which one learned to adapt and survive post-Armageddon. Guess what? It was not the pair of Tweeting experts.

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