Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
When Free Play Arcade opened its first location in Richardson in 2015, it was the first video game arcade to offer a buffet of classic games to more grownup players. It also offered a true retro feel, from the neon striped walls to the sounds of '80s staples like Rush and Cyndi Lauper filling the air. Free Play Arcade's massive success brought a new level of competition among the local arcade scene and brought on some interesting competition with new entries like the Bishop Cider Company's Cidercade and the eSports-focused Versus Gameplay in Plano. Free Play Arcade fired back by expanding its empire to a second, much larger location in Arlington that provides more space to show off an impressive collection of classic video game machines that are set to open play without requiring those annoying credits to continue. The arcade chain takes a moral obligation to achieving greatness by refusing to install emulating machines that cram hundreds of titles into one cabinet. Owner Corey Hyden dedicates his time to making sure his customers feel like they've stepped into the same video game arcade they visited when their parents had to drive them there or they weren't old enough to order any of the adult beverages served by Free Play's bartenders. The only difference is that they don't have to carry around the $10 in quarters needed to beat the Evil MC boss at the end of Smash TV.
Fascination with a family member's body art led tattoo artist Char McGaughy to work her way up to the top of the tattoo industry in 2010 and eventually open a her own tattoo shop, Gold Dust Tattoos & Fine Art in Dallas. She has received multiple awards for her work. She's tattooed Hercules and an owl spreading its wings on a shoulder, Jerry Garcia from the Grateful Dead chilling on an arm and Wonder Woman being a badass on a customer's leg. Her style varies with the customer's desire, but she specializes in black and gray and photorealism. The demand for her work means she's available only by appointment.
Readers' Pick: Jay Joree
One thing is certain: Dallas Contemporary never fails to capture the imagination. It consistently fills its space with sculptures, photography and paintings that are whimsical and push the envelope. As a testament to its success, the museum always draws large crowds of eager revelers on opening nights to see its newest exhibitions. One standout show was Betty Tompkin's Fuck Paintings. The images were censored in the 1970s for lewdness, yet these photorealistic renderings of genitalia mid-coitus lined the walls of the museum. On the other end of the spectrum, Paola Pivi's life-sized technicolor polar bears danced, lounged and posed mischievously, inviting onlookers to pose with them. A recent favorite, Pia Camil, sewed together second-hand T-shirts from Mexican markets to create interactive fabric sculptures the size of parachutes. The shirts' neck holes begged for onlookers to poke their heads through and experience the installation from the other side.
Readers' Pick: Perot Museum of Nature and Science
This gallery in the Design District not only exhibits crowd-pleasers, it takes risks that pay off. Gabriel Dawe is an industry favorite who had a massive, critically acclaimed installation at the Amon Carter in Fort Worth, yet his work found a more intimate scale in Conduit's smaller space. He strung an iridescent web of thread between two walls, creating an optical illusion of waves. On the other hand, Heyd Fontenot, former director of Central Trak, created a wild installation akin to his adult version of Pee-Wee's Playhouse. It was complete with (almost) nude live models; one danced provocatively on a makeshift stage while faux snow rained from above. Maria Molteni, who'd never shown in Dallas before, got a local foothold at Conduit. Her brightly colored crocheted basketball nets were hung at NBA-regulation height in the gallery's intimate backroom, giving the delicate assemblages a weighty presence. Whether the space is filled with quiet drawings or larger-than-life installations, there's always something interesting and unexpected behind these doors.
Readers' Pick: Dallas Museum of Art
Looking for an off-the-map, quirky, small museum dedicated to midcentury geometric moving sculpture? Dallas has it. Housed in an interesting Uptown building is the Museum of Geometric and MADI Art. The MADI art concept was born in the 1940s in Buenos Aires. Although it's hard to define, MADI art can be described as colorful, often three-dimensional with moving parts. Dallasites Dorothy and Bill Masterson used their personal collection and love for MADI art to create the museum in 2003. The museum includes exhibits spanning the globe, most created in the 20th century. It also has rotating shows. The Museum of Geometric and MADI art is a delightful inspiration to graphic designers, architects and lovers of modern art. Admission is an optional donation.
Volunteer-run and supported by membership dues and donations, the nonprofit Dallas Makerspace is the powerhouse of creativity. Want to learn to knit or paint a watercolor of your dog? There are plenty of places around offering classes for that. Want to learn how to use a CNC plasma cutter or a 3-D printer? Makerspace not only has the tools available for its members to use, it offers a full schedule of classes in how to use them. Traditional woodcarving, soap making and jewelry casting are among the classes on Makerspace's calendar. You can also learn how to use a forge and make chainmail, which might be a lot more useful in the city of tomorrow than a piece of embroidered denim.
Readers' Pick: Bishop Arts Theatre Center
Formed in 2011, DGDG is constantly cooking up new dance-theater hybrid shows that buck what we expect when we think of dance. Georgiou and her partner, Justin Locklear, are one of the most prolific teams in Dallas in terms of writing and producing new works. This year, we've seen DGDG's War Flower and Donkey Beach, two completely different shows that display Georgiou's knack for choreography with Locklear's theater chops. They also compose original music for almost every show they do and regularly employ nonprofessional dancers. DGDG isn't just dance or just theater, but a true collision of both. The result is thought-provoking, visually stunning productions that are accessible to audiences.
Readers' Pick: Dallas School of Burlesque
Kitchen Dog Theater co-artistic director Tina Parker has had a big year. The 27-year-old company secured permanent digs in the spring, which sent KDT on a bit of a nomad's journey until its new space, a former tile warehouse in the Design District, is up and running. An exciting development for the longtime Dallas company has meant some growing pains in the interim. KDT has churned out innovative theater while shuffling productions all over town, including one of the darkest and funniest plays all year, Trevor by Nick Jones. With Max Hartman deftly embodying the real-life chimpanzee that attacked his owner's neighbor, this production was a true example of KDT's ability to bang out weird and cool plays even while under duress. (Unexpectedly, it had to move the play to the Wyly Theater.) Parker also made a big splash this year with the return of her Breaking Bad character, Francesca, on the AMC series Better Call Saul. With a "keep going" attitude and affable good humor, Parker is a workhorse in the Dallas theater scene.
Readers' Pick: Amanda Austin
They say, "If you love something, set it free; if it comes back, it was meant to be." That makes us feel great about the return of rock radio station KZEW The Zoo, which reigned supreme in the '70s and '80s and then left the airwaves. But this year, 28 years after The Zoo said goodbye, host George Gimarc has brought it back at vokalnow.com and via the Vokal app. Gimarc calls the station a spiritual successor to the original Zoo and a love letter to what radio was like before Clear Channel homogenized the industry. The new Zoo's playlist is drawn from a collection of 5,000 records, and many songs will be familiar to longtime listeners, but the station also plays newer music that jibes with its spirit. Many of the on-air personalities from the '80s are back, including Ira Lipson, John Rody, Beverly Beasley and KTCK The Ticket's Mike Rhyner. Also, don't be surprised if you hear classic commercials interspersed.
Readers' Pick: KXT 91.7 FM
In 2012, the Tony Awards committee went cuckoo for Richard Bean's One Man, Two Guvnors. The smart slapstick comedy, a reinterpretation of a 1743 Italian play, originally starred James Corden in the role of Francis Henshall, a right-hand man to two criminals staying at the same hotel, each of whom must be kept a secret from the other. The magic of the play, set in '60s London, is largely because of copious breaking of the fourth wall and musical interludes by a live band. The play was nominated for seven Tonys, and Corden won best actor, but it wasn't until August 2016 that Dallasites got their first chance to see it, thanks to Addison's small and vastly underappreciated WaterTower Theatre. Even with a smaller budget, WaterTower managed to carry out a production comparable to the Broadway show, and even better, Corden's Broadway understudy 0x000A— Dallas native Brian Gonzales — finally got to step into the limelight and show his hometown what he could do as Francis.
Readers' Pick: Frisky Business at Dallas Comedy House
In 2001, the Angelika Film Center was the hippest, most sparkling theater in town. It was the crown jewel of the new Mockingbird Station and was among the first to expand the standard popcorn and Milk Duds menu to include gourmet snacks and alcohol that doesn't suck. Sixteen years later, more ambitious chains have in some ways outpaced Angelika. Look Cinemas has chairs designed by Lexus, and Alamo Drafthouse will serve you a themed menu while you watch. But even if it's not as shiny and exciting as it once was, Angelika still wins out where it counts most: film selection. Sure, you won't find many of the blockbuster hits, but you're also much less likely to find a dud than at an ordinary theater. Angelika's lineup is made up of all the indie Oscar contenders, and it's safe to pick at random. It also hosts some of the city's best film festivals, from big ones like the Dallas International Film Festival to the small Studio Ghibli Festival of Hayao Miyazaki's animated films.
Readers' Pick: Alamo Drafthouse
In a year when discussion of a bill that would prevent transgender people from using bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity has dominated state politics, the first national tour of Hedwig and the Angry Inch also visited Texas. John Cameron Mitchell's musical has been familiarizing American audiences with what it means to be transgender for nearly 20 years, long before gender dysphoria was part of the national lexicon, and it won a Tony when it debuted on Broadway in 2014. On Broadway, Neil Patrick Harris played the role Hedwig Robinson, a transgender woman from East Germany, who tells the story of her sex change, move to Kansas and career as a rock singer, all set to a '70s glam rock soundtrack. In February, Euan Morton appeared as Hedwig for the musical's performance at the Winspear Opera House. It was a marvelous feat of set design, with a giant, translucent screen that served as a striking canvas for the show's graphics — but most important, it was a fun, funny and emotional tale that couldn't have come at a better time.
Readers' Pick: Wicked