Dallas Comedy House
Kaspars Skels

Dallas Comedy House is not only a staple of Deep Ellum, it's a staple of Dallas comedy, maintaining a consistently high bar for their shows. There's such a variety of talented troupes and charismatic performers that it's a guarantee you will never see the same show twice at DCH. The freedom for all the improvisers to design their own shows creates a theater that is always pushing boundaries and introducing audiences to new forms of comedy they wouldn't otherwise see in Dallas. With multiple shows happening six nights a week, there's something for every type of comedic taste at Dallas Comedy House.

Best Improv Troupe

Four Day Weekend is the gold standard for style and presentation in improvisational comedy, invoking a classic Hollywood approach to their shows. For improvisers it's considered a high achievement to join the ranks of the longest-running improv troupe in DFW. This year the troupe expanded operations from their location in Fort Worth to a second spot on Greenville Avenue, giving those who refuse to visit Fort Worth a chance to see the show. The troupe has played for two presidents, and they can play for you too if you buy tickets to one of their Saturday-night Dallas shows.

Dan's Silverleaf
Daniel Rodrigue

Taylor Higginbotham, Brad McKenzie and Robbie Scheer, the three Denton men behind The Brave Boys podcast, are making big waves with their weekly comedy show. Funny, irreverent and addictive, The Brave Boys' chemistry creates the feeling for the listener that they're the silent fourth member of a group of friends that they always look forward to hanging out with. The Brave Boys' unpredictable interviews with local comedians they invite as guests not only showcase their skills as hosts, it makes you mad at yourself for not already being a fan of the comedian you're hearing for the first time.

Dealey Plaza

It may not be as cheery as Disneyland, but Dealey Plaza remains a magnet for tourists from everywhere. Whether it's to take photos, honor a fallen president or learn about the latest conspiracy theories, the site of John F. Kennedy's assassination is the first stop for out-of-towners looking to experience Dallas. Within walking distance tourists can visit the Sixth Floor Museum, get fitted for boots in the West End and grab a bite to eat at the many restaurants providing shelter from the heat. Dealey Plaza has so much to offer, visitors don't mind dodging traffic to stand on the infamous X.

The key to the future is tucked away in an unassuming part of southwest Dallas, off a gravel road and behind a canopy of trees. There, the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas have transformed a 1920s-era campground on more than 90 acres into a living laboratory and girl-power mecca. Scouts and their families can enjoy year-round programming that sees girls of all ages assembling robotics, coding apps, gazing at the stars, running geology experiments and engaging in confidence-building athletic activities like rock climbing, ropes courses and archery. The goal is to expose more girls to the opportunities that STEM careers offer and to close the workforce gap between men and women; right now, 74 percent of STEM workers are male. But it's also an important incubator for lifelong female friendships and support: Visitors to the camp will see girls swapping friendship bracelets over their circuitry and sharing their dreams at the top of the observation tower.

Best Place to See Cute Animals

The internet is inundated with videos of animals doing cute things, but screen time does little for our need to fully absorb this cuteness compared to seeing clumsy penguins, sleepy sloths and giant manatees in real life. Since 1992, The Dallas World Aquarium has offered adults and kids hours of fun and once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunities as a sanctuary for all types of creatures. Its conservation efforts span several parts of Mexico and South America, including the Jaguar Conservation Program in El Pantanal, the Costa Rican Sloth Conservation and the Amazon Manatee Conservation Project, among others. The best part about the DWA is its dedication to the wellness and protection of its animals. Enjoy a glass of wine or a snack as you walk through the many halls and pebbled paths to experience the wonder of some of the world's most exotic animals. Ticket prices vary, and guided tours are available for large groups.

If you're looking for a cozy spot to lay down the blanket, pop a bottle of champagne and enjoy a picnic under the stars, Denton's Courthouse-on-the-Square is the place to be. Thanks to Denton's open container law, you can get your buzz on while nibbling homemade finger sandwiches or take-out from any of the handful of restaurants surrounding the central lawn. What makes the courthouse lawn the ideal spot for a romantic dinner or fun night out with the kids isn't just the outdoor summer movie screenings or beautifully lit trees, but also the bustling nightlife on the square with live music within earshot almost every night of the week.

Alex Organ rarely takes a breath from his liberal rant in Second Thought Theatre's production of playwright Blake Hackler's Enemies/People. Texas playwright Hackler cleverly takes Henrik Ibsen's An Enemy of the People and moves it to a small town in present-day Texas where two brothers are on opposite sides in a dispute about contaminated water and its effect on a potentially profitable business deal. Hackler then ramps up the speed and volume to such a degree that it is nearly impossible to imagine that Organ could maintain that intensity night after night. Kara-Lynn Vaeni provided smart direction to a superior ensemble cast that included Dallas favorites Christie Vela, Gregory Lush and Allison Pistorius as well as delightful newcomers Jovane Caamaño and Sasha Maya Ada. In the end Hackler treats the audience to an especially funny scene using the original Ibsen script. "Enemies/People" asks tough questions about everything from guns to fracking and considers how to effect change in the world from the comfort of an expensive chair.

Associate Artistic Director Jenni Stewart made her directing debut at Shakespeare Dallas in their production of The Taming of the Shrew, a battle-of-the-sexes comedy that centers on one man's efforts to control his woman. The well-cast production got plenty of laughs, but Stewart avoided the temptation to take the low road. She made the decision to update the setting to the suffragette era, when women were fighting for the right to vote. Stewart took the word obedience and imbued it with new meaning that related to the marriage contract itself rather than a wife's subservience to her husband. Stewart proved to be up to the challenge and took what is typically presented as a misogynistic story and made it palatable to a modern audience without changing a word. No easy task in this #MeToo moment.

Bread

Addison's WaterTower Theatre made bold changes in 2017 and 2018 when they set out to attract a younger and more diverse audience. When their long-time director left, WaterTower brought in Joanie Schultz as artistic director, and she immediately set to work. Shultz ditched a previously announced production of Sunday in the Park With George and replaced it with a new play by Chicago playwright Ike Holter, Hit the Wall, about the Stonewall Riots. In spring 2018 WaterTower staged the world premiere of Regina Taylor's Bread, which explored timely issues including police violence and gentrification. Schultz also established a community engagement program called Intersections to facilitate conversation and offer context for the theater's productions. WaterTower's efforts are paying off. The rest of the year looks even more daring and innovative with the irreverent Hand to God, featuring a foul-mouthed puppet, followed by Schultz's own adaptation of Ibsen's A Doll's House.

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