Quake Con
Kathy Tran
Quake Con

QuakeCon is one of the video game industry's oldest game gatherings. The first QuakeCon, the now-annual gaming convention that celebrates game franchises like "Wolfenstein," "Quake" and "Rage" — made by local studios such as id Software and Bethesda Softworks — happened in Garland in a hotel meeting room with only 50 people in attendance. This year's gathering at the much larger Gaylord Texan Convention Center in Grapevine had a special reason to celebrate. It marked the 25th anniversary of "DOOM," the bloody, highly stylized first-person shooter that became a gaming phenomenon and made id Software a major player in the video game industry. Naturally, QuakeCon 2019 was also dubbed "DOOMCon," featuring the first playable preview of the next game in the franchise, "DOOM Eternal," and other new games that players could try by making a demo reservation instead of waiting in ludicrously long lines. The weekend also featured a record-setting speed run that completed every "DOOM" game from every era, including "DOOM 64" for the Nintendo 64 console and the upcoming "Eternal."

So you think you have "it" but you're not sure what "it" is? Learn acting for stage, screen and TV (at affordable prices) at S.T.A.G.E. (Society for Theatrical Artists' Guidance and Enhancement). With the help of local showbiz pros, including longtime director and education coordinator LisaAnne Haram, prepare for call-backs, learn to do make-up, get the secrets of voiceovers and more. The organization also supports local playwrights with readings and rehearsal space, plus there's a big library of plays to dip into. Founded in 1982, S.T.A.G.E. has put lots of working actors on the stage.

NorthBark Dog Park
Kathy Tran
NorthBark Dog Park

One of the few problems with most dog parks is the fact that dogs of all sizes are fenced in together, leaving terriers and Dachshunds to cower in a corner while mastiffs and great danes lope around the pen as they please. NorthBark Dog Park solves this problem by having two separate play areas — one for big dogs and another for smaller ones. Your Pomeranian can run, chase and snuffle around without having to worry about getting stomped on by a German Shepherd. The park also has a swimming hole where dogs can wade and paddle and a cleaning area where you can hose down your pup before you head home.

Dallas Flamenco Festival has become an annual celebration of the fiery Spanish dance, enhanced by a narrative "play" written around the original choreography and percussive dancing of Dallas husband-wife team Delilah Buitron Arrebola and Antonio Arrebola. Presented at the Ochre House Theater next to Fair Park, this year's passionate production of La Muerte de Don Quixote, written by Ochre House founder Matthew Posey and featuring professional flamenco musicians, provided a hot-stomping revisit of the classic tale.

Why yes, we do think you should have an unquenchable desire to immerse yourself in the a cappella (that's un-accompanied, for dorks like us who don't speak Italian) vocal music of the 16th century. The deeper implication of this selection is "best resonance," and of course, different types of music respond better to different levels of resonance. Perhaps the most demanding is music from the Renaissance, because it sounds best in an acoustically "wet" room, where notes continue to resonate for seconds after actual sound production has ceased, and acoustically wet rooms are usually big and made of stone. Because of these uncommon requirements, Church of the Incarnation in Uptown shines forth as the place to hear this music. Further, the church offers a tantalizing sacred music program that can help satisfy the cravings of those who appreciate early music.

Did your education terminate after earning a degree? Enter the Dallas Institute of Humanities & Culture. In a city known for its business, real estate and technology industries, we need a nursery for the intellectual life that is safe from the rapacious profit motive. With a campus in Uptown, the public can discover truth, beauty and goodness by listening to a dramatic reading of Goethe's Faust; attending a program with music, dance and cuisine based on Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights; enrolling in a class on political thought; or joining the spirited conversation at a Friday Night Salon. The Institute reminds us that the humanities are not only crucial for the health of our democracy but for our wisdom too.

Best Music Program
Mark Kitaoka

Nowadays, ensembles with a program worth mentioning are hard to come by. It's always the same hundred or so classical pieces: Beethoven 5, Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, Handel's Messiah, Dvorak's New World Symphony, blah, blah. Often, the worst offenders when it comes to boring programs are large orchestras and opera companies. Dallas Symphony Orchestra, however, has prepared a program with plenty of promise, boasting underplayed works such as Prokofiev's Symphony 6 and the Bruch Violin Concerto; classics like Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 "Emperor" and Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 4 "Italian"; and even new works by Steven Mackey and Salina Fisher. DSO is also bringing in celebrated violinist Joshua Bell, and has arranged for a performance with the world-renowned Vienna Boys Choir. A surprisingly wide range of musical adventures await us, so get your tickets now for the rich and resonant Morton H. Meyerson space, where there are no bad seats.

Dallas is home to a number of semi-professional ensembles in which musicians perform at a professional level but not as their primary source of income. One standout is the University of North Texas Baroque Orchestra under recorder player Paul Leenhouts. The orchestra sources some of the most talented young musicians in the United States and provides high-quality performances of Baroque works (think Bach, Handel and Vivaldi) on period instruments, such as the harpsichord and natural trumpet. The realm of "period performance" is not one in which the citizens of Dallas have many options, but the UNT Baroque Orchestra, composed of students, has very reasonable ticket prices, and their performances are consistently laudable.

Texas Theatre
Barak Epstein
Texas Theatre

Whether it's Amélie on Valentine's Day, obscure music documentaries or the original double feature playing when Lee Harvey Oswald escaped after shooting JFK (as the legend goes, and with the original ticket admission price), Texas Theatre seems intent on a mission to keep Dallas cultured. Sure, the cinema's sound isn't always the best, but its programming is unfailingly stellar, relevant and original. To begin with, the building itself is a historical landmark and a beautifully preserved relic, a space for themed parties and underground music shows taking place behind its movie screen, a frequent participant in various film festivals and a host to visiting art figures from Crispin Glover to Adan Jodorowsky.

DJ Blake Ward
Karlo X Ramos
DJ Blake Ward

A favorite in Dallas' nightlife scene, DJ Blake Ward is a master in his craft. Regularly playing sets at spots like Beauty Bar, Midnight Rambler and Alice Dallas, Ward knows how to curate and tailor a mix suitable for any occasion you can book him for. Each of Ward's mixes are carefully produced and arranged, with each track flowing into the next. Ward is a DJ who is genuinely passionate about music, respects the art and knows how to create a sonically pleasing arrangement. His energy is unmatched, as he is able to remain pumped all night, from opening to last call.

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