Best Theater Company 2019 | Undermain Theatre | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer
Stephen Webster
The cast of Red Chariot (Jovane Caamaño, Molly Searcy and Dean Wray), a mind-bending production at Undermain Theatre.

Undermain Theatre is daring enough to please everyone. With each season, Undermain stages classic plays we've almost forgotten about and new plays we've only just heard of. If you go see an Undermain production of Ibsen or Shakespeare (or even a stage adaptation of the classic novel Madame Bovary, premiering later this season), you'll reflect on how the world has changed in the last however many hundred years — but go see one of their world or regional premieres, and you'll come to understand something about the world of right now that you'd completely failed to notice. Either way, you will find yourself falling into a fascinating production in a dark, mysterious basement literally under Main Street.

Bar trivia used to be a simple thing. You showed up, ordered a couple of beers and drank just enough so your brain could remember useless facts like the population of Sri Lanka or the number of seasons Shelley Long was a regular cast member on Cheers. Then someone decided that trivia nights had to be live entertainment productions with attempts at comedy, visual aids and more unnecessary special effects than a Michael Bay film. Every Tuesday at Malarkey's Bar and Tavern on Trinity Mills Road, the pub trivia night hosted by Rick Brown is focused more on the trivia than most places. Brown has honed his art by sticking to the challenge of trivia and the friendly competition it produces between new and regular teams. He speaks each question and score with the efficiency of a drive-time news radio anchor and plays high-energy, retro music that relates to the category just enough to make you wonder if he did it on purpose. Brown has the poise and gravitas to be the Alex Trebek of Dallas pub trivia with more impressive facial hair.

Perhaps the strangest and least known art showcase in Dallas, The Hand Collection at the Baylor Medical Center is exactly that — an assortment of bronze hand casts. The exhibit was founded by esteemed hand surgeon Dr. Adrian Flatt, who began making hand casts for research. After retiring from surgery, Flatt decided to expand the craft into a sort of artistic expression. Celebrity hands, surgeons' hands, deformed hands and baby hands are all on display, as well as a strange video. The sound of Dr. Flatt monotonously speaking hums on loop in the background, all fuzzy and VHS, in a recording likely unchanged since the collection was put on display in 1982 — and the hands of Andre the Giant loom large and encased in the corner. The exhibit is located in a nook of the lobby of the George W. Truett Memorial Hospital. While parking at the Baylor garage costs money, the showcase itself is free to view at any time of day.

Turkish-born Ilknur Ozgur, along with her collective Artstillery, has a collaborative approach to theater production. Ozgur's plays are interactive, with an ever-evolving democratic writing process, and involve fantastical elements while grounded in the reality of minorities. In last year's Dirty Turk, Ozgur made use of every square inch of the venue's space, with scenes taking place outdoors, spilling out on the street, simultaneously showcasing both ambient technology and oversize puppets, making for a purely enveloping theatrical experience.

Kathy Tran

While Adam Bazaldua hasn't had enough time to make his policy mark on the Dallas City Council, he's already shown that he's got the political chops to lead a district that's needed strong leadership for a long time. In order to win his seat, the high school teacher knocked off District 7's last two incumbents by showing a willingness to collaborate and learn what often seemed elusive for Kevin Felder and Tiffinni Young. Fair Park has a progressive voice on the council who doesn't seem to owe anyone anything. That's an unqualified good thing.

Located on the sixth floor of the building that once housed the Texas School Book Depository, the museum overlooks Dealey Plaza, where President John F. Kennedy was shot to death on Nov. 22, 1963. Visitors can see historic films and artifacts from the assassination, as well as the window from which assassin Lee Harvey Oswald fired the fatal shot. Exhibits walk visitors through the social and political climate in the early 1960s, Kennedy's two-day visit to Texas, the assassination and the aftermath. Those looking to avoid lines can buy tickets online.

For the last two years, Oak Cliff-based De Colores Collective has blessed us with a steady stream of podcasting and programming highlighting people of color and their creations, trials and triumphs. Their weekly podcasts alternate between hilarious and heartrending and offer a fiery mix of hot takes, hot topics, blistering commentary and interviews with local artists. Sisters Eva and Pat Arreguin and their co-host Rafael Tamayo discuss everything from memes to abolishing ICE, to an ongoing feud over the best rapper of all time (Eva is Team Kendrick; Rafael is Team Jay-Z). Acclaimed writer Shea Serrano is a fan, having traveled to Dallas for a live show at the Texas Theatre. Move De Colores Radio to the top of your "Must Listen" podcast pile.

Mike Brooks
Will Evans of Deep Vellum

An offshoot of the nonprofit publishing company of the same name, Deep Vellum Books is a tiny shop in the heart of Deep Ellum. Although it's a small space, the shop makes good use of it by closely curating its offerings. The store shines a light on works by authors who don't always get the attention they deserve, including writers of color and LGBTQ writers. A few times a month, the bookstore brings in authors for readings, book signings and other evening events. For readers on a budget, the store's White Rock Zine Machine dispenses local handmade magazines for a quarter apiece.

Have you noticed yourself feeling joy lately? Is your mood starting to pick up? If so, it's likely you need a good blow to your sunshine, and the Dallas Underground exists to serve you. This late 20th century tunnel system provides a functional link between some of Dallas' largest office buildings, and contains central areas housing unexpectedly diverse food courts and newsstands. Access it via the unsettlingly concealed stairways labeled "to concourse" on the first floor of buildings such as the Bank of America Plaza or Hotel Indigo. You'll quickly realize it's not a place you want to enjoy for too long. Its fluorescent-lit concrete corridors, reminiscent of a Soviet-era bomb shelter, are always a-bustle with powerwalking office workers and midday snack hunters. It's well worth a visit as a sort of cultural relic, even if it comes at the expense of your happiness.

Local performer and yoga teacher Stefanie Tovar — who could be her own Best of Dallas item — founded Hanuman Homies in 2017 with the goal of sharing yoga with those who don't have access to it. After traveling the world as a performer, Tovar found yoga and decided to dive into training. She has since accumulated hundreds of training hours in various practices and has combined her yoga and performing background into the curricula she creates and shares through Hanuman Homies. Yoga possesses a number of beneficial properties that have, in recent years, been secluded in studios not everyone can afford. Hanuman Homies seeks to equip women and children who are battling mental illness and trauma with healthy, yogic-based coping mechanisms they can carry into life. In giving young people a base of yogic breathing techniques, mindful movement and meditation methods, Hanuman Homies hopes to allow for a space in which they can heal and grow within their own bodies.

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