A newcomer to Dallas, Kara-Lynn Vaeni had a fantastic season in DFW theater, which in spite of being sadly cut short by COVID, demonstrated her directing chops and established her as a welcome director in the area. In December 2019, she directed the brilliant and complex Noises Off! at Theatre Three. The play is uproariously funny but is only capable of being so in the hands of a strong director. Vaeni handled its intricacies well, ensuring that each joke led to knee-slapping and joyous tears. She followed this with The Children at Stage West, which opened in mid-March and hence closed after its first weekend because of the pandemic. The Children went on to be one of the first Dallas plays streamed online, and Vaeni's work gave online theater a strong first step.

BEST THEATER ACTOR

Sometimes, when we watch the work of a truly good actor, it seems impossible the actor could be in any way different from the character they are playing. When you see their face again in another work, it is sometimes shocking to see that they are in fact acting. They aren't merely walking and talking on a stage but are transforming themselves into different people. This year, Kelsey Milbourn exhibited just this dexterity as an actor, first in Undermain Theatre's The Thanksgiving Play and then in Stage West's Ada and the Engine. In the first, she played ditzy, self-obsessed and iPhone-obsessed actress Alicia with such conviction that it seemed only likely that Milbourn herself was that type of person (much as we would like to hope otherwise). And yet, two months later she transformed into Ada Lovelace, a 19th-century mathematician and the total opposite of her Thanksgiving Play character. Both performances were riveting but in completely different ways, demonstrating the breadth of Milbourn's talent.

There are many reasons we're impatiently waiting for the end of the pandemic. One of the bigger ones is going to bar trivia nights. The weekly trivia games that ran at Glass Half Full taproom in the Alamo Drafthouse in Richardson were the most fun ways to feel really stupid on a Wednesday night. Geeks Who Drink host Eric Riggan presented rounds of cleverly worded questions with Jeopardy-grade contextual hints on subjects like geek pop culture and more challenging topics like the history of government agencies and insurance terminology. Riggan has the perfect temperament and voice for a grade-A game show host and a sense of humor and attitude. He puts the "master" in "quizmaster."

BEST LIVESTREAM VENUE

Three Links has just absolutely killed it during this pandemic. Period. Full stop. For those of us who made live music our lifeblood in those days before the pandemic, the desire to see live music since March has been real. Live music streaming will never replace the live music experience, but the folks at Three Links have seen it fit to provide fans with something of a live music supplement and its regular bands with something of a supplementary income for one night at least. In the months that have passed since mid-March, livestreamers have been able to see Upsetting's single release show, punk stalwarts The Scandals bring down the house and The 40 Acre Mule give a soul-lifting performance with the memories of riots fresh in our heads. Three Links has always been eclectic and always kept local bands and fans first. Could there be anything more punk rock than that?

BEST REAL HOUSEWIFE

D'Andra Simmons took on fellow housewife LeeAnne Locken in The Real Housewives of Dallas' latest season. We're assuming she won because Locken is no longer on the show, but that's not the only reason we've grown to love her. Simmons took over her mother's skincare and wellness company, and when she needed help learning how to keep the business afloat, she enlisted fellow housewife Stephanie Hollman's husband, Travis, a businessman. Unfortunately for all involved, Simmons had a hair appointment the night before that took too long, so she didn't make it to her early business meeting with Travis. If that sentence wasn't enough to convince you that Simmons is The Ultimate Housewife, we don't know what will.

BEST NEW PLAY

There are so many classic plays out there, from Shakespeare to Ibsen to O'Neil, that it would be easy to never write another play and simply perform the brilliant works from centuries past for centuries to come. In spite of this, there is still a need for new plays. In their New Works Initiative, Theatre Three describes the value of classic plays for giving us perspective on the past while new plays are needed to give us the context of the present. Lee's new play, which premiered at Theatre Three in February, does exactly that. The play paints a vivid picture of racism in Dallas today, a reality that was just as important to witness before the death of George Floyd as it is after. And yet, this play is written with humor and ease. Although it takes clear note of the issues of racism, it also shows the worth of humanity and therefore the worth of fighting against racism.

BEST DANCE TROUPE

DGDG was having a strong year before the pandemic hit; last Halloween, they premiered the limited engagement Bippy Boppy Boo Show at Theatre Too (Theatre Three's basement theater). The show combined dance and comedy with plenty of horror and a little of the occult to offer a spooky love letter to theater and to Halloween; the show was so good that they're bringing it back for round two this Halloween. DGDG took a more serious turn when the pandemic hit, producing the film The Savage Seconds in association with Undermain Theatre (where Georgiou is associate artistic director), whose themes of loss and adolescence blended with pandemic-related angst. These productions, both written by Georgiou and Justin Locklear, were fabulous additions to a tumultuous season of Dallas dance and theater.

It's strange the way music can sometimes lie dormant until a time when its meaning can be better understood. Back when we thought the pandemic would be over before we knew it, Yells at Eels and Pinkish Black released their soundtrack to isolation, Vanishing Light in the Tunnel of Dreams. The collaboration between Dallas' most prominent avant-jazz and avant-metal acts had actually been recorded over two years beforehand, but when the lockdowns started, the members of each group along with producer Stéphane Berland of Ayler Records dusted off the old tracks and delivered an album that transcends the conventions of any genre. Grounded in a search for connection at a time when connections between people seemed a distant memory (as well as a steady diet of old zombie movies), Pinkish Black's Daron Beck spent nearly a month mixing the 2-year-old audio to be a reflection of the weird world we find ourselves in.

It was a much simpler time, the '60s, the '90s and July 2019, when Three Links owner Scott Beggs put on the first and possibly only ever WoodScott festival in honor of the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. The celebration was intended to celebrate the festival's entire history, including its 1969, 1994 and 1999 editions. For e two nights in July, bands came together to perform sets honoring The Who, Parliament-Funkadelic, Green Day and Limp Bizkit among others. Bands and fans alike reveled in the nostalgic hits. In some cases, what began as a joke became a source of real '90s alt-radio vibes the audience just couldn't help but dig into.

BEST PLACE TO SMOKE A CIGARETTE

Have you picked up smoking again to manage the boredom? Or maybe you've powered through both good times and bad with your American Spirit's proudly tucked away in your shirt pocket? Now, where to smoke them? With non-mask wearers most recently taking all the heat, smokers are free to spark it up without being shamed. The parking lot of Bishop Cidercade, a retro arcade with a killer food truck, provides the perfect setting for a midnight smoke. Nestled on Irving Boulevard and tucked away from the crowded city, the parking lot gets the kind of cool summer breeze you'd imagine from a Francis Ford Coppola film. The only thing missing from this industrial park is graffiti stating "The Motorcycle Boy Reigns." Smoke 'em if you have 'em.

Best Of Dallas®

Best Of