Teen gay dream

GLEEK HERO   |  In just four episodes, Criss has become a popular gay on ‘Glee.’ (Photo by Robert Hart)

Darren Criss, the breakout heartthrob from ‘Glee,’ isn’t gay or a teen, but welcomes more romance for Blaine

MARK LOWRY  |  Special Contributor
mark@theaterjones.com

Aside from the hot pink sunglasses, and the assistant who occasionally makes sure that his natural curls fall just so on his forehead, Darren Criss doesn’t come across as the young actor whose star is on a rocket’s upward path.

A new, popular actor on the hit Fox show Glee, Criss possesses an articulate intelligence and level-headedness that belies his age (he turns 24 in under a month). On the show, Criss plays Dalton Academy gay student Blaine, the teenage dream with the glassy brown eyes and plush eyebrows that make Kurt (Chris Colfer) — not to mention the rest of gay America — swoon.

Criss was in North Texas last weekend at the Fort Worth auditions for The Glee Project, a reality show that will debut on Oxygen in June where 12 contestants will vie for a role on Glee. The winner is guaranteed multiple episodes next season. Whether this new character (which hasn’t been written yet, so it’s open to gender and type) becomes a recurring character depends on his or her popularity with audiences.

The winner would be lucky to repeat the feat accomplished by Criss, who in a scant four episodes has already proven so popular that he’s been confirmed as a series regular for the rest of Seasons 2 and 3. The real question that the gay fans of the show — and we hear there are a few — are asking: Will the Kurt/Blaine friendship develop into something more?

“I’m just as curious as everybody else,” Criss says. “Obviously the potential is there. As much as all of us want to see that happen immediately, I think the most important thing to convey between the two of them is that of a support system. It’s really important to show young people especially that there’s a person to confide in, and that friendship is possible. If that does evolve into a romantic relationship, then awesome. But let’s hope that it’s warranted, and real. And there’s no greater way to portray a love story than to prolong it as long as possible.”

Criss knows a thing or two about fictional love stories. The San Francisco native has been doing theater for much of his short life. In high school and as a student at the University of Michigan, he appeared in musicals like the “lost Sondheim” show Do I Hear a Waltz and the Rodgers and Hart classic Babes in Arms.

“I’m a big Rodgers and Hart fan. For my audition for Blaine, I sang ‘Where or When’ [from Babes],” he says. “I was a big musical theater rat. I was just a fanboy who got lucky.”

During college, Criss became a member of the UM alumni theater company Team Starkid, playing Harry Potter in the spoof A Very Potter Musical and writing songs for the original musical Me and My Dick (the recording is available on iTunes). He also released a solo EP called Human, showing off his smooth tenor. (There’s a Facebook group called “I liked Darren Criss before he was on Glee.”)

He landed a few TV roles (Cold Case, the short-lived series Eastwick), but it was with Glee that he became an instant hit singing lead in an all-male a capella version of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream.” The opportunity is something that the actor, who is straight, doesn’t take lightly.

“It’s incredibly important to me,” he says. “As an actor, you’re always worried that you’re going to be stuck doing ancillary things, like the boyfriend or the cop or the football coach or something. You just hope for something that you feel has some kind of significance. This would be one of those things that has a great amount of value to me personally and, I think, to a greater community.”

As for his rising fame, he’s cautious to use the word “celebrity”(although the screaming fans in Fort Worth on Saturday would argue otherwise). But he’s preparing himself for it.

“Everybody wants to know who you are, which is a very unfair position to be in because all of us are trying to figure that out on a consistent basis,” he says. “So it really forces you to evaluate and analyze yourself. It’s really forced me into really trying to solidify myself because if people are paying attention, it’s important to step up to the plate and make sure that [I’m] representing something positive.”

Millions of Gleeks can’t be wrong.

New episodes of Glee resume with a special Super Bowl Sunday episode.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 14, 2011.

—  John Wright

The art of phodography

Bites! Camera! Action! How local pet photographer Debbie Bryant catches dogs — in their natural environments

STEVEN LINDSEY  | Contributing Writer stevencraiglindsey@me.com

AMERICA’S NEXT TOP MONGREL  |  Cordelia, Cleo and Peyton, went from neighborhood runts to pick of the litter after a posing session with photographer Debbie Bryant.
AMERICA’S NEXT TOP MONGREL | Cordelia, Cleo and Peyton, went from neighborhood runts to pick of the litter after a posing session with photographer Debbie Bryant.

There is no scientific proof that I’m aware of, but here’s one gay stereotype that is incontrovertibly true: Gays pamper their pets to a degree that’s disproportionate to most of the rest of the world. We buy them outfits, let them they sleep in our beds, let them ride around town in special designer car seats; when we vacation, we house them up in posh doggie hotels that often cost more per night than our own accommodations.

I say “we,” but this is definitely my reality. My partner and I have four dogs and love them like the children we’ll never have (more importantly: The children we’ll never have to pay to send off to college or bail out of jail). He says that he’ll divorce me if I ever bring home Dog No. 5, but I have no control over the power of a well-worked pair of big brown eyes and kisses through puppy breath, so I’m not making any promises.

Our oldest dog, Peyton, a Chow-retriever mix, is turning 12 soon, so we’ve been wanting to get some great photos of her with her stepsisters while they’re all still in good health. We’ve taken our own shots, but they’re far from art. Like shooting — er, photographing — children, taking pics of dogs requires skill, patience and an intuition necessary to capture the dogs being themselves.

So while picking up our dogs from Barking Hound Village where they stay when we’re out of town, I noticed a gallery display of some stunning, artistic photographs that were exactly what I’d been looking for. Some were close-ups of paws and tails. Others, artfully cropped dog faces, complete with wet noses, fluffy ears and emotive eyes. I grabbed a business card and immediately called the artist, photographer Debbie Bryant, owner of Thank Dog Photography.

Before getting into the low-pressure world of working with lovable pets for a living, Bryant got her bachelor’s degree from Duke University, received her MBA at Yale, finished her law degree at UT Austin and worked for the World Health Organization in Switzerland. Clearly, she has the attention span of a Chihuahua.

It was during her time in Geneva that she first developed a passion for photography, so in a strange, roundabout way, all paths eventually led her to what she loves.

“I get to play with dogs and I’m my own boss — tough to beat!” she laughs.

Bryant only works on location, utilizing natural light, which is part of the reason why the images come out so unposed and vibrant. The location of the shoot is up to the owner. For us, we had no choice but use our home and back yard because trying to keep four dogs off-leash without their collars in a park or by the lake was a recipe for disaster.

During the shoot, Bryant befriended the dogs with a variety of treats, which meant they followed her around everywhere. Eventually, they’d tire of begging and just chill out. This is when she’d go into stealth mode, lying on her stomach, or crawling through the grass to capture them at their level. It’s clear to anyone who witnesses her in action, this is a woman who has found her dream occupation.

“After I quit my job, I had a ton of time on my hands — something I hadn’t had for quite some time,” she says. ”As flaky as it may sound, I really was on a search for my passion in life. I was taking my dogs to the dog park and started taking my camera along. I photographed not just my dogs, but others as well, and I loved it.”

Kendall
Kendall

She knew pet photography was what she wanted to do, “but I had to build up my knowledge regarding the more technical aspects of photography,” she says. “I am completely self-taught. I’ve used a lot of trial and error, read a bunch of books and spent hours and hours on the Internet studying photography.”

Once she built up her confidence, she started Thank Dog in 2009. Most of her time is spent doing photo shoots like ours, but she is also called upon for more challenging roles, like photographing dogs for book covers, including Scent of the Missing, about a search and rescue dog named Puzzle.

“The art director was looking for a serious, somber shot, consistent with the content of the book. In theory that doesn’t sound too difficult or unusual, but trying to get a photo of a dog with its tongue in its mouth when it’s 110 degrees out is challenging. Trying to do so when the subject is a naturally happy golden retriever is almost impossible!” Bryant laughs. “We tried everything we could think of, including me hiding in the brush while Puzzle worked to find me. By the time we finally got the shot, I was covered in chigger bites and had taken hundreds, if not thousands, of shots.”

Yet she got the perfect shot, and it’s this same perseverance and attention to detail that allowed her to create memories for me and my partner that will last a lifetime.

ThankDogPhotography.com. Photo sessions start at $450 for up to three hours, with $200 credited toward prints and other purchases.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 22, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

Police release photos of suspect who posed as U.S. marshal, put gun to man’s head in Oak Lawn

Dallas police are looking for a man who posed as a U.S. marshal and threatened a motorist with a black semi-automatic handgun near near Rawlins and Wellborn streets in Oak Lawn early Sunday morning. Below is the full alert from DPD, which was posted on Wednesday along with photos. A special thanks to DV’s Gary Karwacki for the heads-up on this one:

On September 19, 2010, at about 12:30 am, the pictured suspect was seen by a complainant performing a traffic stop in an unmarked, black Ford, 4 door sedan, at Lemmon Avenue and Wycliff Avenue.

The complainant suspected that the suspect was not a police officer and began to follow the suspect in order to obtain the license plate of the suspect vehicle. The suspect vehicle came to an abrupt stop at 3700 Rawlins and the suspect confronted the complainant.

When the complainant questioned the suspect’s identity, he replied by saying, “I am a U.S. Marshall”. The suspect then drew a black semi automatic handgun, with laser sights, and pointed it at the complainant’s head. The suspect then fled the location in the suspect vehicle and he remains at large. The Dallas Police Department is trying to identify this suspect and also would like to speak with the citizen the suspect had pulled over at Lemmon and Wycliff. Anyone with information regarding the below listed suspect or this incident, please contact the Dallas Police Department Crimes Against Persons Division at 214 671 3616 or call 9-1-1. This suspect is considered armed and dangerous.

Suspect: W/M 30, 5’11″, 190 lbs, brown hair, brown eyes

Vehicle: Ford 4D black in color with LED lights on the dash

Weapon: Black semi automatic handgun with laser sight

—  John Wright

Pet of the week • 08.20.10

Sylvester
Sylvester

Sylvester is a beautiful black, tan and cream-colored shepherd mix with a soft coat and warm brown eyes. He’s about a year old, is very friendly and has a great personality — not to mention a super smile. Sylvester is always ready to play and is eager to please. He’ll make a wonderful canine companion.

………………….

Sylvester and many other great dogs, cats, puppies and kittens are available for adoption from the Dallas Animal Services Adoption Center, located at 1818 N. Westmoreland at I-30 on the northeast corner. The shelter is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m.; closed Mondays. The cost to adopt is $85 for dogs and $55 for cats and includes spay/neuter surgery, vaccinations, microchip and more. All dogs are negative for heartworms, and cats have been tested for FeLV and FIV. For more information, visit www.DallasAnimalServices.org or call 214-671-0249.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 20, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens