By Lynn Venhaus On Sunday night, the Critics Choice Awards will air beginning at 6 p.m. CST on the CW (ch. 11 in STL). I promise you, it will be way better than the Golden Globes.
For one, I vote as a member of Critics Choice Association (formerly Broadcast Film Critics Association). Hehehehe. I am one of 400+ members. Secondly, we have a diverse membership and our nominations reflect that, unlike the 87 at HFPA.
As far as the show goes, this is what our leadership reports:
We will have virtually all our nominated performers participating virtually in our show on Sunday night. Our lineup of Presenters includes Kevin Bacon, Angela Bassett, Mayim Bialik, Phoebe Dynevor, Morgan Freeman, Gal Gadot, Jim Gaffigan, Chris Hemsworth, Jameela Jamil, Eva Longoria, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jared Padalecki, Kyra Sedgwick, Yara Shahidi, Courtney B. Vance, John David Washington, and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
But once the Critics Choice winner is announced and all the nominees have reacted, we will focus full-screen on the live acceptance speech, without awkwardly returning to the other nominees. And we will offer generous clips showcasing our nominated performances, a treat for audiences who may be inspired to discover movies and series they want to catch up on.
Hosted for the third year in a row by Taye Diggs and with our special See Her Award going to Zendaya, we hope and expect that our 26th annual Critics Choice Awards show will be our best ever. And as the world starts to return to normal in the coming months, we will continue to shine our light on the best the creative community has to offer at our Critics Choice Real TV Awards, Critics Choice Documentary Awards, and Critics Choice Super Awards.
Last month, we brought our 3rd annual Celebration of Black Cinema to a national audience for the first time, reinforcing our commitment to championing the broadest spectrum of popular entertainment. If it’s as fun as it was last year, I will be very proud and happy! (I attended the ceremony in Santa Monica last January 2020).
It was really hard to pick winners this year — so many good nominees.
Enjoy, movie lovers!
(And if you want to read/listen to my reviews, I am in the Webster-Kirkwood Times; KTRS Radio (segment with Ray Hartmann on Sound Cloud — just go to station website, under Shows, click St Louis in the Know, and the list of audio clips is right there; Reel Times Trio podcast (all posted on Facebook page); and my website, www.PopLifeSTL.com, which is a work in progress, but content is growing.)
Greetings! This is a people, places and events column about local and
national showbiz items that will appear regularly. Feel free to message me with
Today we provide some ways to fill your
quarantine days and nights, a list of resources for artists, updates on the
Theatre Proms and more.
MRS. AMERICA: St. Louis anti-feminist icon Phyllis Schlafly was an Alton, Ill. housewife when she gained national attention in conservative politics, fighting the Equal Rights Amendment and founding the Eagle Forum in 1972. She’s the subject of a nine-part miniseries, “Mrs. America,” which starts Wednesday, April 15 on Hulu. The first three episodes: “Phyllis,” “Gloria” and “Shirley” will air then, then each week through May 27, depicting the battles between Schlafly and the leaders of the women’s movement in the 1970s.
The cast includes Cate Blanchett as Schlafly, Tracey Ullman as Betty Friedan, Rose Byrne as Gloria Steinem, Margo Martindale as Bella Abzug and Uzo Aduba as Shirley Chisholm.
Fun fact: I saw Schlafly debate Betty Friedan on the ERA during college. Phyllis came up to the podium, looking like Betty Crocker, and said: “How many women want to get drafted?” A guy in the audience yelled out: “How many men do?” When Betty came up, in a mumu, she clearly had the crowd on her side. Illinois State University, 1973.
*** THEATER PROMS: Springtime is awards season for the theater community, but this year, the mandatory Shelter-in-Place doesn’t allow gatherings of 10 or more. Therefore, events have been cancelled, rescheduled and rebooted
Often referred to as “Theater Prom,” the eighth annual St. Louis Theater Circle Awards ceremony was to take place on March 30 at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the campus of Webster University, but the event had to be cancelled. Local theater critics still honored outstanding regional professional theater.
Instead, HEC provided a streamcast of the awards on
Tuesday, April 7, at 7 p.m. on their Facebook page. The event was downscaled
reading of the nominations and awards, but hey, it’s #TCA20. You can still see
it! Here is the YouTube link:
The theater critics recorded the nominations, and their voice-overs ran over photos. Then HEC announcer Rod Milam announced the winner. There were 34 categories to give awards in, which cover dramas, comedies and musicals. All in a half hour.
Many thanks to HEC Media, including Dennis Riggs, total pro announcer Rod Milam and ace producer Paul Langdon. Thanks to our theater buddy Andrea Torrence for the work on the graphics – the photos really made the virtual. event “pop.” I applaud your sharp professional skills and your devotion to local theater.
A special award was given to Ken and Nancy Kranzberg for their tremendous support and commitment to the arts. Where would St. Louis arts be without the Kranzbergs?
Congratulations to the winners AND the nominees, and
everyone who gave of their heart and soul to produce live regional professional
theater with such passion and panache in 2019.
It truly was a fantastic year, especially for drama, and
what a crowded field of talent among the 125 artists nominated and 51 shows
from 25 different companies.
It is a privilege to see such a variety of theater during
the year, and as a founding member of the St. Louis Theater Circle, it has been
a real joy these past eight years.
In due time, we’ll be back in darkened theaters watching
people create magic. We’ll get to hug and laugh again, and marvel at this thing
called art that connects us all.
Even virtually for one evening — that was a welcome respite
from the sad, terrifying and anxious daily news, wasn’t it, in what’s become
the norm in our current global pandemic. People really seemed to enjoy it,
lifted spirits – some casts had Zoom parties.
I look forward to seeing you all again, in the “After
In community theater, the Arts For Life board of directors
presents two awards events each year, the Best Performance Awards honor musical
theater and youth productions, and the Theatre Mask Awards honor straight
The fifth annual Theatre Mask Awards, which honors both dramas and comedies, was to take place at a brunch on Saturday, April 4, at The Atrium Center at Christian Hospital. However, it has been rescheduled for July 18.
The 21st annual Best Performance Awards is scheduled for Sunday, June 14, at 2 p.m. at the Skip Viragh Center for the Performing Arts at Chaminade. However, the AFL board of directors will decide shortly on whether the event will be moved. Stay tuned.
For more information and to see lists of nominations, visit
You can get tickets to both events for the special price of $40. Visit www.artsforlife.org for
more information and to see a complete list of nominees.
Emcees are Donna Northcott, a theater professor at Lindenwood University – St. Charles, for the TMAs, and local singer-actress Karen Fulks for the BPAs.
disclosure: I am a founding member of the St. Louis Theater Circle and I am on
the Board of Directors of Arts For Life).
HELP IS HERE: How can you help all the artists around the region and homebound folks around the region? During this unprecedented time of isolation, Stay-at-Home mandate, social distancing to #flattenthecurve, here are some resource links:
This fund will provide short term monetary relief to
employees and owners of independent bars, restaurants, and shops in the St.
Louis area affected by closures and other circumstances brought about by the
Broadway may be dark, but today you can be a light for the
Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS launched the COVID-19
Emergency Assistance Fund to help those onstage, backstage and behind the
scenes during and after the coronavirus pandemic. Through your donation to this
special fund, administered by The Actors Fund, you can ensure entertainment
professionals get the health care, emergency financial assistance and
counseling they need.
THE SHOW MUST GO ON: OverDue Theatre Company had to cancel “My Fair Lady” this spring but has put together a Quarantine Concert for Facebook Live on Friday, April 17, at 7 p.m. Special guests include Kaitlyn Mayse, Lauren Molina and Nikki Snelson. Featuring Kimmie Kidd, Eleanor Humphrey and Kay Love, there are 17 performers from the OverDue family who will perform too.
SOME GOOD NEWS: You know him, you love him from “The Office,” the immortal Jim Halpern of the Jim and Pam office romance. Actor John Krasinski has started his own web series, “Some Good News,” and the first episode on March 29 was such a hit, he has produced two more, all dropping on Sunday nights. It’s both inspiring and distracting.
You can follow his page on Facebook for updates and a link
to submit good news.
*** CINEMA STL: Like everyone else, Cinema St. Louis has rescheduled some events. Here are the new dates/information: Classic French Film Festival: Working to move to late July/early August; St. Louis Science Fiction and Fantasy Short Film Festival: Moving from May 1 to hopefully this summer; QFest: Moving from mid-May to possibly July; Filmmaking camps: Camps slated for June and July will continue as scheduled for now; I Love Movies Trivia Night: Still scheduled for Friday, June 5, with backup dates of Friday, Aug. 28, or Friday, Sept. 4; St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase: This event is currently scheduled to go on as planned in July – deadline May 31; Golden Anniversaries: Films of 1970: The six-film fest is now slated for the following Saturday-Sundays: Aug. 22-23, Aug. 29-30, and Sept. 5-6 at the St. Louis Public Library’s Central Library; SLIFF: Hoping to go as scheduled in November.
*** TEAM LEGEND: About a year ago, singer-guitarist Joanna Serenko won the St. Louis Teen Talent Showcase, sponsored by the Fox Performing Arts Charitable Foundation. Now she’s a contestant on “The Voice.”
The poised and talented 2019 Kirkwood High School graduate had
a four-chair judges’ turn for her blind audition during Feb. 24 night’s season
premiere. She sang Amy Winehouse’s R&B rendition of The Beatles’ classic
“All My Loving,” and new judge Nick Jonas fought for her to be on his team.
Here’s her performance link:
The Battle Rounds began March 23, and Joanna was paired
with Roderick Chambers to sing Billie Eilish’s “When the Party’s Over.” Here is
Kelly Clarkson described their duet as “effortless and
beautiful and passionate,” and coach Nick called her a “flawless singer” but
picked Rod as the winner — then John Legend stole Joanna, so she advances to
the Knockout Rounds on Team Legend. EGOT Legend said she had a lot of “style
and grace” in her voice.
Both the Battle and Knockout Rounds were taped earlier, so
they aren’t affected by the virus shutdown. However, the live shows in May
might be, which follows the Knockout Rounds. Go Joanna! (Tune in April 13).
For the first show, a viewing party took place at the Marcus
Des Peres Cinema. Due to the pandemic, that can’t happen now. If it starts up again,
I’ll let you know.
She used to sing in the choir at Kirkwood’s United
Methodist Church and moved here from Cleveland in 2010.
AND THAT’S A WINNER: Sports commentator and hometowner Joe Buck is reaching out to sports fans, asking them to send videos so he can provide a “play-by-play” of what they’re doing while staying at home — perhaps dribbling in place? Just be careful what you send him.
*** HARRY POTTER INTERACTION: Want to escape to fantasy worlds during this global pandemic? “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling has launched a new website called Harry Potter at Home – a free magical resource to keep readers of all ages entertained while staying at home. In addition to the existing interactive features on WizardingWorld.com, the site creators have added new activity kits, “nifty magical craft videos,” quizzes, puzzles, and more. You can also listen to the first book on Audible for free or download and read it from a digital library.
*** AND HE SCORES! Congratulations to Tom Calhoun, one of the nice guys in local media and the St. Louis Blues announcer for 33 years, who was recognized with three honors by the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame. He was recently inducted, presented with the President’s Choice Award and given a commemorative 1500th-game plaque at the fourth annual Illinois Enshrinement Dinner.
A veteran of KMOX, WIBV and other stations, he is currently an adjunct communications professor at Southwestern Illinois College and general manager of its campus radio station, Blue Storm. He has never missed a Blues game since 1987 — until the global pandemic sidelined the team and the NHL cancelled the season. (Just think: a year ago, on April 10, we won the first of the 16 games we needed to win in the Stanley Cup Playoffs).
Cutline: Pictured, left to right, Tom Calhoun, head of the St. Louis National Hockey League Off-Ice Crew Tom Morris and St. Louis Blues inspiration and “super-fan” Laila Anderson. Photo by Bill Greenblatt
APPLAUSE, APPLAUSE:The Black Rep was awarded the August Wilson American Century Cycle Award by Christopher Rawson of the Pittsburgh Gazette on its opening night of “Two Trains Running.”
In 2008, they were the third company in America to complete
the 10-play American Century cycle and are currently two-thirds of the way
through it for the second time. Each of the 10 plays are set in a different
decade of the 20th century.
Rawson, the newspaper’s senior
theater critic and an August Wilson House board member, made the presentation
Jan. 10. The award was established only recently, so presentations are being
made gradually to the 15 qualifying companies.
“August is still alive, first, in the people,
places and stories from what we call August Wilson’s Hill, and second, in the
theaters around the country that bring them to life. This award, presented
jointly by his hometown newspaper and his childhood home, celebrates the
conjunction of these two. It says that we are all connected in August’s work,
through our recognition of its rich humanity and spiritual passion,” he said.
Wilson’s widow, Constanza Romero Wilson, sent thanks to The Black Rep “for your ongoing support of his legacy and for continuing to tell the stories for many generations to come. You ‘belong to the band’!” The quotation comes from Wilson’s “Gem of the Ocean,” where “the band” refers to those who struggled to free black Americans from slavery and Jim Crow.
*** IN THE CREDITS: Meadow Nguy of O’Fallon, Ill., makes an appearance in the seventh episode of the new Amazon Series “Hunters” starring Al Pacino. She was seen in “Law and Order: SVU” last November, and has been on “Madam Secretary” and “The Blacklist.” She moved to New York after graduating from Indiana University with a degree in musical theater. She appeared on stages in St. Louis, including the 2012 “Spring Awakening” at Stray Dog Theatre and their world premiere of “Spellbound,” and in the metro-east during her high school years. She won the Illinois Musical Theater Award, her ticket to the Jimmy Awards in 2012.
*** BOOKSHELF: New Line Theatre Artistic Director Scott Miller is also a prolific writer. His latest, “Idiots, Heathers, and Squips,” digs into a new batch of original, interesting musicals produced the first 15 years of the millennium.
He does deep dives into these 11 that represent “the astonishing variety and fearlessness of this new Golden Age: Urinetown, Sweet Smell of Success, Jerry Springer the Opera, Passing Strange, Cry-Baby, Next to Normal, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, American Idiot, Heathers, and Be More Chill.
LISTEN IN: MK Andersen’s“The First Hundred Days.” She is inspired by the idea that if the first hundred days of a presidency are the most pivotal and important, then the first hundred days of X,Y and Z must also be important. New ones are released every Tuesday: https://yourdaybymk.com/podcast-first-hundred-days : MK, who operates a wedding planning business, is a graduate of University of Notre Dame with a bachelor’s degree in political science. For the podcast she has talked to a writer at Netflix, a former university president and others. In episode 2, a fascinating talk with former FCC Chairman Newton Minow (1961-1963) is here. Minow, 94, served under President Kennedy. He practices telecommunications law in Chicago and in 2016, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama.
Fun fact: “Gilligan’s Island” creator Sherwood Schwartz named the tiny ship that took that fateful trip for Minow because he thought he had ruined television. Minow is noted for a speech in which he called American television a “vast wasteland.”
*** REEL TIMES TRIO: Of course I’m going to plug my own, Reel Times Trio podcast, which is Carl “The Intern” Middleman, myself and a rotating guest to discuss the latest movie releases, what’s out on DVD and streaming, what’s new in Hollywood and Broadway, what’s happening locally, good TV and more.
We’re on iTunes and SoundCloud, and have a Facebook page where we post episodes each week. We also are posted here at PopLifeSTL.com During the pandemic, after a brief layoff, we have transitioned to Zoom. Find us here: https://soundcloud.com/lynn-zipfel-venhaus
*** ICYMI: Need something to do? HBO has unlocked the vault on nine popular series that you can watch for free on HBO Now or HBO Go, or if you have cable TV, now through May 31. The shows are: Barry, Big Little Lies, The Wire, The Sopranos, Succession, Veep, Silicon Valley, Six Feet Under, True Blood and Ballers.
Need to know where you can find a movie to watch, whether
it’s streaming or not? Check out www.justwatch.com or
download the app on your phone.
Did you miss Andrea Bocelli’s free streaming concert from Milan on Easter Sunday? Here is the YouTube link to the half-hour concert, featuring the famed opera singer performing “Ave Maria,” “Santa Maria” and “Amazing Grace”: https://youtu.be/huTUOek4LgU
He told NBC News: “I believe in the strength of praying
together. I believe in the Christian Easter, a universal symbol of rebirth that
everyone – whether they are believers or not – truly needs right now. Thanks to
music, streamed live, bringing together millions of clasped hands everywhere in
the world, we will hug this wounded earth’s pulsing heart…”
One of the best ads yet on staying safe for the good of a city, Here’s Doner Advertising Agency’s uplifting message to Detroit: https://youtu.be/JJzlXhXrD7I
*** WORD: “The world needs artists more than ever to remind us what truth and beauty and kindness really are.” — Terence McNally (1938-2020), in his Lifetime Achievement Award speech at last year’s Tony’s.
The eighth annual St. Louis Theater Circle Awards are taking place in cyberspace on Tuesday, April 7, rather than at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the campus of Webster University. That March 30 event was cancelled because of the current public health crisis. The COVID-19 global pandemic has affected the St. Louis region, with government quarantine orders in both St. Louis city and county through April 22.
The awards honoring excellence in professional regional theater for the 2019 season are being made available by the Higher Education Channel at 7 p.m. on their platforms. Their link is: Higher Education Channel TV (HEC-TV)
The streamcast will be able to be seen on HEC Media’s Facebook page, channel 989 on Spectrum (Charter) and channel 99 on AT&T U-verse.
HEC Announcer Rod Milam will state the winner after the Circle members voice-over the nominations in 33 categories. It is expected to take a half-hour.
The Muny, now in its second century of performances at its outdoor amphitheater in Forest Park, leads the way with a total of 25 nominations, followed by 24 for The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis (The Rep) and 21 for New Jewish Theatre. Stages St. Louis follows with 13 nominations, West End Players Guild with 10 and Stray Dog Theatre with a total of eight nominees.
In all, 25 local professional companies received nominations for 51 different shows. Lighting designer Sean M. Savoie leads all nominees with three different nominations out of a total of 125 nominated artists, including six who received two nominations apiece. The awards honor outstanding achievement in locally produced professional theater for the calendar year 2019.
More than 120 locally produced professional theatrical productions were presented in the St. Louis area last year.
Ken and Nancy Kranzberg will be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of their long-standing commitment to the arts and theater in St. Louis, including Grand Center.
The official hashtag for the event, to be used on Twitter and Facebook, is: #TCA20
The St. Louis Theater Circle would like to thank the folks at HEC Media, including Dennis Riggs, Boyd Pickup, Rod Milam, Paul Langdon, Christina Chastain and their colleagues, for stepping up and making this streamcast production possible after the COVID-19 pandemic caused the cancellation of our eighth annual gala.
The St. Louis Theater Circle includes Calvin Wilson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch; Tanya Seale, Broadway World; Judith Newmark, Judy’s Second Act: Mark Bretz, Ladue News; Tina Farmer, KDHX; Gerry Kowarsky, “Two on the Aisle” HEC; Bob Wilcox “Two on the Aisle” HEC: Ann Lemons Pollack, St Louis Eats; Steve Allen, Stage Door STL; Chuck Lavazzi, KDHX; Michelle Kenyon, Snoop’s Theatre Thoughts; Bob Cohn, St. Louis Jewish Light; and Lynn Venhaus, PopLifeSTL.com. Eleanor Mullin is the administrator.
For more information, visit the Circle’s Facebook page.
Life it ain’t real funky Unless it’s got that pop Dig it Pop life Everybody needs a thrill Pop life We all got a space to fill — Prince, “Pop Life”
Welcome to PopLifeSTL.com, a new arts, entertainment and lifestyle website curated by veteran journalist Lynn Venhaus.
Venhaus has had a continuous byline in St. Louis area publications since 1978 and has worked as a reporter, feature writer, reviewer and editor for daily and community newspapers and other platforms in the region. She has taught journalism and media at three area colleges as an adjunct instructor.
“We will spotlight local events but also cover a wide
spectrum of entertainment,” she said.
Venhaus has written movie and theater reviews for many years. From 2008 to 2017, she wrote entertainment reviews for the Belleville News-Democrat, and currently covers film reviews for the Times newspapers (Webster-Kirkwood Times, South County Times and West End Word), KTRS Radio and the Reel Times Trio podcast. She also has a partnership with OnSTL.com for the podcast and content. This will be home to her theater reviews but she will also feature other local reviewers.
“We want to explore the local arts scene with enthusiasm and insight, but also with an informed critical eye,” she said.
Local contributors include reviewers CB Adams, Connie Bollinger, Andrea England Braun, Joe Pfaller and Jeff Ritter. We will welcome more experts as we grow.
Currently, we are a work in progress and will be placing fresh content as much as possible and after that, get the archives up to speed.
As a founding member of the St. Louis Theater Circle in 2012, which awards excellent in St. Louis regional professional theater, she has enjoyed getting to know the local theater community.
Film is a major force in her life, and she has been a vetted member of the St. Louis Film Critics Association since 2008 and its elected secretary since 2012. She has been accepted into the national Alliance of Women Film Journalists and the Critics Choice Association (formerly the Broadcast Film Critics Association).
She is also a volunteer and member of Cinema St. Louis, and frequently serves on juries for the St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase, 48-Hour Film Project and St. Louis International Film Festival.
She has served on the Arts for Life board since 2010, which
recognizes outstanding work in community theater.
“We are going to spotlight local people and places,
including food and drink too – the whole leisure experience.”
She is a former feature writer, food editor and reviewer at
the defunct St. Louis Globe-Democrat and wrote for niche publications at the
Belleville News-Democrat, so promoting what the metropolitan area has to offer
is important to her.
“We have hidden gems to explore, and there are so many
untapped subjects in the region. I look forward to informing people of our colorful
heritage and the interesting people who enrich our area,” she said.
Venhaus is a graduate of Illinois State University, with a comprehensive mass communications major and a minor in theatre. Born and raised in the metro-east, she currently lives in St. Louis. Her son, Charlie, lives in New York City and her son Tim passed away in December 2018.
Currently, she covers news and features for several local publications as an independent contractor, Venhaus Creative. Editing and writing services are also available.