Name Colleen Zenk
|Born January 20, 1953 (age 62) (1953-01-20) Barrington, Illinois, U.S.|
Education Catholic University of America
Spouse Mark Pinter (m. 1987–2010), Michael Crouch (m. 1983–1986)
Children Morgan Pinter, Georgia Pinter, Kelsey Crouch
Nominations Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Movies and TV shows As the World Turns, Annie, About Scout
Similar People Mark Pinter, Don Hastings, Eileen Fulton, Martha Byrne, Maura West
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Colleen Zenk (born January 20, 1953) is an American actress best known for her role as Barbara Ryan in the daytime TV drama As the World Turns, a role she played from September 1978 until the show left the air in September 2010.
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- Television career
- Theatrical roles
- Personal life
- Cancer diagnosis
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For much of Zenk's run on As the World Turns, her character, Barbara, was tormented by her criminal ex-husband, James Stenbeck (played by Anthony Herrera). For a brief period in the mid-1980s, the character of Barbara was taken in a different direction by head-writer, Douglas Marland, and became a romantic vixen. But for the most part, Barbara was a beleaguered heroine who faced one trial and tribulation after another. In 2001, then head-writer Hogan Sheffer took the character in a drastically different direction after the character suffered burns in a fire which destroyed her face (and more deception by then-husband Craig Montgomery). As a result, the character descended into hell and she became the show's villainess.
Sheffer was quoted in an 2006 interview in a cover-feature article in The New Yorker that he wanted to give Zenk, who he felt was an "under-utilized gem of an actress", more to do than just pour coffee with children underfoot. Viewers were impressed that Zenk, who so consistently played the put-upon heroine, but, was so believable as a villainess, and so were critics. She was nominated for a Lead Actress Daytime Emmy Award in 2001, 2002. and 2011. Sheffer went on to win the Emmy in Outstanding Writing in '01, '02, '04, and '05 giving Zenk much of the credit.
She was named Best Villain by Soap Opera Digest in 2003. In 2011, she was nominated for a third time for a Daytime Emmy in the Outstanding Lead Actress category. As a veteran diva on the show, Zenk was prominently featured in the show's special 50th anniversary episode "Seven Divas on a Bus" in April 2006, and also in the "special" comedy episodes over the years. Her character, Barbara Ryan, after 8 prior marriages, finally found happiness and married for the 9th time as the show came to an end in September 2010. In 2014, she appeared as "Joan" in the 5th season episode "Loose Lips" of the CBS show Blue Bloods. On Thurston the Western-web-Series, www.thurston-series.com, she portrayed town madam, "Agnes Snead" garnering two Lead Actress nominations from the Indie Series Awards. She also appeared in supporting roles on the web series "Tainted Dreams" and "Milgram and the Fastwalkers".
Originally a musical theater actor with a background mostly in dance, in 1980, while working during the day on As the World Turns, at night, Zenk co-starred on Broadway with musical theatre legends Chita Rivera and Donald O'Connor in the sequel to Bye Bye Birdie titled Bring Back Birdie, the biggest, most expensive flop to ever hit Broadway. She was then featured, singing and dancing with Albert Finney and Carol Burnett, in the movie musical Annie directed by John Huston. Her musical theater career was then put on hold for over two decades while she raised her family and continued to work on As the World Turns. The poster from Bring Back Birdie resides in NYC's famed theater restaurant, Joe Allen's, on the wall across from the bar.
In the summer of 2005, Zenk came out of her self-imposed musical theater retirement and starred as Dolly Levi in a regional tour of Hello Dolly! at the Academy Theater in Meadville, Pennsylvania and the Pocono Playhouse. Due to overwhelming audience response, she was asked to reprise the role for a Fall '05 run at the Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, Pennsylvania.
In June 2007, three weeks after her initial three surgeries for Oral Cancer, in the 50th anniversary production at Little Theatre on the Square of Chicago, she starred as Phyllis Stone in Stephen Sondheim's Follies. Recovering from tongue reconstruction and on heavy pain medication for radiation burning and side effects, Zenk sang and danced with the 35 piece orchestra and brought down the house.
In April 2011, only 4 months after more cancer surgery to her tongue, she debuted her one-woman show "Colleen Zenk: LIVE" at Bob Egan's New Hope, to great critical acclaim. She was featured in the new Off-Broadway show from the Araca Group, "Odyssey, the epic musical" at the American Theatre of Actors in October, 2011. Then, the long-awaited NY debut of her one-woman show "Still Sassy" premiered at Feinstein's at the Regency in New York City October–November 2011.
She is one of the many producers of the Broadway revival of Godspell. In late 2012, she starred in the off-Broadway world premiere of the stage version of the bestselling memoir, Marrying George Clooney, Confessions from a Mid-life Crisis. She kicked-off the 2012-2013 theatre season for CAP21 in their "Concerts for CAP21" Benefit Series with a "standing room only" night of her one-woman show "Still Sassy". In 2013, she portrayed iconic actress Tallulah Bankhead in the Regional Premiere of Matthew Lombardo's play Looped at STAGEWORKS/Hudson.
The World Premiere of Michael Slade's play "Family Shots" at the Human Race Theatre Company in '15 earned her a Lead Actress in a Play DayTony nomination. Also in '15, she played "Polly Wyeth" in back-to-back productions of the Pulitzer Prize nominated play "Other Desert Cities" by Jon Robin Baitz, directed by Dan Foster.
Zenk was born in Barrington, Illinois, studied drama at The Catholic University of America returning to her alma mater many times over the years to perform and headline scholarship fundraising events. In 1987, she married actor Mark Pinter, whom she met on the set of ATWT. Together, they raised 6 children (four from previous marriages and two from their union). They made their home in Fairfield County, Connecticut.
In May 2010, it was announced that earlier in the year after 23 years of marriage, Zenk had sued for divorce citing abandonment and irreconcilable differences. The divorce was finalized in August 2010.
In 2007, Zenk was diagnosed with Oral Cancer. Through a series of four surgeries including brachytherapy radiation, Zenk's stage II cancer was treated. In October 2007, Zenk appeared on CBS's The Early Show to publicize the risk factors of oral cancer and to stress early screening. She partnered with The Oral Cancer Foundation to do additional interviews in print and TV media as well as produce public service TV announcements (PSA) on the importance of early detection.
In 2008, CBS donated approximately $500,000 in airtime minutes on their national affiliates for the PSA to play. In November 2008, her cancer returned. She had neck dissection surgery to remove 22 lymph nodes and then underwent five weeks of daily IMRT radiation ending in late February 2009. Hollywood, Health and Society honored her and As The World Turns., in 2009. She underwent further surgery in December 2010, August 2012 and January 2013, but, is now in remission. Her story was told in depth in Woman's Day Magazine in March, 2009.