By Lynn Venhaus

Still terrifying and unnerving, the third chapter of this durable horror science fiction franchise presents a smart origin story, “A Quiet Place: Day One.”

That’s no small feat, given the popularity of the first two films that were co-written, directed and starred John Krasinski. He contributed to the story here, is a producer, and will be back with a Part 3 to continue the Abbott family saga.

“A Quiet Place” in 2018 set up a chilling post-apocalyptic world, where the Abbotts are trying to survive – dad Lee (Krasinski), mom Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and children, deaf daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds), son Marcus (Noah Jupe) and toddler Beau. They live in a small, tight-knit community in Millbrook, New York, in the Hudson Valley, and action commences about 89 days after the June 18, 2020, attack.

The sequel in 2021 saw the remaining Abbotts expand their horizons beyond their farm. That’s when family friend Emmett (Cillian Murphy) and Henri (Djimon Hounsou), known as “Man on the Island,” are introduced, and it’s been about 474 days since the monsters wreaked havoc on Earth. Henri shows up in the prequel, adding a nifty thread.

They have discovered the creatures can’t swim, so escaping to water is a safe bet, and for the Abbotts, they find out another weakness, and use high-frequency audio feedback from Regan’s cochlear implant as a weapon.

“A Quiet Place: Part 2” gave us a glimpse of the aliens’ arrival, but this prequel takes place in the first four days of the chaos and moves the action to hustling and bustling noisy New York City.

A prickly cancer patient, Samira (Lupita Nyong’o) is on a group trip to New York City with fellow hospice residents and their nurse Reuben (Alex Wolff) when an alien invasion sends the world into silence.

That’s because the blind ‘Death Angel’ marauders have super-sensitive hearing and will brutally swoop in for the kill when hunting by sound. Sam gets separated, and on a quest for her childhood favorite pizza — she’s determined to get to Patsy’s in East Harlem, she encounters law student Eric (Joseph Quinn), and they help each other fight for survival.

There’s added dread, reminiscent of the shock of 9-11, as the panic-stricken populace struggles to escape grisly deaths. And to see the subways paralyzed, skyscrapers danger zones as those swift aliens crawl lightning-fast over every surface, and an anxious, shell-shocked humanity is unsettling.

Every car alarm, luggage wheel traveling over city streets, stepping delicately on crunchy debris, and general urban cacophony is magnified, and when people forget that silence is golden, calling out to loved ones or having an emotional meltdown, they’re goners.

Now one would think using this clever device of sound being death’s calling card would grow tiresome, but it doesn’t. I was still on the edge of my seat with every snap, crackle and pop after the three films, and eager for Part 3.

The best thing about this franchise is the thrilling communal movie-going experience it provides. I have fond memories of being in a very still crowd watching the first six years ago, where every soda slurp and popcorn munch was magnified, and the cathartic release that came when Evelyn had the baby, by herself, in the bathtub. The tension was practically unbearable– and Blunt vanquished those evil marauders in fine fierce form.

The sequel was the first movie I saw in a theater post-pandemic shut down, in May 2021, and it was such a celebratory event that even the jump scares were welcome.

Cut to a warm June night last week where I joined fellow fans collectively holding our breaths as the engaging new characters tried to outsmart the creatures. The jump scare is a doozy, and the crowd loved it. Sharing suspense is such a pleasurable big-screen experience!

Those critters are ugly! The CGI is remarkably seamless and the sound design, always the movie’s strongest suit, is at another state-of-the-art level.

While the first film was stingy in its reveal of the grotesque beasts, and the second time, lengthier in full view, this time we get various looks – a particularly terrifying one is when they scatter, like spiders, over all the tall buildings. Wisely, director Michael Sarnoski refrained from too much gore.

But the personal emotional connection of the characters has always been key to this franchise’s commercial success. Original co-screenwriters Scott Beck and Bryan Woods had helped create memorable characters that we cared about and Sarnoski does the same here.

Stand-offish Sam might be initially an unlikable lead character, but as you learn her backstory, sympathy builds, especially with her service cat Frodo. Lost soul Eric, a guy from England unfamiliar with America, is a stranger in a strange land angle that works, particularly his compassion.

How they cling to each other to make it through each hour keeps focus on the ferocious fight to stay alive, whether Sam is scribbling in a journal, or Eric makes a treacherous trek to get her thermal fentanyl patches for her Stage 4 cancer pain.

Lupita Nyong’o, Oscar winner for “12 Years a Slave,” has found a good niche in horror films, as her memorable turn in Jordan Peele’s “Us,” indicated. Like the best silent film actresses, she conveys so much with a glance.

Equally expressive is Joseph Quinn, mostly known as Eddie in “Stranger Things,” who will be in the upcoming “Gladiator 2.” He is convincing as an earnest guy dazed by the predicament but one who finds practical solutions to situations they find themselves in as they roam the city. He’s resourceful, and that comes in handy.

Their unlikely, but touching, bond is the reason this series remains compelling, but also handing this project off to Sarnoski was a bold and wise move. With fresh characters and a new location, he maintains the tension.

Sarnoski scored big with a small drama he directed and wrote, “Pig,” in 2021. He resuscitated Nicolas Cage’s reputation, giving him one of his best roles as a grieving former gourmet chef (St. Louis Film Critics Association’s Best Actor). It’s now streaming on Hulu, worth seeing. And Alex Wolff, a prominent brash character in “Pig,” is the kind hospice nurse Reuben in “Day One.” Wolff, who has made his mark in horror movies, including “Hereditary,” “Old,” and “My Friend Dahmer,” is a calming presence here.

Sarnoski’s different approach, while honoring the origin’s intentions, keeps its zing. The lurking destroyers remain very creepy, and the goal of a safe haven means all hope is not lost.

Each movie has offered its own well-crafted tone and tempo, and this runtime is 100 minutes, compared to the original’s 90 minutes, and Part 2’s 97 minutes.

“A Quiet Place: Day One” takes us on a familiar course in frightening fashion, touching on tender moments that make life worth living while dealing with a dystopian future no one saw coming. Challenge met.

“A Quiet Place: Day One” is a 2024 horror sci-fi drama directed by Michael Sarnoski and starring Lupita Nyong’o, Joseph Quinn, Alex Wolff and Djimon Hounsou. It is rated PG-13 for terror and violent content/bloody images and the run time is 1 hour, 40 minutes. It opened in theatres June 28. Lynn’s Grade: B+.

By Lynn Venhaus
On the surface, “IF” looks warm and fuzzy, a relatable story about the power of imagination and how it affects our childhoods. And while there is much to like about the film, the whimsy doesn’t quite live up to the magic it strives to capture.

While being imaginative and heartfelt, it is also sad and dark, which may confuse parents of young children who are unaware of the story’s tragic elements. The 12-year-old heroine, Bea, who has been through some things, faces another potential heartbreak.

Writer-director John Krasinski, who knocked it out of the park with his “A Quiet Place” films, was inspired by his two daughters to make a live-action Pixar movie, and the ambitious concept is a dandy one.

Yet I struggled to make sense of this alternate reality, for the logic doesn’t seem to be there, even in a fantasy. Lonely Bea, dealing with loss and staying with her grandmother while her dad is in the hospital, meets neighbor Cal, who sees abandoned imaginary friends. 

Cal serves as a matchmaker of sorts, finding new pals for IFs to hang around with, and be useful, for their previous childhood buddies grew up. Think of him as the guardian of the portal. He enlists the earnest and creative Bea.

Cailey Fleming is heart-tugging as a guarded Bea, and warms to Carl, wonderfully played by Ryan Reynolds, who appears more vulnerable than his usually jovial characters. His trademark snappy patter is here, but he’s also some emotional heft to display.

As a human, he blends into the visual effects with flair, standing out in two scenes that wow – a splashy dancing sequence and one where he materializes from a painting.

Reynolds’ agility goes a long way in liking Cal, and his story arc that comes full circle in the third act just might bring a tear to your eye, like it did mine. In fact, my tissue got a workout, like when I watched Pixar’s “Coco” and “Toy Story 4.”

The point about the need for human connection is well-taken, particularly after living through the global coronavirus pandemic. The central theme of the film is loss and grief, and the opening montage is comparable to the start of Pixar’s “Up.”

I can’t recommend this for children under 8, and don’t think a PG-rating is enough warning. If you take young children, be prepared to address some heavy questions.

And there are a few disconcerting choices – Bea walks to a bodega late at night alone, and we’re talking New York City (OK, Brooklyn, but…) and grandma (Fiona Shaw) is apparently OK with her wandering the city by herself.

Granted, we can’t shield our children from life’s cruel blows, and even classic Disney films feature death – Mufasa in “The Lion King” and the momma deer in “Bambi” come to mind – but this film’s marketing makes it look like shiny, happy people having fun.

Nevertheless, the all-star voice cast delivers funny and charming characterizations of various creatures, including Steve Carell as Blue, a gentle Muppet-like giant, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge as a cartoonish Betty Boop named Blossom.

In less substantial but full of personality vocal performances are Krasinski’s wife Emily Blunt as an excitable unicorn, Amy Schumer as a high-strung gummy bear and George Clooney as a spaceman (remember “Gravity”?). In his final role, Louis Gossett Jr. is a wise Teddy bear.

Christopher Meloni plays one of the more animated characters, Cosmo, and the who’s who of Hollywood includes Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Blake Lively, Matthew Rhys, Jon Stewart, Maya Rudolph, Sam Rockwell, Awkwafina, Bill Hader and Keegan Michael-Key. Outstanding talent is assembled, but with so many, not everyone gets moments to shine, more like snippets.

Alan Kim, whose breakthrough role was in “Minari,” plays Benjamin, a hospital patient who befriends Bea, and it’s a sweet, but underdeveloped character

The film does have a striking fairy tale-storybook glow to it, courtesy of cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, who has worked with Steven Spielberg since 1993 and won Oscars for “Schindler’s List” and “Saving Private Ryan.”

Jess Gonchor’s production design is also noteworthy, especially using Coney Island as a fantastic playground for the IFs, as well as a nifty retirement home. Gonchor, longtime collaborator with the Coen Brothers, also created the striking set design for “White Noise,” another difficult world to build. He previously worked with Krasinski on “The Quiet Place, Part II.”

Jenny Eagan’s costume design is delightful, and the army of special and visual effects wizards dazzle with their playfulness.

Krasinski’s heart is in the right place, and the intention is admirable, if not the execution. While the third act redeems the storyline to an extent, the movie fails to live up to expectations, which is a letdown, given the enormous amount of talent involved.

“IF” is a 2024 comedy-drama-fantasy written and directed by John Krasinski, starring Ryan Reynolds, Cailey Fleming, Fiona Shaw, Steve Carell, Alan Kim and Krasinski. Rated PG for thematic elements and mild language, its runtime is 1 hour, 44 minutes. Opens in theatres May 17. Lynn’s Grade: C

 By Lynn Venhaus
For a pulse-pounding 97 minutes, “A Quiet Place Part II” delivers a satisfying sequel that broadens the original story with clever moves and adds to its superb cast.

Writer-director John Krasinski, who directed and co-wrote the original, has built more tension-filled sequences and delivered well-timed jump scares. He maintains what made the 2018 film uniquely scary when any noise would attract the monsters.

The Abbotts – Evelyn, her children Regan, Marcus and infant, leave their home to try to find a safer haven in the outside world. With the creatures who hunt by sound still wreaking death and destruction, it is a precarious journey – and they discover these creepy aliens are not the only threats lurking on their post-apocalyptic path.

Now, after a 14-month delay because of the coronavirus pandemic, the film has eerie parallels to what we went through in quarantine – but had been completed for a March 2020 opening.

It may be the first movie to entice people back to the local multiplexes, kicking off the traditional summer movie season. It’s comforting to share the suspense with others in a communal setting, as we emerge from our isolation to be frightened by a vastly different world.

With masterful editing from Michael Shawver, the fear is palpable, and the importance of keen sound design magnified by what may be waiting for the humans if detected. Every snap, crackle and pop are excruciating.

For the first scene, we are taken back to the Before Times – an ordinary Saturday afternoon in the small town where kids and parents are on the local ball diamond, when the sky fills with a mysterious visual as something hurtles towards earth. Quickly, parents grab their children and attempt to head home when the invading aliens pounce. The danger escalates, which leads to the events of the first film. In this flashback, Krasinski returns briefly as Lee, trying to herd his family to safety.

Part II takes up at Day 474, when the surviving Abbotts venture from their farmhouse cocoon to explore the outside world, in hopes of finding people at bonfire encampments while not attracting the marauding predators.

While the first film was stingy in its reveal of the grotesque beasts, which are giant fast-moving spidery lizard-like forms whose lethal big bite is as sharp as knives, this time they are often shown up-close. Their ferociousness is on full display, which ratchets up the terror.

The smart and resourceful Abbotts get out of numerous jams but are never far from being dinner.

Daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds), who is deaf, hatches a plan after suspecting Bobby Darin’s song, “Beyond the Sea,” heard repeatedly on a radio station, is a signal. She takes off to save her family – and humanity – while mom Evelyn (Emily Blunt) implores their former friend and neighbor Emmett (Cillian Murphy) to go after her.

The casting of the Irish actor is genius. Almost unrecognizable with a shaggy beard and blue-collar wardrobe, Murphy convincingly plays a grieving husband and father whose undercurrent of sadness provides an emotional depth, and his expressive eyes aid in the nonverbal acting.

Emmett has made a solitary fortress in an old steel mill that he reluctantly shares with the Abbotts. Haunted by losing his family, he spends his days drawing photos of his little boy and protecting his turf. He has a pessimistic view of civilization.

As Regan’s protector on their journey to find an oasis, Emmett is challenged as well – but fights like hell to survive as his strength builds. When the pair reach a coastal island, Djimon Hounsou – in a small but pivotal role — plays a helpful resident.

Because of widening the scope, Krasinski has less for Blunt to do, but she is effective as the panic-stricken mother trying to protect her children at all costs.

The child actors stand out, particularly Millicent Simmonds as the deaf girl who is very intuitive. Her lack of hearing is crucial to the story, as in the first, and so is her cochlear implant.

While you can be cynical about that plot device, and think the film resembles M. Night Shyamalan’s “Signs” from 2002 because of another plot twist, I think the characters are worth following. Original co-screenwriters Scott Beck and Bryan Woods had helped create memorable characters that we cared about and still engage three years’ later.

Krasinski counts on moviegoers to remember key elements of the first film without too much rehashing and gives a few hints. He keeps the film moving at a good clip.

The film leaves us wanting more and is set up for a third installment. What happens in that bubble could still intrigue because of the ensemble’s outstanding work.

“A Quiet Place Part II” is even more unsettling than the first as we can really feel the uncertainty based on our own COVID-19 experiences.

“A Quiet Place Part II” is a 2020 sci-fi, horror film directed John Krasinski, starring Emily Blunt, Cillian Murphy, Noah Jupe, Millcent Simmonds and Djimon Hounsou. Rated PG-13 for terror, violence and bloody/disturbing images, the run time is 1 hour, 37 minutes. Only in theaters May 28. Lynn’s Grade: A.

By Lynn Venhaus

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 interesting tidbits.

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?

Here are the winners:

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 Times.”

If you want to see who was nominated, here is the PopLifeSTL article:

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 plays.

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 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.

 (Full 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:

Gateway Resilience Fund:

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 COVID-19 outbreak.

Curbside STL:

CurbsideSTL was created to help support our local independent restaurant and retail businesses and their workers during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Regional Response Fund:

The fund will be used to direct resources to regional nonprofits that are working with local communities disproportionately affected by the coronavirus crisis and its economic fallout.

St. Louis COVID-19 Artist Relief Fund:

Any individual artist living in the St. Louis metro area who has had an event, gig, or paying opportunity canceled due to the COVID-19 crisis can apply for funding.

Support for Artists and Production Crews:

• I Lost My Theatre Gigs resource list and donation site:

• Freelance Artists Resource List: 

 Alive STL: 314-993-2777

 Safe Connections: Hotline: 314-531-2003

The National Domestic Violence Hotline: Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 Text support: Text “LOVEIS” to 22522

Broadway may be dark, but today you can be a light for the theater community.

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.

Any others I miss?

THEATER UPDATES: I try to keep up with the latest news on cancellations and postponements. Here’s the new one.

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.

The first one features an interview with Steve Carell, as they reminisce about “The Office.” Watch here:

John Krasinski

The second features the cast of “Hamilton”:
And here is the third:

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.”

Joanna Sorenko

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 the duet:

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, 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.

Tom Calhoun, Tom Morris and Laila Anderson

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.

The Black Rep board at ceremony – Rawson at far right. Photo by Phillip Hamer.

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.

Meadow Nguy

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.

It’s available on Amazon for $17.96:


MK Andersen

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:
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

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
During the pandemic, after a brief layoff, we have transitioned to Zoom.  Find us here:

Bill Hader and Henry Winkler in “Barry”

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.

Here are musicals and shows to watch online:

Need to know where you can find a movie to watch, whether it’s streaming or not? Check out 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”:

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:

Playwright Nancy Bell and Director Lucy Cashion teamed up for “MUTE: A Play for Zoom” that debuted on Facebook April 5. Spencer Lawton was the production manager. )Main photo is a screen shot of the Zoom play, a remarkable achievement.) Here is the Vimeo link to the half-hour production:
Here is our review:

Ali MacGraw

MEMORY LANE: Valentine’s Day marked the 50th anniversary of bestseller “Love Story,” the young romance that had hearts aflutter back when I was in high school. This is actually my own book cover.

And the movie turns 50 in December. I wrote about the movie’s impact. We all wanted to be Ali MacGraw. We sure did copy her fashions. Here is that link:

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.