Actress Colleen Zenk is best known to millions of fans as Barbara Ryan on the iconic daytime drama As the World Turns, a role she played from 1978 until the show departed the airwaves in 2010. Her portrayal earned her three Emmy Award nominations: Outstanding Supporting Actress in 2001, Outstanding Lead Actress in 2002 and Outstanding Lead Actress in 2010. Although life in fictional Oakdale has come to an end, Zenk has stayed exceptionally busy. The one woman show she developed incorporates her lifelong career as an actress -- including three decades as a daytime star, her very public battle as an Oral Cancer survivor, her chaotic (and favorite) role as a mother to blended family of six children, and a great deal of grace, humor, music, tears and laughter. In keeping with her eyes towards reinvention, Colleen has joined on as a producer on the upcoming revival of the smash Broadway musical Godspell.
Zenks desire to be on the stage began as a child in Barrington, IL, where she began dance class at age three, and by nine, was a working professional. She soon landed regional musical theatre roles, worked as a commercial and fashion model, and trained with world famous choreographer and teacher Gus Giordano, becoming one of his youngest dancers to perform with Gus Giordano Dance Chicago. She went on to study theatre at The Catholic University of America. Colleen starred in "The New Performers" for NBC, performed for our troups in Europe, danced in the ballet corp of the New York Metropolitan Opera, starred in a national tour of "Can-Can" and then headed to New York at age 22.
In 1978, she landed the part of Barbara on As The World Turns thinking it would be a short term gig! During her 32 years on the show, she continued to pursue her love for musical theatre and made her Broadway debut as Rosie in Bring Back Birdie, opposite Chita Rivera and Donald O'Connor, and her film debut in John Huston's movie of the Broadway musical Annie.
Diagnosed with Oral Cancer in 2007, Zenks world was turned upside down. Through her courageous battle, aggressive treatments, and multiple surgeries, Zenk continued to work on As the World Turns, asking the show to incorporate her illness into her character's storyline to promote oral cancer awareness. The on-camera telling of Barbaras cancer, also helped respond to the public concern of millions of viewers who had detected that something was not right with Zenk, her treatments having impacted her tongue and speech.
As the National Spokesperson for the Oral Cancer Foundation she has helped bring awareness to a disease that has gone under the radar for far too long. Her work includes public service announcements, national broadcast interviews, articles in leading women's magazines and lectures on behalf of Yale-New Haven Hospital, the Smilow Cancer Hospital and other leading cancer facilities in the U.S. Her cancer recurred in 2008, with another scare in 2010. Today, Zenk is cancer-free.
Colleen's priority and favorite role of all is being the mother to a blended family of six children -- four girls and two boys ranging in ages from 18-30. The family also includes two Shetland Sheepdogs and a Fife Canary, two Lineolated Parakeets, and a Rose-Breasted Cockatoo named Sydney. Zenk is an avid knitter and can often be seen in her own creations.