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Actress Jane Lynch Receives Gleeful Reception in Manatee County

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Glee star Jane Lynch shows her support for Palmetto High School’s rowing club. Actress Jane Lynch hopped out of a golf cart at a Manatee County country club on Saturday and grabbed a megaphone. “As you might imagine, I know my way around one of these, ” she said, drawing laughter and cheers from a […]

May 16, 2011


Glee star Jane Lynch shows her support for Palmetto High School’s rowing club.

Actress Jane Lynch hopped out of a golf cart at a Manatee County country club on Saturday and grabbed a megaphone. “As you might imagine, I know my way around one of these, ” she said, drawing laughter and cheers from a crowd of several hundred that had gathered to see her.

As Sue Sylvester, the ruthless coach of a high-school cheerleading squad on the hit TV series Glee, Lynch  does  indeed bark orders through a megaphone on occasion. But on Saturday, the gracious Lynch wielded it cheerfully, as the emcee of a fundraising event for the Palmetto High School rowing club.

Lynch, with daughter Haden, wife Lara Embry and Palmetto High School rowing coach Trish Jackson, strikes a Sue Sylvester-like pose.

“The pilot is making his approach. He should be here in one minute,” Lynch said, referring to the helicopter pilot who was about to drop 2,000 numbered golf balls on the 18th green of the Rive Isle  course in Parrish. Two winners whose balls landed in the hole split $25,000 in the “Chopper Dropper” event, which raised more than $40,000 for the fledgling rowing team.

A “Welcome Jane Lynch” banner was unfurled at the entrance to the country club, and signs directed visitors to the “Jane Lynch Chopper Dropper.”  

“Hi, I’m Jane Lynch, Chopper Dropper,” the actress said when she sat down for a brief interview with me.  She laughed when I told her that could be the name of her first action movie.

Lynch with daughter Haden and wife Lara Embry, an avid rower.

Earlier this year, Lynch and her wife, Lara Embry, donated $15,000 to the rowing club. Embry, a clinical psychologist who lived in Sarasota until moving to Los Angeles to be with Lynch,  is an avid rower and was a rowing partner of Trish Jackson, the Palmetto coach.

“Trish is a great friend of ours, and we’re so pleased to be able to support her efforts here,” Lynch said. “Of course, we’re big supporters of the arts in the public schools, but we’re interested in anything that improves students’ mental and physical health.”

Lynch and Embry were married in a ceremony in Massachusetts last June.  Lynch said they’ll be celebrating their anniversary a bit early by flying to Bora Bora for a vacation soon. Embry and the couple’s daughter, Haden, accompanied Lynch to the benefit, and Haden took particular delight in watching the golf balls plummet from the sky.

Lynch poses with two young fans.

Dressed in black jeans, a black-and -white blouse and a Palmetto High visor, Lynch could not have been more accommodating to the ardent fans who turned out to see her. She stood patiently in the center of the dining room for more than 45 minutes,  signing autographs and posing for pictures with a long line of well-wishers who snaked around platters of scrambled eggs and bacon. Some asked her to sign  Glee posters, cast albums and t-shirts.

Lynch was kind and accomodating to the hundreds of fans who showed up to see her.

“I don’t have anything, so could you sign my arm?” one teenaged girl asked.

When another young girl seemed about to faint with excitement, Lynch tried to put her at ease.  “Don’t worry, honey, it’s just me, Jane,” she said.

“OK,  who else wants a piece of this?” Lynch quipped as the next person in line approached her.

Many of the young people in the line told Lynch how much they’d been encouraged by Glee, which celebrates a diverse group of glee club members who proudly proclaim their individuality, even in the face of occasional taunting.

“People come up to me all the time with tears in their eyes, to say how much the show means to them,”  Lynch said. “Not just gay kids, but all kinds of kids who have felt different, and now feel more comfortable with themselves. It’s so gratifying to be part of a show that has had this kind of impact.”

Others in the line told Lynch how much they’ve enjoyed her work in such films as The 40-Year-Old Virgin and the wry Christopher Guest comedies Best of Show and A Mighty Wind.

“Oh, I had lunch with [Guest] the other day,” she said. “He doesn’t have anything else planned right now, but if he did, I’d be involved in a minute. Those were such wonderful films to make.”

During the past year, Lynch has not only gotten married, but has earned  an Emmy award and a Golden Globe award for her portrayal of Sue Sylvester. But she’s taking all the change and success in stride.

“Look, I’m 50 years old, and I’ve been at this a long time, I’ve had  ups and downs,”  she said. “I’ve learned to take things one day at a time and not get overwhelmed. I’m so grateful for the life I have.”

Key Chorale Unveils Unconventional Season

The popular Nancy’s Bar-B-Q  is a great new restaurant, but it’s hardly the place you’d think the choral group Key Chorale would choose for the announcement party for its 2011-12 season.  Instead of brie and chardonnay, the press and sponsors feasted on platters of pulled pork and chicken sliders.

But the setting was appropriate, for Key Chorale wants you to know it’s not some stuffy ensemble that only performs “music by dead people,” in the words of its charismatic artistic director, Joseph Caulkins. And if you think Key Chorale has parties in unusual places,  the venues where the group performs are just as unconventional. You can catch concerts next year at Selby Botanical Gardens, under a circus tent on 12th Street, and at the Stardust Skate Center.

The season opens Oct. 23 at Selby with “Music in Bloom,” a program of works inspired by nature, flowers and poetry. Benjamin Britten’s “Saint Nicholas” will be the centerpiece of a Nov. 12 concert at Bradenton’s Neel Performing Arts Center.  From Jan. 13-15,  the chorale will reprise Cirque des Voix, this year’s hugely successful collaboration with Circus Sarasota.

“What we achieved went far beyond our wildest imaginations,” Caulkins said, speaking for himself and Circus Sarasota director Pedro Reis.  “So we’re adding an extra performance next year.”  As Circus Sarasota’s acrobats and aerialists perform, the chorale will sing such dramatic music as Verdi’s Anvil Chorus and selections from Sweeney Todd.

Contemporary Welsh composer Karl Jenkins’ Requiem will  be sung on Feb. 26 at the skate center.  Caulkins said the piece demands an unusual venue, and he said the skate center has the acoustics of a mini-cathedral, even if it doesn’t look like one.

The season will close April 21-22 with a joint concert with the Jacobites Pipe Band. It will be a preview of the chorale’s  2012 tour of Ireland and Scotland.

(Full disclosure: I am a member of the Key Chorale board of directors)

Theater Intermission

I said last week that I’d continue my report on Broadway theater this week. But with so much news breaking out, I decided to delay my second installment until next week’s blog.