Briella Calafiore Goes From Glam to Grimm in an Original Play By Brandon Monokian

Briella Calafiore, Brandon Monokian, and Jessica Romano during their production of the Vagina Monologues.

Briella Calafiore, Brandon Monokian, and Jessica Romano during their production of the Vagina Monologues.

There’s been a lot of reality stars crossing into theater lately. Back in November we saw My Big Gay Italian Wedding with Mobwives’ Ramona Rizzo and Karen Gravano making cameos, the first in a huge group of reality stars who have appeared in the play since. Now Glam Fairy’s Briella Calafiore, one of MBIW former guests,is starring in the second run of playwright Brandon Monokian’s Grimm Women, a modern day twist on the classic Grimm fairy tales we’ve all grown up with. The show, which previously ran in a NY Off Off Broadway production, now moves to the Adrienne Theater in Philly. The new run, which features new characters and a longer script, starts on April 22nd and runs through May 5th. We interviewed Monokian and Calafiore about the play as well as how one goes from the drama of reality television, to the art of creating drama on a live stage.

TBB: Grimm women takes the classic fairy tale heroines and brings them into modern times. What inspired you to write this play?

BM: I had just graduated from college a few years ago and I was lucky to be doing shows with Suzzanne Douglas and Alice Playten who I had grown up watching on TV. Being around their amazing energy and watching them work got me inspired to be creative so I started doing a lot of writing. At the same time I was working with them I was working for the Princeton Public Library where we were doing plays that had been adapted from literature and I was directing them. I wanted to write my own so I chose the Brother’s Grimm fairy tales. I’m so interested in cliches, I think they’re so prevalent in our modern culture and lot come from these fairy tales. I thought we could adapt them. They are so much darker in their original form. They get “Disney-fied” over the years. I knew we could go back to their roots, bring the characters into modern times and create something really outrageous!

TBB: Briella, tell us about your role in Grimm Women…

 BC: I play the modern day version of Red Riding Hood. She is a pot smoking bad ass. She gets into a lot of trouble but she has a really big heart. She’s very dramatic but is hysterical, similar to me in some ways but so different in others.

TBB: Brandon you cast Briella after she was in your production of the Vagina Monologues. How did you initially meet?

 BC: (Glam Fairy cast mate) Jessica Romano went to Montclaire State University with Brandon where they did a lot of theater things together. Last year I told Jessica that I wanted to do a play. I said “I think it would be fun to be on stage and do something different,” so she introduced me to Brandon. We did the Vagina Monologues after I heard what it was about and how Brandon’s Montclaire State production was to benefit domestically abused women. It was such a cool opportunity.

BM: I have been friends with Jessica for years and she saw a production of the Vagina Monologues that I directed. I said, “You should do it next year.” When she did she brought Briella and we hit it off. I approached them both to work on (Grimm Women)! Jessica does the makeup and co-designed all the looks of the actors. Jessica actually did the makeup for the very first thing I directed in college so we go way back.

TBB: Brandon, you’ve done some acting yourself. Do you prefer to be on the stage or behind it?

Brandon with Jessica Romano

Brandon with Jessica Romano

 BM: It’s really 2 different kinds of things. I like to work on pieces I have a lot of control over. I like original work so a lot of the acting I have done has been off the wall, not huge big things. I really love both behind the scenes as well as being on stage.

TBB: What about you Briella, do you find it more challenging taping a reality show or being on stage in a live performance?

BC: I would definitely say being on stage in a live performance because I’m new at it. Stage is always going to be more challenging than TV, because TV you can edit. On stage it’s something different. You have one shot and all eyes are on you.

TBB: Had you previously done any stage acting?

BC: When I was younger I did theater camps, but in high school I focused more on hair and cosmetology. I think its safe to say I’m back into it.
I was in My Big Gay Italian Wedding a couple of weeks ago.

TBB: Can we expect to see more acting from you in the future?

 BC: Yes for sure. I’m trying to pull myself out of the reality tv role and dive into more authentic self expressive areas. I just read a play called Tattoo Girl. Brandon did it before and we are working on doing another production of it. I plan on working with Brandon a really long time.

TBB: Brandon, you previously ran Grimm Women in NY and now you’re moving on to Philly. Have any changes been made for the new run?

 BM: We have three new cast members. One part that was previously played by a woman is now played by a man. The show is also a little bit longer now, it was pretty short in its first run.

TBB: Are you planning to take the show to any other cities?

BM: I would love to go back to New York. I’m talking about doing it in New Jersey this summer, and I would love to take it to Boston, just because I selfishly want to hang out there!

TBB: Briella do you plan on staying with Grimm Women in other cities?

 BC: I absolutely plan on staying with (the show) for as long as I can and as long as I’m capable. The only thing that would stop me would be if I do more television work. Like if Glam Fairy gets picked up for a third season.

TBB: Have heard anything regarding that yet?

BC: Not yet, no.

TBB: Do you think there will ever come a point where you will have to choose one world over the other?

BC: I think I would have to leave reality TV. I would definitely have to be done to be taken seriously in the theater world. I always see myself doing TV and theater. My dream is to have my own sitcom on television. I always think I’m going to be dabbling in theater on the side!

TBB: Are you currently taking acting lessons?

 BC: I’m taking private lessons with Brandon one on one. Classes are something I’m looking into.

TBB: Thank you both for talking with me. Is there anything you want to add?

BC: I’m working on a book of writings. It’s going to be called Kiss the Crazy. It’s only in the beginning stages. It’s a collection of poems and short stories about embracing your inner crazy. There are about 50 writings altogether.

BM: Working with Briella and Jessica has just been great. They’ve really brought (Grimm Women) to life!

For more about Grimm Women and to purchase tickets visit www.grimmwomen.com

**DON’T FORGET ABOUT OUR MARCH MOM MADNESS GIVEAWAY!***

Reality of Fashion, Reality of AIDS 2013

With Ramona Rizzo (Mob Wives)

With Ramona Rizzo (Mob Wives)

On Saturday, February 9th, a crowd of enthusiastic fashion and reality television fans gathered at the Altman Building on the lower West Side of Manhattan for the first ever annual Reality of Fashion, Reality of AIDS show. The show, coordinated by Monique Tatum, spotlighted original designs by Dominique Auxilly, modelled by reality stars from Bravo, Style, MTV, UPN and VH1.

“There are over 300,000 people infected in the U.S who don’t know,” said Tatum as she addressed the crowd. Tatum, who lost her own father to HIV/AIDS when she was just 12, is hoping to spread the message that testing is imperative. Between Auxilly’s designs, models paraded up and down the runway in T-shirts that prominently displayed the statistic.

Introducing the show was former America’s Next Top Model contestant Kim Stolz. “Runway, if you remember from the show, runway wasn’t my thing, which is why I’m not walking tonight,” Stolz teased as she wore a black and ivory Auxilly creation.

The first model to walk was another ANTM personality, supermodel Janice Dickinson who looked stunning in a dress appliqued with layers of tan chiffon. She was the first in a parade of larger than life personalities from shows like Mobwives, Real Housewives, Jersey Shore, and more.

Some surprises of the night were Jersey Shore’s Deena Cortese who looked stunning. She’s appeared to have lost some weight and gained a whole lot of confidence. On the other side of the scale, Tracy Dimarco of Jerseylicious looked curvier than when we last spotted her at the Mobwive’s premiere party. She confidently rocked her curves making everyone cheer. Causing the biggest stir was Lil’ Kim who got a standing ovation (seated behind RHONJ’s Jennifer Dalton- Kim’s BFF- we were in her “cheering section”). Most memorable was one star who tripped on her way back in (check the videotape).

NOTE: This video was a spur of the moment decision, so we didn’t have the proper equipment to give you the best footage. We promise to bring you higher quality video reports in the future!

The show was very well done, despite a long delay in its start. Doors opened at 7:30 pm but it wasn’t until after 9 that everyone was ready to rock ‘n roll. Speaking of rock ‘n roll, the music was on point. During Kelly Clarkson’s Catch My Breath I had my own epiphany. Being at a NYFW show has been a lifelong dream of mine. I paused, took it all in, and caught that breath.

All said and done though the most important aspect of Reality of Fashion/Reality of AIDS was the cause as reiterated post show by RHONY’s Alex McCord:

The thing is that, with so many causes and diseases and conditions that plead for attention, people can’t just think that because there are drugs (there’s a cure). There’s actually no cure for AIDS… One of the things that [Monique Tatum] keeps impressing (on us) is that awareness is key because AIDS can be managed and people need to remember that.”

Funds from ticket sales will benefit Broadway Cares. In addition more donations will be made via an auction of Auxilly’s designs from the show. For more information visit http://www.realityontherunway.com.

The event was sponsored by Beautiful Planning Marketing & PR (BPMPR), EFFY Jewelry, AIRWORKS Compressors Corp, Lamik Beauty, Lozo’s Virgin Hair, MVC Productions Management, Sign Expo,Amoy Couture Hair, Time Frozen Photography, The JW Essex Marriot Hotel, Dre
Productions, Hatch Creative Studio, Cherwin and Cherwin Auctioneers, Pulsd,
St. Moritz Security Services, Draude Inc, and Arter Clothing

My Big Gay Italian Wedding

Anthony Wilkinson writer/lead role.


Brett Douglas “Maurizio”

When Anne Cahalane (Mom’s Thoughts Radio) told me about a special performance of My Big Gay Italian Wedding featuring a special appearance by Mob Wives Karen Gravano and Ramona Rizzo I was interested. When she threw in an invite to see it with a group of fabulous tweeple (complete with an exclusive dinner party before hand) I was flattered, and completely sold. My assistant Melissa and I purchased our tickets and the countdown began!

The evening started at NYC Midtown eatery Etc. Etc. in a private upstairs dining room. There was a 3 course prix fixe meal for $32 (a bargain in NY!) The food and company was great. A room full of fabulous girls and gays. Only odd thing was that the gays were on one side of the room and the girls on the other. “Trust me, everyone will mingle after the show,” Anne told me. One could only hope so, after all I had come out for a night of My Big Gay Italian Wedding, not “My Big Gay Hasidic Wedding.”

Daniel Robinson “Andrew”

With dinner ending just 5 minutes before the show we were the best dressed sprinters in NY making the 2 block dash to the St. Luke’s Theatre on 46th Street. For those not familiar with  NYC theatre life, St. Luke’s is an Off-Broadway venue (smaller theaters than Broadway). We arrived shortly before the show began surprised to see that we had front row seats thanks to Anne’s early invite!

MBGIW is the brainchild of writer Anthony Wilkinson, a “three time Daytime Emmy Award winner, and four time recipient of the Directors Guild of America Award for his work on ABC’s One
Life to Live.”

Anne Calahane (Mom’s Thoughts)

The show first opened in 2003 and has had several successful runs. Though he now resides in Dallas, Wilkinson loves being able to bring MBGIW back to NY. In addition to being the writer he plays the lead role, Anthony Pinnunziato, a recently engaged gay man who has to convince his traditional Italian parents to throw him the Italian wedding of his dreams. He has several obstacles to overcome in order for this to happen, including gaining the support, and matrimonial services, of his family priest (Chad Kessler), and the attendance of the unwilling mother of Andrew(Daniel Robinson), his groom to be.

SHOP OUR HOLIDAY BAZAAR AND ENTER OUR $700 GIVEAWAY HERE!
Karen Gravano and Ramona Rizzo
had cameos.
Judy Torres “ToniAnn”

The large cast, directed by General Hospital’s Sonia Blangiardo, consists of a great group of actors with various credits from stage, television, and film. Playing Anthony’s Aunt ToniAnn is Freestyle music legend Judy Torres whose hair is higher than some of the notes she hits. (ToniAnn is also played by songstress Kim Sozzi some nights). Audience members will be treated to snippets of Torres’s music throughout the show. (I’m assuming the same is true of Sozzi when she plays the part). In addition to music there are some dance scenes that are very well choreographed by J.Austin Eyer.

The show is very well acted. Three standouts the evening I attended were Brett Douglas, Erik Ransom, and Meagan Robar. Douglas is flamboyantly hilarious as wedding planner Maurizio Le Grande. His character reminded me of Martin Short’s Frank in Father of the Bride. If you are in the front row, beware of his critical eye. My high boots were eyed by the snarky Le Grande and I was dubbed “hooker boots” and the joke became a running gag the entire second act.

Ransom is brilliant as the cross dressing queen Rodney. He has great comedic timing and razor sharp sarcasm. Plus the guy rocks heels and a dress better than many women I know.

Robar plays bridesmaid Connie. Her character is tough as nails and in a constant battle with fellow bridesmaid, and former girlfriend Lucia (Liz Gerecitano). Robar’s mannerisms and facial expressions are all very believable. She takes her craft to the brink without falling into overacting the role.

RHONJ’s Kim Pirella

If you have a chance to visit the St. Luke’s Theatre this holiday season this is a great evening out.  My Big Gay Italian Wedding is loaded with laughs and a couple of warm fuzzy moments that made even this Bitch cry. However, if you are a devout Catholic that lacks a sense of humor I would abstain as you may get offended by the portrayal of the family priest. Also this is not an appropriate show for children. The profane language and sexual innuendo is for a mature audience. I spotted one child in the crowd, I can only imagine the conversation those parents had on the way home that night!