Wedding Belle

OLTL’s feisty Ilene Kristen (Roxy) dishes about her six-week return to the stage as Aunt Toniann in the hilarious off-Broadway musical production of My Big Gay Italian Wedding beginning on February 3.Soap Opera Digest: Last November you guest starred in the production, which also stars and was written by former OLTL Associate Director Anthony Wilkinson. How’d that evolve into this role?

Ilene Kristen: I officiated the wedding before, but this time I’m playing Anthony’s aunt. Of course, I’ve known Anthony [Wilkinson]. I was invited to the 100th show and after I saw the show, I mentioned to my agent that I was really interested in playing the aunt, but I didn’t want to do it unless Carla [Marie Mercun] wanted to leave because I think she’s so great. I didn’t want to displace this actress because I really respect her. The next day, Carla decided she was leaving; it was very bizarre! Anthony said in a million years he didn’t think she was leaving, but she got another opportunity or something so it was great!

Digest: What drew you to this production and the role?

Kristen: Well, I’m from Brooklyn [laughs]! Everybody’s got to bring out their inner Italian! It’s essential. First of all, I love Anthony and the thought of working with him is really a treat. Second, I just think it’s a funny piece and I’ve done a lot of readings of new shows, but I haven’t done one in costume and full out in a long time. It’s essential for me to keep doing that. The longer you don’t do it, the more scared you get. I was getting to the point where I was like, “You better put a costume on soon or you’re gonna forget how to walk out on a stage!”

Digest: For readers who might not be familiar with the show, how would you describe your character?

Kristen: She’s loud! She’s kind of like Roxy, but Italian. And a little cruder, well, if you could believe anybody could be cruder than Roxy. She’s a loudmouth Italian. She believes the higher to hair, the closer to God!
Digest: How are you preparing for the part?

Kristen: I’ve been running some lines and I’ve been getting filled in on all the ad-libs because there’s a lot of that that’s not in the script at all. Last night, I was [at the show] trying to take notes but I was taking notes in the dark and what I ended up doing was writing all my notes on top of each other! It looks like another language. I’m a little concerned about not getting enough rehearsal because there’s this very funny dance number in it. It’s very wacky. I have no idea how I’m going to do it all but it will somehow … I’m used to working at the 11th hour!

Digest: What are you looking forward to the most?

Kristen: My wig [laughs]! I’m going brunette for this.

Digest: The show has featured other celebrities, including some members of THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF NEW JERSEY, in guest parts in the past. Who would you like to see join you on stage?

Kristen: Kim Zimmer [Echo, OLTL] might be interested! Kim and I did a piece called Laugh Lines a couple of years ago. That was [by playwright] Penny Bergman, who was the stage manager of ALL MY CHILDREN. She wrote the lovely piece and Kim and I played sisters. We just did it as a reading but it was great. We worked together very, very well so that would be interesting. We haven’t asked her yet, though!

My Big Gay Italian Wedding is currently at St. Luke’s Theatre in New York City. For more information, visit