By Deborah Evans Price
During the pandemic while everyone was stuck at home under quarantine, television was a welcome friend to many. For those with a particular affinity for The Hallmark Channel, Lifetime, Netflix and other avenues serving up romantic fare, RomaDrama Live! is just the ticket. The event will bring fans face to face with their favorite film and TV stars as well as screenwriters and producers. Brittany Bristow, Trevor Donovan, Karen Schaler and Rob Mayes, are among those who will be at The Factory in Franklin, TN July 30th through August 1st for meet and greets, autograph sessions, celebrity panels and other activities.
RomaDrama Live! is the brainchild of Gabrielle Graf-Palmer and her best friend Sara Lunsford. In 2019, they co-founded BriteStar Events, an event activation firm that creates up-close-and-personal fan and lifestyle experiences. “Sara and I are fans,” Graf-Palmer says. “We united our love for the romantic drama genre and the desire to create the opportunity for other fans to live their dreams of meeting the actors we’ve welcomed into our homes and grown to love, especially during the shutdown. There is a massive void for fans in this space. We recognized this and set our focus on creating the ultimate event.”
Graf-Palmer and Lunsford plan to take to RomaDrama Live! to Atlanta, GA in September and have planned addition events for Palm Beach, FL and Dallas, TX in 2022. “At RomaDrama Live! you have the opportunity to meet fan-favorite celebrities, musical artists, screenwriters, and authors,” Graf-Palmer explains. “This unique and intimate event allows fans to experience their dream level of one-on-one conversation and interaction with stars, made possible by our limited ticket cap and scheduling. In addition to discussions, fans will participate in Q&A panels, listen to the fantastic live music of Nashville’s favorite artists, and learn about the process of creating and writing these outstanding romantic dramas directly from the writers themselves.”
Karen Schaler, a three-time Emmy Award winning screenwriter, author and national TV host, is looking forward to participating. “RomaDrama is a brilliant idea and a wonderful way to connect people who love romance and drama,” Schaler says. “When I was asked to be on the writer panels and host one of my Christmas Camp experiences, I was honored and excited to be part of this first epic event and excited to share a sneak peek of my next royal romcom novel coming out A Royal Christmas Fairy Tale where I’m also writing the movie. I have spoken on writer panels before and I've hosted my Christmas Camps inspired by my Christmas Camp Hallmark movie and books, but this will be my first time at an event that connects fans with the actors from their favorite holiday movies and romcoms and I’m excited for this new experience.”
RomaDrama Live! will feature appearances by a large cast of participants including Jesse Metcalfe (Martha's Vineyard Mystery, Chesapeake Shores, and Desperate Housewives), Ryan Paevey (General Hospital, Marrying Mr. Darcy), Wes Brown (The Call of the Wild, Christmas At Graceland, Love Begins), Eric Mabius (Signed, Sealed and Delivered; Ugly Betty), Gregory Harrison (Trapper John, M.D., Signed, Sealed and Delivered), Drew Fuller (The Ultimate Gift, Charmed, Army Wives), and Shawlini Manjunath-Holbrook (Love, Fall & Order and host and producer of the Hallmark Channel’s The Bubbly Sesh Podcast), who will serve as a celebrity host for the event.
Trevor Donovan is excited about connecting with fans at the event. Donovan, who will be starring with Dennis Quaid in the upcoming Reagan film, has an extensive list of acting credits that include the Texas Rising mini-series with Bill Paxton, Ray Liotta, Olivier Martinez and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as well as roles on 90210, Sun Records, The Client List, NCIS and Awkward, among others.
“RomaDrama Live! is going to be a fantastic place to connect with my fans. I’ve been talking with some of them on social media for a long time, and it will be cool to actually put faces with names,” Donovan says. “RomaDrama will be great because it is a smaller boutique event; it will have a very intimate feel. Actors and fans will have the opportunity to spend time together and get to know one another on a more personal level. I had the opportunity to visit the RomaDrama event site at The Factory at Franklin. It's a super cool old factory that has been converted into shopping, dining, and attached live event venues. After a year and a half, I'm excited for this opportunity to be together in person.”
Donovan is also looking forward to hearing music from Nashville artists. “I'm most excited for the live musical performances,” he says. “It will be great to hear Cassadee Pope from The Voice, also Ty Herndon, who founded the Concert for Love & Acceptance, and Anthony Smith, an excellent performer and famous songwriter.”
The event will also feature performances from Jamie O’Neal, Lucas Hoge, Bri Fletcher, Minnie Murphy, Aliyah Good, The Kentucky Gentleman, Paulina Jayne, Mary Sarah and Presley & Taylor, among others.
Rob Mayes is an actor who is also a singer and will be performing at the event. Mayes is a well-known face to viewers through his work on John Dies at the End, Mistresses, and Burning Blue as well as such popular TV shows as Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Cold Case, Valentine, Bones and Medium. “I'm excited to get back to Nashville, my second home—I just bought a house there—and connect with fans and play some songs live. This will be one of my first performances in like a year and a half,” says Mayes, who combines his acting and singing on the scripted podcast series “Make It Up As We Go,” which also stars Dennis Quaid, Billy Bob Thornton, Miranda Lambert and Scarlett Burke. “I’m looking forward to connecting with fans, chatting on my panel and playing some tunes.”
Graf-Palmer says they’ve crafted an event where fans will get a chance to enjoy a lot of memorable experiences, including “taking celebrity selfies, getting autographs, professional photo ops, attending VIP after parties and exclusive VIP brunches with the celebrities, and making memories that will last a lifetime. This is an entirely immersive, boutique fan experience. Through RomaDrama Live! we are looking to create a way to catapult our fans into the joy and excitement they’ve missed so deeply. We all need a little RomaDrama in our lives.”
Actress/producer Brittany Bristow is among the first-time participants. “I was so excited when I was contacted by RomaDrama Live! I immediately said yes, and it is all because it will mean getting a chance to spend time with the people who love so many of the movies that I’ve had the privilege to be a part of,” says Bristow, whose credits include Holiday Date, The Marijuana Conspiracy, and Blizzard as well as the Hallmark movies Love Blossoms and Love, Romance, & Chocolat. “The fans are the reason that I continue to work. It’s their support that has helped me get to where I am. An opportunity to meet them and celebrate how happy these films make people is one I couldn’t pass up.
“I’m excited to meet everyone who is coming to the event,” she continues, “the other actors, the incredible women who created the event in the first place, Gabrielle & Sara, and of course, the incredible fans, who are the reason events like this take place.”
When asked if he felt people developed a deeper appreciation for television during the pandemic, Donovan says, “It's been a challenging year and a half for everyone. We were all confined to our homes and looking for an escape. Romantic dramas and comedies were a perfect outlet for uplifting our spirits. These family-friendly shows offered peace, happiness, and love for everyone in a time of such stress and uncertainty.”
Bristow agrees. “I absolutely feel that the pandemic created a greater need and desire for television and film. With so many people at home and getting sick of ‘doom-scrolling,’ it provided such a needed distraction from what the reality was around the world,” she says. “I believe however, that the arts have always been that. Maybe not through a global pandemic before, but they’ve always been a space for people to take a step outside of themselves, to take a second to escape whatever it is in their lives that they need a break from.”
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