The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Alumnus directs his way back to CSUN

When you look at a play like “Ole For Hollywood,” which is now running at CSUN’s theater department through Oct. 8, you may wonder how the writers imagined all of the original ideas. More specifically, what series of events led up to the script and, eventually production.

Cris Franco, one of the play’s co-writers and co-producers, spent a great deal of his life in the entertainment business in one way or another, beginning with his family life.

“My family loved entertainment,” Franco said, a CSUN alumni. “We were the first family to have a big screen television in the neighborhood. My mother sings, my father sings and I’ll sing at the drop of a hat.”

It wasn’t until Franco entered college that he found the “courage to be an actor,” but once he discovered it he found himself being cast in all of the musicals and operas as a tenor. Franco had bigger fish to fry.

“I got a part in ‘Zoot Suit,’ so I dropped out of CSUN for a year to perform in the show,” Franco said.

He smiles a large smile, indicating he has no reservations about the experience. When he returned to CSUN, Franco was unsure of which direction he would take next.

“I majored in changing my major,” he says. “I majored in French, I majored in 2-D art, and then Spanish … I finally decided on humanities.” Franco graduated from CSUN in 1982 with a BA in humanities.

With no immediate opportunities in front of him, Franco borrowed a typewriter and began writing. Then he wrote some more. He finished with a little bit of writing and ended up with his first work, “I’ll Take L.A.,” which was his first series of comedy sketches about being Latino.

He submitted his work to a man by the name of Norman Lear, who developed television sitcoms such as “The Jeffersons” and “All in the Family,” to be a sitcom writer. At 26, Franco was hired to “toss ideas back and forth in the writers’ room.”

One job led to another, and Franco quickly got his union card and began working as an actor. He continued to write for four years nonstop, and got another job at the Children’s Television Workshop (creators of “Sesame Street” and “321 Contact”) acting on “Square One Television” for seven years.

Later, he joined the improv group Latins Anonymous, where he was encouraged to “write about what he knew, Latinos in Hollywood!” He toured with them for a year and finished a series of sketches called “The La La Awards,” which subsequently would be the first draft of “Ole For Hollywood.”

Fast forward to April 2006. Franco received a phone call from Bill Taylor, CSUN’s theatre manager, asking him what he is working on.

“(The La La Awards) was like a leaky faucet to me,” Franco said. “I could finally go back and fix it, something I had been antsy to do for 15 years.”

As a result, “La La” went through a total re-write and was replaced by 50 percent new material, which transformed it into “Ole For Hollywood.”

The original script was written by writers of Latins Anonymous, which included Franco and Armondo Molina, who also co-directed “Ole For Hollywood.”

Since the original re-write, “Ole For Hollywood” has gone through an additional five drafts, including re-writes for different actors’ talents in the show. The ensemble cast of 15 play 80 different characters including “Christina Off-Key-lera,” and the play features a scene titled “Wetback Mountain” about a “forbidden love” between an illegal alien and the business man who hires him illegally.

“The show explores the differences between citizens and immigrants,” said Franco, who is openly Latino. “The only difference is that citizens went through the trouble of being born here.”

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