I was lucky enough last week to chat with Betsy Franco--- incredible artist and matriarch of the Franco Family. It’s not hard to see where James and Dave get their dynamic and multi-genre approach to the art world—it comes from mom! Franco is an author, actress, director, producer, once upon a time painter, and true teen partner and friend. I spoke with her about her book, 21 Monologues For Teen Actors, what inspires her the most, and what it’s REALLY like around the dinner table with her famous family.
You’re so prolific and an artist in so many different genres—writing, acting, painting—which resonates with you the most? Or are they all necessary in your life?
I used to be a painter but I had extremely rambunctious children—James especially. They would have eaten all the paints! So I moved my creative energy over to writing. I really can’t function if I’m not being creative. Every day, I have to do something to feel good. The forms take turns. I’ve learned a lot from my sons, as well. James’s multi-media approach has encouraged me to go into acting and directing. I saw how much James and Dave really grew from acting, and I began to explore it myself.
photo credit: Light at 11B
What made you want to write 21 Monologues?
There are great monologues out there; I just found that they weren’t relevant to teens. When we were doing Metamorphosis Junior Year kids would come in to audition with these monologues where they were playing adults and it just didn’t work. I realized that these teens needed some relevant material. When they were portraying teens they were so natural. They needed monologues that were written for them. It was a whole different story when they were playing kids in the play—they enriched my characters so much. So we started working on some pieces. The group was really an ensemble and the teens in the play gave me a tremendous amount of feedback.
I think teens should be more involved in the revision process. They know what works, and what they’re really interested in.
Yes! I interviewed some of them about their lives and used excerpts from my play, novels, and screenplay. They were harsh in the feedback stage—but in a great way. They were very specific about what they wanted—more comedies for the girls, etc. Teenagers are extremely wise and insightful. I really listen to them, and I think they know it. We have a great reciprocal relationship. I love that.
You have two sons in this business--- what would you tell a young person just starting off in a creative career?
If you have the need to be an artist of some kind then I recommend you go for it, but you have to be a little bit practical. Be creative about the art part of it as well as the part where you’re trying to make it work. And if you’re not good at the logical part, the making money part, then find someone who is to help you do it. I think it’s a balance. There are lots of creative things you can do to get as close to what you want to do as possible. I always tell the teens I work with that there is someone from every generation who gets to be an actress, a writer, and an artist. Why not them? It takes perseverance. If you can handle that, and you can be creative about making it work, you’ll do it. I always suggest to people that they get a part time job, not a full time job, because you need to leave some time for your art. If you work full time you’ll often be too tired to pursue what it is you love.
If we were lucky enough to be gathered around the Franco Family Table--- what conversations would we overhear?
Oh, it’s a lot of fun. There is an incredible amount of teasing and most of it is directed at me. We love to laugh. We talk about our projects, too. My kids are an incredible resource. I’ll go to James and ask for his input or suggestions. We talk a lot about our work. But yeah, there is a lot of joking around. And a lot of laughter.
Thanks, Betsy! Please visit her online at: http://www.betsyfranco.com/ and if you're a teen looking for some fresh, relevant and awesome monologues for auditions I encouraged you to pick up a copy of 21 Monologues--- you won't be dissapointed!
I’ll be posting a sneak peak of When You Were Mine later this week...the prologue! Betsy inspired me to go hunting for a monologue you all can use for auditions— with a hint of Shakespeare.