Salisbury Press

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Dan Lauria Dan Lauria
Frank Megna Frank Megna

Hollywood on Cedar Crest

Wednesday, June 5, 2013 by DIANE BAKOS Special to The Press in Focus

Hollywood needs you.

And it's now recruiting, at a college near you.

From July 12 through Aug. 10, Cedar Crest College, Allentown, is offering an opportunity for 50 students to learn how to take a TV, film, or stage production from conception to completion.

The twist: You'll learn how to do it not only under the tutelage of Cedar Crest Assistant Professor Kevin Gallagher and Kutztown University Professor James Ogden, you're going to be directed by three Hollywood professionals: actors Dan Lauria ('The Wonder Years," 'Sullivan & Sons"), Kate Vernon ("Battlestar Gallactica," "Malcolm X") and writer-actor-director Frank Megna ("The Seekers," "Wiseguy").

Through an acting friend, Ogden became a marketing agent to the stars. And it's through those interactions that he says this germ of an idea was born.

"We wanted to come up with another method of communicating with kids to encourage writing, particularly for the stage. I've done workshops all over the place, and it just seemed it would work as a class. I talked to Cedar Crest, called Frank, and he said 'Yeah,' he'll play with me. Dan was excited, as well. Kate called Dan or Frank and asked if she could play. "

These "players," though, have a bigger goal.

Yes, students will receive three credits for the six-class course, held Fridays and Saturdays. But these Hollywood types want more. They hope to inspire revolution.

Lauria complains that the film and television industries have become formulaic, with every decision financially-based: "They don't really need actors and writers and directors any more. Everything looks the same. Everything's a talking head. And the writing went from 20 minutes of dialogue and five minutes of action, to five minutes of dialogue and 20 minutes of action. That's all corporate."

He and Megna believe that by teaching writers how producers work, by helping actors understand budget constraints, by introducing creative people to all sides of the production process, sea change is possible.

"There's a monetary side of this thing," Megna concedes, "but let's not forget what's at the core of it. It's not just selling pretty people. It's about saying something and reaching people out there with something worth reaching them with.

"And that's what this industry really needs, is creative producers, more than anything else," Megna continues. "The guy who steps up and says, 'OK, I'm gonna take this thing on. I can make this happen.'"

Lauria admits it's an uphill battle.

"I give up and go back to the theater. I never go a year without doing a play. Because when the curtain goes up, it's like, 'They can't cut it.'"

Registration deadline is June 14. The course costs $1,395. It sounds steep, but Ogden argues it's a real deal: "You're going to get contacts. Frank Megna is writing a four-act play. Two of the students will be chosen to be actors in that, and they're going to get a credit showing them working with Dan Lauria and Kate. Writers will be in contact with the writers, etcetera. I just think it's a win-win for everybody involved."

And if you get the chance, ask Dan Lauria about what he calls "the next big thing." He'll tell you. And he'll tell you what it'll take to make it happen: revolutionaries.

Like you.