Everybody has a story to tell. And with The Lloyd Project, USC students prove just how a person’s personal experience has the ability to touch anyone’s life.
Returning to USC at the Massman Theatre, The Lloyd Project contains 10 monologues which have been submitted by real USC students. These monologues are written to capture the full emotional depth of students’ real stories, which challenges the actors to fully honor the submitted stories in order to do the writers and their stories justice. These students can be of any major, and are able to choose to have their piece credited or to remain anonymous.
The Lloyd Project is dedicated to Lloyd Cymrot, who passed away after fighting Lou Gehrig’s disease for 15 years. Cymrot completely lost the ability to speak for the last four months of his life. The Lloyd Project is a way for those who have literally, or figuratively, lost their voice to be heard. The project was founded in 2012 by Chelsea-Anne Cymrot, the daughter of Lloyd, a newly graduated USC student from the School of Dramatic Arts.
Directed by Grace Anaclerio, this play is unique in its portrayal of stories and challenges that are written and submitted directly by the student body. The monologues cover various aspects of USC students’ lifestyles, with topics ranging from “Drugs, Alcohol, and Judgment” to “My First Sexual Experience.”
“This year, our overarching theme is identity: individuality and uniqueness on one end of the spectrum, and on the other, sameness/commonalities that have the potential to bring people together,” Anaclerio said.
The rehearsal process begins with the creative team meeting with the actors on an individual basis. Toward the end, however, they begin to meet as an ensemble.
“We’ve identified correlations between these narrators and the experiences that have so impacted them,” Anaclerio said. “We have sought to create a cohesive play that treats the lives of our community members as interconnected.”
The Lloyd Project is the first USC production that Bryan Li, a freshman majoring in theatre, is taking part in. Li is performing the monologue “Untitled.”
“What I find really cool is that we’ve all come together for the same reason: to share the stories of others, and it has been such a privilege to be able to share someone’s own personal story,” Li said. “It makes this show much more relatable and intimate.”
As incredible as this project seems, it is not easily created overnight.
“I think, for me, the most challenging part of this process was simply doing justice to the stories,” Li said. “There’s more pressure to ‘do it right’ and not butcher their personal accounts that they are sharing. I think it’s very important that we remember that and when we are performing we don’t act their monologues, but rather share their monologues.”
Because of the unique quality of the show, casting is done much differently than it is in a standard production, as there are not set roles to cast, but a more general need for committed actors who will fully enter the character of the writer in order to empathetically re-enact a stranger’s story.
“Our cast’s appreciation for and commitment to these stories shone through in their auditions,” Anaclerio said. “I think that great actors are often empathetic, understanding and compassionate people.”
Rather than simply calling the actors “narrators of the monologues,” Anaclerio explained that the cast and crew refer to them as “people.”
Submissions are accepted anonymously in order for the writers to be as truthful as they can be without the pressure of revealing their identity. For Anaclerio, the anonymity allows more space for innovation.
“Some of our pieces were submitted anonymously, so we can’t know whose stories they are,” Anaclerio said. “But that can be even more exciting creatively, because walking on Trousdale, sitting in class, our ‘people’ can be anyone.”
Because of the wide variety of relatable stories, The Lloyd Project is a great production for not just theater majors, but students with all interests and of all ages to see. Anaclerio said the project embodies the idea that everyone’s individual story has value.
“By dramatizing the real-life experiences of USC students, The Lloyd Project validates all individuals and reminds our student body that everyone has a story, and every story matters,” Anaclerio said.
And if there’s one thing that the audience should take away from the project, it’s the close ties the stories portrayed in the show have with every person’s life.
“[It’s] your story,” Anaclerio said. “Your show.”
The Lloyd Project runs from Thursday until Sunday at the Massman Theatre. For tickets, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Tickets are a $5 suggested donation, and all proceeds from ticket sales will go to support future USC Independent Student Productions and ALS (Lou Gherig’s Disease) research.
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