The scent of freshly-made popcorn lingered in the air as audience members took their seats, chatting among themselves in the dark as they stared at the white screen, padded seats and velvet curtains in front of them. It was easy to forget that this was completely the living room of a house off-campus.
Over the course of three months, a group of directors, actors, costume designers and cinematographers worked to make a student’s vision a reality, crafting a full-length production performed in the living room of a house on Scarff street.
“Projections” was produced by Dorothy’s Friends Theater Company, a student theater production company at USC that focuses on positive stories about the queer community. This was an Independent Student Production, or ISP, not a production from the School of Dramatic Arts. This means that the productions are entirely financially supported and put on by the students.
“Projections” followed a recently deceased ghost named Mallory who remained at the movie theater where her daughter Morgan worked. Meanwhile, Morgan struggled with the death of her mother and revealing her sexuality to her father as she fell in love for the first time.
Director and playwright Mikki Benjamin explained how she came up with the idea. “This play started as a conversation amongst friends about, realistically, what ghosts would spend their time doing if they existed. It went from there to becoming something very personal for me. I've been told that oftentimes when writing the play we want to write we end up writing the play we need to write, whether we intended to or not. I think this is a pretty good example of that for me,” Benjamin said.
ISPs are typically performed on campus. However, DFTC decided to produce their play within a different medium: a living room transformed into an immersive movie theater setting.
Benjamin felt that this setting was perfect for her work. “I was really happy with how the space ended up working for us - I think the intimate nature of the venue made this play even more impactful for audiences, and the space looked just how I wanted it to,” Benjamin said.
Members of Benjamin’s cast agreed. “DFTC is passionate about the idea that theatre can be performed anywhere. For this production, putting it up in a house instead of the Massman Theatre created a much more intimate setting, where you can see every character’s face right in front of you. It’s a better way to tell our story,” Sierra Tsementzis, who played Charlie and Reagan, said.
Freshman Ella Lao, who played Mallory, disclosed the importance of the story that DFTC told through the play. “I think that it sends a really good message if you’re part of the LGBTQ+ community or if you suffered a loss and have felt guilty about something, like death or just an experience with a loved one. I think it really brings it home and it’s just a good story that can make you feel,” Lao said.