‘Umbra’ brings contemporary student-written theater to the community
The one-act festival produced by Dartmouth’s Displaced Theater Company brought new stories to life.
Pictured: Hannah Brooks ’26 as Lizzie in “Carrot Cake” by Jordan Paff ’23
On Sunday, Feb. 19, Dartmouth and Upper Valley community members filed into Sawtooth Bar and Kitchen to see “Umbra,” the student-written one-act festival. Dartmouth’s Displaced Theater Company selected four contemporary one-acts to be performed in its first annual one-act festival.
“Umbra” included four one-acts titled “Carrot Cake” — written by Jordan Paff ’23 and directed by Eva Hymes ’25, “Quantum Cafe” — written by Ore James ’25 and directed by Maggie MacDonald ’23, “Inflatable Heart” — written and directed by Kamila Boga ’25 and “Heliotrope” — written by Kabir Mehra ’26 and directed by Eda Naz Gokdemir ’25.
Displaced Theater Company is an interview-based student-led theater company that was revived spring 2022 by Boga and Hymes, as well as Gwendolyn Roland ’25 and Annabel Everett ’25.
Boga said that Displaced Theater’s refounding was rooted in a desire for contemporary theater spaces on campus.
“We felt that what was lacking [in the theater department] was contemporary theater,” Boga said. “We felt that the plays chosen by the theater department, while contemporary, weren't especially relevant to the culture of Dartmouth and the things that we found inspiring and exciting and terrifying about performing.”
For its winter one-act festival “Umbra,” Hymes emphasized Displaced Theater’s goal was to maximize opportunities for Dartmouth students by selecting their original shows — something Displaced Theater had never done before.
Boga said the group wanted to create more opportunities for playwrights on campus — explaining that the original idea of a student-written one-act festival began in the spring of 2022.
“I feel like there's not enough opportunities for playwrights on campus, in general,” Boga said. “We have the Frost Dodd competition, but that's only once a year…I just felt like we were missing something on campus… I thought it would be good to do something yearly, just as something different.”
On Jan. 6, Displaced Theater closed its student submissions for “Umbra.” With no theme, the only guideline for submissions was a page limit of 20 pages. MacDonald said the decision to have no theme for the festival was intentional.
“We didn't really want to limit ourselves to genre... [we] ended up choosing the ones that spoke to us the most...I feel like they end up kind of talking well with one another,” MacDonald said.
Although there was no theme, Hymes emphasized that Displaced Theater wanted to focus on issues that do not normally surface in college sponsored shows. The one-act plays chosen for “Umbra” dealt with concepts of abuse and alcoholism.
According to Boga and MacDonald, the one-act plays had about two weeks of rehearsals after they were selected; each one-act had a different rehearsal process.
Lucas Filippone ’26, an actor in “Inflatable Heart” — which was written and directed by Boga — commented on the individualized nature of the production.
“It was a very unique experience, but I think one of the best that I've had,” Filippone said. “We rehearsed anywhere between once and twice a week, and in between those rehearsals we always were given questions to ponder or exercises to help us dive deeper into our characterizations. So much of the process was catered to us and our needs.”
“Inflatable Heart” specifically dealt with the concept of young love and abusive relationships. With the heavier material and focus on contemporary work, Filippone said the play provided a unique opportunity, particularly as an actor who previously focused on musicals.
“There’s just a lot of different elements that you’re working with versus in a drama, especially such a focused piece,” Filippone said. “It just was a bit of a different structure than I was used to but again, such a fantastic experience, start to finish. It being contemporary meant that I was able to draw upon a lot of my own experiences and [the] experiences of people that I knew.”
Additionally, Displaced Theater is focused on fostering a welcoming environment and bringing opportunities to student actors from a variety of backgrounds — including those who have never acted before, Boga said.
“A big part is that for a lot of people who have been denied opportunities in the department or just at any point in their lives, I feel like Displaced [Theater] is a place to go,” Boga said. “I just think it's so exciting to see people fall in love with theater again and try their hand at different roles in theater and just collaborate.”
While the number of attendees was larger than anticipated and created a seating issue at Sawtooth, the group found Sawtooth to be a suiting venue with technical sound and lighting systems.
“We always just want to try and produce theater in new spaces…and I think especially now, a lot of student groups are doing performances there too,” MacDonald said. “And so we just wanted to bring the theater there...there's also more freedom in the way that you can set up.”
According to Boga and MacDonald, Displaced Theater is planning to continue “Umbra” as an annual festival, with the hopes that it grows and continues to center student voices.
“It'll probably take on a similar format, obviously with different shows...but I think we’re just hoping for more submissions and expanding the amount of involvement we can have with it,” MacDonald said.