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The Dartmouth
April 14, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Displaced Theatre Company’s Umbra show features four student-created one-act plays

On Feb. 10 and 11, Displaced Theatre Company showcased its second rendition of Umbra, which included four one-act plays that were all written, directed and performed by Dartmouth students.

displaced umbra.jpg
Courtesy of Addison Verot

This year’s Umbra show, a one-act festival that started last year, held by the Displaced Theatre Company, took place on Feb. 10 and 11. Umbra consisted of four total one-act plays, which were all written, directed and performed by Dartmouth students.

Determined to develop a contemporary, student-run theater company on Dartmouth’s campus, Gwendolyn Roland ’25, Annabel Everett ’25, Eva Hymes ’25 and Kamila Boga ’25 decided to revive the previously dormant Displaced Theater Company during the Spring of 2022. The Displaced Theater Company now serves as an alternative to main stage productions, providing an innovative co-creation hub that is exclusive to students. 

Now in its second year, Umbra offers the accessibility of theater in a new way, with Displaced Theatre Company’s embrace of students with all levels of theater backgrounds, according to Roland. Umbra expressly seeks to include a greater range of student participation, and that intention offers a space for student playwrights to see their work brought to fruition. 

“One of our goals as a company when we were reviving the old Displaced Company was to really champion all aspects of student theater, including playwriting,” Roland said. “There are so many wonderful, talented student playwrights on this campus and not that many opportunities to be able to perform student work as we thought there should be.”

The four one-act plays were: “Merely Players” written by Conor Roemer ’23, “The Pain of My Mother” by Addison Verot ’25, “Jules and Julia” by Lilla Bozek ’27 and “Trojan Horse” by Kylie Osborne ’27. This year’s production explored a vast ranging tapestry of topics, including: imperialistic corruption, systemic threats to women’s rights, closeted queerness, sacrifice and rudimentary human desires. The range and depth of these themes touched audience members.

“We wanted to create opportunities for student playwrights to show their work. That is much more feasible in a one act setting,” Roland explained. “We are able to produce more short plays instead of just one student written play which takes a lot longer to write and produce.

The structure in Umbra is a strategic tactic that allows for the inclusion of a range of stories. Ellie Langdon ’27, an audience member, indicated that the show’s format successfully conveyed a wide array of artistry. 

“I really liked the four act format because it allowed us to get a glimpse of so many different kinds of stories,” Langdon said. “I think the acts were so diverse in what they were portraying. It was a great variety of theater.”

Displaced Theatre Company called for last chance submissions on Jan. 18, according to a ListServ email, revealing that organizing and producing Umbra took place over the astonishingly short period of approximately one month. Doing so required a lot of work from all of those involved in the production.

“There are so many moving parts and so many people were working asynchronously … For actors, each one-act play had at least one to two rehearsals per week, each of which was two hours. And then, we had a two-hour tech for each of them before the show,” Roland said. “A lot more work went in behind the scenes with the production management and stage management, scheduling all of those rehearsals, especially because it was student-run in the middle of classes.” 

According to Roland, Displaced Theatre had to switch venues last minute, from the Onion to Dartmouth Hall. Despite pivoting away from a more flexible performance space to a more challenging staging at Dartmouth Hall, they managed to adapt to the novel environment. When adjusting to new spaces, directors and actors adjusted elements of the staging, including the actors’ physical movements throughout the space, to ensure that the audience can witness and capture the nuances of the storytelling and performance. 

“The audience is always very important to consider when directing,” Roland said. “The most important thing when directing is to effectively invite your audience in, whether that means directing an act towards them or including the audience in the work.”

On Feb. 10 and 11, Umbra attracted a sizable crowd, as audience members even took to the stairs once seats filled.

“I was absolutely blown away,” Eli Horwitch ’27, an audience member, said. “I thought that the stories intricately fleshed out their narratives even in such a short window. The actors’, writers’ and directors’ willingness to put themselves on the line in such a way was inspiring.” 

Because Displaced Theatre openly celebrates Umbra’s emphasis on student involvement and collaboration, players were encouraged to add personalization. This meant students took risks and became vulnerable, which in turn, resulted in strengthening student relations and support for creative expression and students’ voices. 

“Even though we were really focused on making this show the best it could be, Displaced gave us the breathing room to add and improvise some stuff, really making it a student and community built theater production. We spent a lot of time sharing our passion for the theater and our passion for one another in rehearsal. We really built a team together, ” Matthew Syms ’25, an actor in Umbra, said. 

Although Umbra is a relatively new tradition, Displaced Theatre plans to continue its growing legacy of inviting and uniting Dartmouth students through contemporary theater productions and the love of creating art. These plans come with the excitement and motivation of students.

“I would love to see more Displaced productions and get involved with Displaced in the future,” Langdon said. “It is a really great supportive community of talented and creative people who are dedicated to making art.” 

Addison Verot is a former writer for The Dartmouth.