The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt as experienced by Riley Bassett

The Spatial Experience

Walking into Constans Theater, I was not anxious as to what I would encounter because I was a returning visitor. The lights in the lobby were bright, which I didn't like, but as I entered the auditorium the lights became dimmer, indicating that we were about to watch a show. Even though I remembered it being large, I was surprised by the size of the auditorium. As I walked down the far isle I was directed to my seat, which was central in the first row of the large section; a great spot to watch the play. This viewpoint allowed me to see all parts of the stage with ease and hear the actors very clearly. I was so close that I could see the subtlest of changes in the actors' facial expressions, like the twitch of an eyebrow or the slightest of smirks. The auditorium seating was comfy and I was not too close to either of the people next to me which added to my overall experience. The theater plays an important role in many people's quest for the good life. Whether they be theater enthusiasts who love nothing more than a good drama or aspiring actors who feel their sole purpose is to act in front of an audience, the theater is where these people try to live the good life.

The Social Experience

I attended this play alone because I had mono and didn't feel like asking anyone to go with me. To get ready for the play I took an extra advil cold and sinus, filled my water bottle and stuffed my pockets with tissues. Watching the play on my own allowed me to focus on it more fully than I probably would have had I gone with friends. I was also more considerate than I probably would have been, I moderated how often I blew my nose or coughed, and tried to do it as little as possible. I knew that if I were healthy and watching this play, I certainly wouldn't want to be sitting next to some sick kid, especially one who was constantly coughing or blowing his nose. Shared spaces can either add to or take away from one's pursuit of the good life. If those around you are like-minded, they will help you focus and motivate you. If those around you have different interests, they will most likely distract you.

The Cultural and Intellectual Experience

This story is set in the early twentieth century and focuses on several very controversial issues. To be specific, it focuses on poverty, child labor, and sexual abuse within the catholic church. While I was aware of these problems before, the play certainly gave me new insight and different perspectives of viewing them. Although I was raised Catholic, my mother had loose guidelines because she went to Catholic school her whole life and was "over it." Because of this, she would openly discuss how priests in the Catholic church had a bad reputation and she would tell my siblings and I whenever an event like that occurred. This is mostly because she wanted us to be knowledgeable of the matter and to know that people even as trustworthy as priests could have bad intentions. Watching this play showed me the psychological toll sexual abuse can have on a person. Talbot hid what happened to him from his family and went to enormous lengths to keep it a secret. He believed he was protecting them from the truth and it would've tainted their view of the church. As for child labor, most people know how terrible it was. This play served to add a more personal touch to the matter by incorporating Leo, and making him such a likable character. Leo was breathing in poison for next to nothing pay in order to put his older brother to school. This made it all the more tragic when Leo died in the shoe factory. Poverty is still a problem today, as well as the wage gap. In the play, Talbot did an excellent job explaining how hypocritical we can be. People will go see a play on poverty and hurry past the beggars outside just as the play lets out. This was eye opening to me in how hypocritical people can be. If anything it just serves as a reminder to be thankful and to help others whenever you are able to.

The Emotional Experience

According to Aristotle, "a tragedy is the imitation of an action that is serious and also, as having magnitude, complete in itself . . . with incidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish its catharsis of such emotions." This play had a lot of emotional moments in it, which gave the audience many opportunities to look inward and make important realizations. For instance, when Leo died in the same factory that two kids had already died in prior. This tragic moment did not sit with me well but at least made me feel better knowing we had eradicated child labor in this country and many others. When Talbot tells MGUY about how he was sexually abused, it was incredibly emotional and I was very moved by that scene. While I, nor anyone close to me have been victims of sexual abuse, I can now begin to understand the weight these victims carry around with them and the traumatic experiences they've been through. While there really isn't an easy way to explain it, in watching these emotional scenes and feeling the powerful emotions that coincide with them, I really did feel very emotionally purged when leaving the theater. I felt as though I had left my troubles behind, even if just temporarily. I feel as though sympathizing with these characters and feeling what they experience is what gives us the ability to feel better in our own lives.

Credits:

Created with images by 705847 - "field cloud countryside" • Slideshow Bruce - "theater" • Leroy_Skalstad - "people peoples homeless" • Image Editor - "Plato and Aristotle"

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