Good Life Performance Nolan Rohr

My experience at the Constans Theater was both awe inspiring and thought provoking. Some of the highlights of my visit to see The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt will be showcased within this story, with a special focus placed on the four components that heighten the experience of watching a live performance.

Colorful pieces of stained glass hanging by wires give the lobby an artistic, creative, and fun atmosphere.

The Spatial Experience

The Constans theater is a beautiful space that immerses it's inhabitants in a sea of colors, shapes, and lighting that sparks a feeling of creativity in their minds. A theater is a place that is usually teeming with elements of artistic expression, and the Constans Theater represents this idea perfectly. Upon entering the auditorium, I felt inspired by the setting on the stage, the cheerful lighting, and the welcoming staff. The cushioned, dark red seats and gentle touch of chatter in the air made me feel comfortable, despite the fact that I was sitting to the left of the stage and had to angle my head to get a proper view of the stage. The auditorium itself was quite large and when everyone got to their seats and were awaiting the start of the play, I felt a strong sense of community, as we were all about to experience this work of art together. I strongly believe that community plays a huge role in the Good Life, becuase as stated in many of our readings, we find a meaning to life when we have a motivator connected to at least one more person. By the time when the lights finally dimmed and the show started, I was excited to see what they had to offer in the play itself.

The Social Experience

My roommate and I attended the play together, as we figured it would be beneficial to our overall experience to go together so that we could discuss the event afterward and learn what one another thought about certain elements. Having my roommate there with me helped me feel more comfortable in that I wasn't completely surrounded by strangers, and that I had someone to talk to as I sat in my seat and awaited the beginning of the play. Before making the short trek over to the Reitz Union from our dorm, we made sure to shower and dress in some of our nicest clothes to be a respectful and presentable presence at the theater. Sharing experiences with others is crucial to achieving the Good Life in that simply having others around you inspires a sense of community. This community is a medium in which you can interact with others to gain new perspectives on shared experiences, share feelings and sympathize with others, and overall just form a stronger bond with these people through experiencing events together. We form bonds based off of our shared experiences with others, whether it be a simple conversation or having a fun night out at the theater with them, and further refine and grow these bonds as we have more experiences with these people.

The Cultural and Intellectual Experience

The story took place in 1905 in Quebec City, Canada. Given the timeframe of the story, children and women could still be found commonly working in factories and had far fewer rights than they possess today. This somber city is visited by the famously prestigious actress Sarah Bernhardt, and she inspires a local preist-in-training to follow his passion for the theater. The main message conveyed through this play is to be proud of your rebellion against the norm and to follow your heart. Before attending the performance, I had never even heard of the play, much less any of the specific issues surrounding it. The play did a great job of backing up some of the ideas I had about some of the issues discussed in the play, such as sexual abuse within the Catholic church, lack of protective laws for women, children, and factory workers, journalists framing issues incorrectly, and Catholicism intertwining with society. The subject matter discussed within the play hardly connect with my own life, given that I'm not Catholic, a child, a woman, nor a celebrity. However, the main message that tells viewers to follow their passions could be applied to my life if I ever happen to find myself at such an ultimatum.

The Emotional Experience

The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt gives the audience an opportunity for catharsis in that it clearly showcases multiple characters within the play undergoing catharsis. For example, Michaud is a young seminary who is studying to become a priest and elevate his status within the Catholic church. He is adamant about staying true to Catholic ideals and rules, and even takes it upon himself to ensure that others follow the Catholic regimen as well. However, the Catholic church frowns upon the art of theater and strictly forbids the seminaries from indulging in it at all, even going as far as forcing them to deliver a message to Sarah Bernhardt from the archbishop stating that he condemns her performance. The problem with Michaud is that he has always been deeply attracted to the theater scene, as he enjoys the art of acting and writing plays. When he shows his play about the struggles of John Talbot to Sarah Bernhardt, she takes him under her wing and decides to help him improve the play, and eventually, to convince him to follow his passion for the theater rather than the church. Through a series of deep, emotional conversations and experiences, Bernhardt manages to get Michaud to purge his disdain with the church and his satisfaction with theater, and effectively changes his life. As an audience member witnessing this sort of revelation within the mind of such a religiously steadfast man, I felt inspired to undego a sort of catharsis of my own.

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Nolan Rohr
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All photos were taken by Nolan Rohr.

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