The Divine:A Play for Sarah Bernhardt My experience of the play

The Spatial Experience: When I arrived at the Reitz Union and saw the Constans Theatre from the outside, I did not think much of it. I thought it looked liked the outside to any conference room, which made it look nice, but did not contribute to the excitement of seeing a new play. My excitement started when I entered the theatre. When I saw auditorium, it was not that big with almost none of the seats having a bad view of the stage. This smaller auditorium made the performance feel more personal, like the actors' goal was to personally connect with all of the audience members, rather than just performing this pay to make money and show off their acting skills. My friend, Jemiela Masanga, and I sat to the far left of the auditorium, with an aisle to the left of us, and had a walkway of space between us and the closest set of seats to the stage. The actors sometimes utilized this walkway in front of me , which allowed me to get a closer look at the actors at several points during the play. The actor who played Sarah Bernhardt was the actor who came the closest to me, with her feet just half a foot away from mine. Seeing her face covered in layers of makeup and in her extravagantly flashy costumes showed me not only the huge amount of effort it took to physically makeup her character, but also how she manipulated her natural body to become her ideal image of what beautiful is. The way the stage was set up was clever and the set up was executed well. My favorite part was how the beds in the church turned into the sewing machines/factory tables in the shoe factory. I also thought it was smart how the actors helped set up the props and set between scene changes. This allows them to feel like they play more of a part of the play's progression and help keep them focus on how their characters' act throughout the plot. Because the University of Florida is able to have the resources to make such nice sets and set up a nice theater for this play, this allows the actors to have great tools in making the story of "The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt" come to life. Being able to make this play seem like real life situations makes the story realatable to the audience members and allows them to make judgments on the play and how they live their lives based on this one performance, which could lead to them further down the path of living a good life.
The Social experience: I saw "The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt" with one of my best friends, Jemiela Masanga (pictured left). We have been friends since middle school and being able to share my college experience with her has influenced the paths I have taken so far while I have been at the University of Florida. I decided I wanted to wear clothes that were nice enough to show I cared about the performance, but not nice enough to treat it like an excuse to wear fancy clothes. Jemiela and I met up beforehand and talked about our curiosity of what the play would be like, while we wear getting and eating snacks outside of the theatre. When we got inside the auditorium, we were a little intimidated on how strict the seating policy was, but were glad our seats were not too far away from the stage. Having Jemiela attend the play with me allowed me to reflect on my thoughts about the play during the intermission and after the play was over. Exchanging our ideas with each other reaffirmed our beliefs in the issues that occurred during the play and I realized how pleasantly surprised I was by how enjoyable the play was. Sharing these types of experiences with friends help contribute to having a good life by discussing your opinions on what is happy, sad, or confusing to get a well-rounded perspective of how emotions play a role in the events that occur in our lives.
The Cultural and Intellectual experience: Based on the events in "The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt," I have more in depth thoughts on how some of these events relate to my everyday culture. First, I wanted to point out that this is a picture of a the program talking about two controversial topics in the play: The relationship between the church and theatre and the way factory workers were treated in the early twentieth century. This picture is shown against a black background, which represents how the opinions on these issues are not always nice and clear. Looking at the factory workers conditions, they were not ideal, but the workers usually did not complain because they needed this job to feed their families. This causes these factory workers to risk their safety everyday in order for themselves and their families not to become starving and homeless. There is also the issue of child labor in these factories. Talbot's mother has her son, Leo, work in order for them to make enough money to afford a home, some food, and the price of Talbot's studies at the church. Although the children were put in these dangerous conditions, even more than the adult workers, families still relied on their children's labor to help support their families. Having laws against child labor laws caused even more problems because the children need to be more hidden in order for the factory to not get into trouble. This caused an even more dangerous atmosphere with air that is barely breathable, which causes Leo to die towards the end of the play. This challenges our ethics of if child labor laws should be in place for everyone or if there can be certain exceptions to these rules. This helped me shape my perspective of child labor in a different light and challenge the thoughts I had before I saw this play. Another example of not having clear cut answer to certain problems was what was discussed with the actors during the "talk back" portion of the performance. The actors were asked if they were disappointed when they did not get the part that they wanted to get. Instead of explaining ways of coping with sadness of not receiving the part they wanted, they brought up how some people did not get casted as certain roles because their apperance did not fit the role. For example, a skinnier man wouldn't get cast as a part that was looking for a wider and muscular type of body. This caused me to think if this was fair or not for casting directors to think about physical characteristics when casting actors. Would audience members not get the same experience if the actor did not look the same way as they imagined the character they play to look and is that necessarily and bad thing? One of the central issues of this play is that judging someone based on their appearance and surface level facts about them do not really show what they are really like as people. This is shown with Sarah Bernhardt's character especially. She is seen as an actor who likes to be flashy and receive the spotlight all the time, especially at the beginning of the play. During the middle and towards the end of the play, she discusses how the theatre is a place to bring up social and political controversy in order to challenge the audience members to think about these issues put forward to them by the play. This can relate to my own life because sometimes I get frustrated at my friends for doing certain actions, but then I learn there were underlying causes of these actions that make sense when tell me. It tells me I need to become more open to different people's ideas and attitudes because past events that others around them might not know have caused their passion in these subjects.
The Emotional Experience: In "The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt" allows its audience members to help them realize how human beings can act in morally just and unjust ways and apply the way the characters go through with these actions to there everyday lives. This process of admitting these faults allows us to go through katharsis and figure out ways to use these experiences to make our lives become more happy and satisfying. An example of this is analyzing Talbot's character throughout the play. At the beginning of the play, most of the audience members perceive Talbot as a young adult who has been supported all his life by his mother and little brother to fulfill his dream of becoming a priest, but he does not seem to appreciate their support as much as he should. Talbot's mother and little brother work in a dangerous shoe factory in order to help pay for Talbot's education, but Talbot had just been kicked out of his old school for fighting a priest. This causes the audience to not have the nicest opinion of Talbot's attitude and character at the beginning of the play. Talbot's character does not seem to get much more respect until the middle of the play where Talbot reveals to Michaud, his roommate and companion throughout the play, that he had been raped by one of the priests at his old seminary for several years and was only able to get out of the school by beating up this priest. This caused me to have a huge shift in my opinion of Talbot from from an obnoxious, sly young man, to a timid person who is just trying to run away from their bad past to the best of their abilities. Although people try to not judge others too quickly, it is hard not to make assumptions when you are trying to evaluate whether you should trust others or not. Thinking back to Talbot or other examples of people judging others too fast, can help you reflect on why you judged that person in a superficial way and how this incident can change your perspective and how you judge others around you in the future. By breaking these human issues down and working on bettering yourself as a person allows people to engage in katharsis while watching plays.

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