Good Life Performance: The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt By: Gabrielle Swain

Image Citation: Swain, Gabrielle. “Me holding the playbill.” 2017. JPEG file.

The Spatial Experience

When I entered the theatre, i immediately felt a gloomy, gothic vibe from the set. I felt as though I had be transported into the past (and not a pleasant past). The physical setting was a gothic church in the winter with a dark omnipresence. I sat in the back of the theatre in the middle so I felt I almost had an aerial view since I was decently high up. The location allowed me to see the entire stage as an entity and it allowed me to take a step back and put myself in the characters' place. When the lights dimmed and the audience became quiet, I felt as though I had been transported into the past. The minute I saw Sarah Bernhardt's face, it did not seem to me that I was at the University of Florida, I really felt like I was at the turn of the 20th century. Although I was in the back, the auditorium did not seem to be super big. The smaller, more intimate theatre allowed me to feel even closer and more connected to the characters. Place contributes to the Good Life by giving context to the world around us and by giving us an environment to base out actions off of. A church gives off a different vibe than a park and but putting us in a different world and in a specific place, we can acknowledge how the Good life could be achieved in a different era and in our own.

The lobby of Constans Theatre

Image Citation: Swain, Gabrielle. "Constans Theatre Lobby.” 2017. JPEG file.

The Social Experience

Attending the play with my friend Jenny allowed me to take cues from her reactions. If she laughed but I did not think it was funny, I evaluated why it could have been funny and if I had missed something in the play, which allowed me to understand more than if I had watched the play by myself. Additionally, attending the play with strangers and hearing their reactions made me realize that although we all come from different backgrounds, we are remarkably similar and can all learn something from a play and its deeper meaning. To get ready for the performance, I looked up a brief summary of the play so I had an idea of the time period, the location, and the characters. Attending the play with friends allowed me to see how others can react to a controversial topic of religion and the purpose of theatre. The role of shared experience in the Good Life allows us to see that there are so many different types of people in this world, yet we are all remarkably similar in our basic beliefs of human liberties. It is important to respect others and their opinions of controversial topics in order to have a more diverse and accepting society.

Standing at the entrance of the theatre

Image Citation: Swain, Gabrielle. “Me outside Constans Theatre.” 2017. JPEG file.

The Cultural and Intellectual Experience

The performance takes the issues of religion, self-expression, art, and others, and makes individuals question whether those issues can be applied to their own lives. The play took place in Quebec during 1905, yet the issues presented are still applicable today. The central issue was whether listening to a strict religion was the moral way to live one's life or whether looking to the arts, like theatre, allows us to gain more insight about how we should be living our lives and if breaking away from strict, hypocritical rules by an establishment can be more beneficial in achieving the "good life." Socioeconomic issues were also presented in the play. Before attending the show, I knew religion had a more controlling impact on society back in the day and I knew theatre and the arts sometimes clashed with those strict, religious rules, but I was unaware about the role/job of a priest. Before the show, I believed that priests really were relatively pure in their lives and that they chose the job because of faith and not money. After watching the play I realized that everyone sins and religion and religious people are not flawless, and their motives for joining the godly path can also be motived by money. Sometimes the arts are more pure than religion. Although I am neither a very artistic person nor a religious person, I have looked to both when I went through a rough patch in my life in high school. Knowing that neither are perfectly pure allows me to feel better about my flaws.

Standing in the theatre's lobby

Image Citation: Swain, Gabrielle. “Me in Constans Theatre Lobby.” 2017. JPEG file.

The Emotional Experience

The play provides for a cathartic experience by making me realize that there are sins in all of us, even those who claim to be religious pure, and in people of all different socioeconomic statuses. By seeing that priests and religious figures rape and hurt children, we are made to feel uncomfortable and question the actions of those who seem to lead society. Additionally, we see how a rich man who runs a company puts his own life and his socioeconomic status above the lives of children and other human beings, as child workers are killed on the job and no one seems to care. By revealing the flaws of those in power, there is a sense of coming clean in that we all have sins and we must question the actions of those who claim to be perfect and pure. To be human and happy means following our own dreams, not the dreams we are told to follow. Michaud is able to realize this when he finds more happiness in the theatre than in his life as a religious person.

Sitting in my seat holding my program

Image Citation: Swain, Gabrielle. “Me holding the playbill.” 2017. JPEG file.

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