The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt By Lindsay asher

Introduction

This is a Spark Story about my experience seeing the play The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt. The physical and social setting of viewing the play had an impact on the understanding of the play. It was an excellent play and had a very good message to the audience.

The Spacial Experience

Walking into the theater alone, I took my seat in around the forth or fifth row located stage right. I grew up going and performing in a theater so the butterflies I would experience before a performance hit me for a split second in anticipation of the play to begin. The size of the theater gave the play a more intimate feeling, as if the actors were performing specifically for my enjoyment. The ceilings had intricate designs to help carry the sound of the actors’ words all the way to the person sitting in the back row. The wonderful acoustics made it so the audience could hear every spoken word, whisper, or voice coming from the stage. This feature added to the audiences’ understanding of the play because every word was heard.

The first thing I noticed about the quaint theater was the well thought out set on the stage. It was not covered by curtains so it made me more curious about the play. I was able to envision what I believed the first scene was going to be like and what each piece of the set was going to be used for. If the stage was covered by the deep red, velvet curtains the imagination of the audience before the performance would have been hindered. As soon as the lights dimmed, the room fell silent, so when the play began with Sarah Bernhardt and the reporters noisily making their way through the audience, the room almost jumped. That was not to be expected to begin.

Many scenes from the play had portions where the actors would make their way through the audience. With the location of my seat, I was not apart of this interactive feel. I could see the actors making eye contact with specific students as they made their way through the audience. I believe this would have given the play a more personal feel if you were seated on the other side of the stage. The role the space played in the Good Life has to do with so much you can get out of the performance. The more engaging the space is, the more you are able to understand and take from the experience.

Photograph by Lindsay Asher

The Social Experience

Due to conflicting schedules with friends, I had to go to the performance alone. I had a very busy Wednesday because of homework and club meetings, so I did not have much time to get ready. All I was able to do was quickly change out of my routine t-shirt and running shorts into a nicer outfit and a fresh hair braid. Throughout the first act I was able to gain my own perceptions and understandings about what was happening on stage because I was sitting alone. I was able to make small talk with the people around me before the play began, but it was such small talk in fact, I do not remember the contents of the conversation.

At intermission, I went to stretch my legs and I saw a few of my friends I did not even know where taking the Good Life this semester. We were able to talk about our ideas and interpretation of the play and after intermission they moved to seats next to mine that became empty. Viewing the play with friends was a completely different experience. There was the ability to whisper small comments about what was happening on stage and overall influence the way we all felt. This enhanced my experience because I was able to have a conversation about the contents of the play.

In experiencing the Good Life, shared experiences play the role of perspective . Learning and hearing about something through the eyes of something else helps you to categorize your experiences into perspective. You may not believe that something you went through can help you achieve the Good Life but hearing about an experience through the eyes of someone else can help you to find a different or more beneficial outlook.

Photograph by Lindsay Asher

The Cultural and Intellectual Experience

The focal issue that I felt this play felt with was the necessity to tell the truth and to do what is morally right. Before the performance, I did not know much of anything that had to do with the plot or time period of the play before I attended. I learned through the playbill that Sarah Bernhardt was an actress during the early 20th century. She was and is considered the “most famous actress of all time.”

The issues of morality and truthfulness is something that I take very seriously in my own life. The content of the play did not change my views on the ideas, but rather enhance them. The sensitive issue of rape surrounding Talbot and how he believed was the best way to handle the situation made me feel angry. I understand it was a different time period back then, but Talbot was visibly struggling with the after mass of what happened, yet he did not want to share the truth with the police when he had the chance. It was thanks to his friend Michaud that his pain was finally lifted because he had the confidence to tell the story. The situations in the play reinforced my idea that the truth is the best policy.

In my own life, I have never experienced something on such a large scale, but on a smaller scale I have seen how truthfulness and morality is the best policy. Being a freshman in college, everyone wants a fresh start from the stereotypes that were cast upon them in high school. In trying to achieve this, it is often found that we turn into someone we do not even recognize. I have a few good friends from high school who came to University of Florida with me. Each of us are the same when we are the exact same when we are around only each other. The second one of my old friends gets around their new group of friends, they morph their personality into something I don't recognize. I am sure I also do this to some extent. My friends change their values to what their new friends think and aren't truthful to themselves. It is hard to watch sometimes because I believe honest in every situation, including honesty of one’s own personality is the best way to live a fulfilled life.

The Emotional Experience

In theater, many of the story lines come from subject matters that would be uncomfortable in our own lives, but on stage are entertaining to watch. The ideas of child labor, rape and death coming out of the play The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt are hard to swallow. The writer of the play does a very good job of depicting what was happening during the 20th century, with slight dramatization of course. Sarah Bernhardt is a pivotal character in this play. The world viewed her as “rich and famous” with no real grasp on what is happening in the world around her.

She defies what everyone says about her by using the power of theater to uncover the wrongs of the world. She uses the arts to paint a picture to her audience about the truth going on that maybe no one would have ever known about. It was uncomfortable to Michaud to write and going to be hard for the audience to grasp the full meaning of the story, but it was something she felt passionately about. She wanted to share the truth.

The ideas of Bernhardt can be used to give each of us an opportunity for katharsis. It inspires to come clean about the wrongs we have done and we have experienced. The play lets the audience know it is okay to not be always liked and its okay to stand up for the injustices happening around us that most people are too cowardly to share.

Works Cited (for background images)

  1. Baldwin, Gordon, and Judith Keller. Nadar Warhol: Paris New York: Photography and Fame. Introduction by Richard Brilliant. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1999), 4 Feb. 2017. p. 117.
  2. Cooper, David. The Divine. Digital image. James Karas- Reviews and Views. N.p., 1 Aug. 2015. Web. 4 Feb. 2017. <http://jameskarasreviews.blogspot.com/2015/08/the-divine-play-for-sarah-bernhardt.html>.
  3. The Princeton Festival. Digital image. The Princeton Festival. N.p., 2015. Web. 4 Feb. 2017. <http://princetonfestival.org/event/2015-lecture-a-conversation-on-directing-opera-and-theater-productions/>.
  4. Crip, Billy. Showing the connection of people. Digital image. Social Business. N.p., 12 Apr. 2012. Web. 4 Feb. 2017. <http://www.socialbusinessnews.com/social-business-the-experience-requirement-getting-beneath-the-advice/>.
  5. Truth. Digital image. Process and Faith. N.p., 17 Aug. 2012. Web. 4 Feb. 2017. <https://processandfaith.org/can-prehension-lead-to-truth/>.
  6. Sarah Bernhardt. Digital image. Alcheton. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Feb. 2017. <https://alchetron.com/Sarah-Bernhardt-1176287-W#->.

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