The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt tells the journey of two seminarians (both with very different backgrounds, beliefs, and problems) are given the job to deliver a letter to the controversial actress Sarah Bernhardt. This play brings up issues of social inequality, sexual abuse, and abuse of power in turn-of-the-century North America.
The Spatial Experience
The Constans Theatre's lay out creates an atmosphere that adds to the experience of seeing the play. The lighting in the room creates a relaxing atmosphere that allows you to settle into your seat calmly and truly enjoy the show. The way the stage is set up, with the two sides that go deep into the audience, allow for everyone in the theatre to be more involved in the show as it feels that you were almost on stage. Even with seats that were not close to the stage, it felt as though I was extremely close which helped me pay extra attention and feel involved in the show.
The Social Experience
I attended this play with four other friends. This allowed me to be comfortable knowing that I would be sitting next to people I knew and liked. It also enhanced my experience by being able to share this experience with them, and share our thoughts and questions about the play. Discussing the play allowed me and my friends to have a deeper understanding since we got hear each other's opinions and their take-away from the play. This shared experience with my friends allowed me to get to know them better and hear their opinions about issues in our societies, which brings us closer together in a deeper way than talking about everyday activities.
The Cultural and Intellectual Experience
There are a couple of issues that the play addressed which are relevant in today's society. To begin with, the most memorable issue brought up was the sexual abuse of the main character, Talbot. In today's society, male victims of sexual harassment are often forgotten or ignored. This being the central issue of the play leaves a lot behind for the audience to think about. Another issue which is presented is the inequality of the characters in the play, especially comparing the living and working situations of all of the characters and the background of Talbot compared to Michaud. Furthermore, the church by attempting to cover up the crimes committed against Talbot bring up the issues of the abuse of power going on in our society. Although the play took place in the turn of the 20th century in Canada, all of these issues are still relevant in today's society, which makes you wonder how much progress we have achieved since then.
The Emotional Experience
The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt brings up topics that people avoid discussing, topics that make people uncomfortable. Sexual abuse is a topic that people dread discussing, and it is especially avoided when a male is a victim. This play compels you to address this issue face to face, whether it makes you uncomfortable or not. Since this topic has been so avoided in our society, it's shocking when it comes to light during the play. That revelation left the audience thinking, because if it had been a girl in his situation, it would not have been as unexpected. This play opens a dialect of this issue in our society, an issue that does not have an outlet. By discussing this and its impact on the audience, it takes this issue out of the darkness and makes it easier to address it.
Images #1 and #4-- Google images. All other images taken by Paula Costas with written concern from Ellie Clark