The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt By Emily Miller

Selfie of myself in front of the box office

Introduction: The Divine consists of several themes: sex, religion, industry, theater, and religion. During the time period of this play, the church held the power to say what society can and cannot do. The church ran and financed institutions and education. The prestige of being a priest was why the Talbot family was so proud to see one of their sons move up the social latter.

Photograph of the outside of the theater provided by ufl.edu

Spatial Experience: When I first entered the theater, I was greeted by a woman who directed me to the 6th row to take my seat. The lights where dull and a faint chatter filled the room. I was in the center of my row, making the stage aesthetically pleasing to the eye as it was parted directly down the middle and reflected on both sides. Immediately my eyes were drawn to the dimly light stage which contained six beds, three large stain glassed windows, and a wooden platform. As the lights dimmed and the audience quieted I became anxious to see how the play would begin. The smaller size of the theater gave the play a more personal feel because I was closer to the actors and the set. The theater is set up in a way that the actors can actually walk around throughout the audience, making us fully immersed in the story. Place plays a role in the good life as it affects the view point of a situation or experience. I believe it plays an important role in the good life because being in the right place, especially at the right time, can allow one to maximize any situation.

Playbook given to us when we entered the theater

Social Experience: A few days before the play I read the study guide about the story so I would have background information and understand what was going on. To get ready the afternoon I went to the play, I straightened my hair, did my makeup, and wore my favorite romper with gladiator sandals. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the play with friends because of conflicting schedules. However, I made friends with the people sitting next to me. It was fun meeting people I’ve never met because they reacted to certain scenes in different ways than I did, possibly coming from where and how they grew up. Shared experiences play a pivotal role in the good life because it allows us to socially connect with others, a basic human need, as well as being able to allow us to celebrate and reflect such shared experiences.

Art featured in the lobby before entering the theater doors

Cultural and Intellectual Experience: The play takes place in December 1905 in Quebec City where a young man discovers the injustices of his time. The play highlights the corruption of the church and the lengths top church officials will go to hide their illegal activities. A few years ago I saw stories in the news about priests who took advantage of younger kids for years and people who knew about it did nothing to stop the abuse. The whole church scandal was frustrating to the Catholic church as a whole because it put a negative stigma on all priests when it was only a handful that committed such heinous acts. However, after watching the play, I thought about the victims and how this impacted their lives. The play opened my eyes to consider how these acts forever changed kids’ lives and think about how they must live with this burden for the rest of their lives. I can’t find a subject matter in my own personal life that the play can relate to due to the severity of the abuse Talbot received and the length those involved went to cover it up.

Picture of myself in front of the Constans Theater sign

Emotional Experience: The Divine provides us an opportunity for katharsis by showing Talbot coming clean about his past and the abuse he received. We see this toward the end of the play when he comes clean to Michaud about his special treatment and the silverware. It is also seen again towards the end of the play when Talbot decides to let his past go and start his life over. Although some people may disagree with his decision to not take the priest to court, we can sympathize with his decision because he knows nothing he can do can reverse what happened to him. By showing Talbot moving on, it can inspire the audience to do the same with injustices that may have happened to them in their past.

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