The divine: A play for sarah bernhardt Good Life Performance at the Constans Theatre

Precious Patton (roommate) and I in front of Constans Theatre before start of the play. Photo taken by a kind stranger , Jan. 20th, 2016.

Spatial Experience

Walking up to the Constans Theatre, it was very interesting to see the lobby and entrance lit and bustling with activity; as I walk by it everyday, and it is normally dark and empty. With the lights on, I could see that the lobby was far nicer that what I imagined it to be. Entering into the lobby, I started to realize that the theatre is much larger than it appears to be from the outside. This was confirmed when I entered into the theatre and saw a large number of rows, a significant amount of people, and a fairly large stage. The stage was also far more sophisticated and furnished than I expected. These spatial elements started to change my preconceived notion that the play was going to be moderately mediocre. I had a seat several rows back from the front of the stage, fairly in the middle; providing a great vantage point to see the entirety of the forthcoming play without have to move my head. As I waited for the play to start, almost the entirety of the theatre filled up with "good life" students; illustrating both the size of the theatre and the amount of students taking the same course as I. Reading the very detailed play bill, coupled with the surprises about the size and quality of the Constans Theatre, made me more excited for the play than I thought I was when the lights started to dim. Space plays an important role in aspects of a "good life." Not only are places the means by which we spatially recognize and track are physical status; but also, they possess a certain atmosphere or set of characteristics that informs our interaction with those spaces. Thus, a place ultimately plays a major role in the quality and character of the experiences that we have; and its this collection of experiences that comprises a life. As a result, trying to achieve a "Good Life" is determined by possessing a good number of experiences that can be judged as enriching, which in return is influenced by the various qualities of place that contributes to experiences of enrichment .

Precious Patton (roommate) and I leaving the Constans Theatre after the conclusion of the play. Taken with Precious' phone, Jan. 20th, 2016

Social Experience

My roommate and I, who are both in the same lecture for Good Life, decided to go to the play together for its first showing. We were both looking at it as a requirement and we both thought it was going to be somewhat mediocre. I did change into nicer clothes when I was getting ready for attending; however, I was not going to dress formally (what I would consider to be formal) because I expected most people were going to show up in mainly causal wear. This expectation proved to be right; as most members of the audience for the January 20th showing were in extremely causal wear. However; some members of the audience were in formal clothing. As Precious and I waited for the play to start, we talked about a multitude of topics. After looking through the play bill, we both expressed that we thought the play might be better than originally expected. As an avid people watcher, I also took account of some of the nearby conversation going on around me. The most interesting aspect of the surrounding social interactions was the frequency at which people were talking about the inauguration of Donald Trump; which occurred earlier that day. Not only was it interesting to hear a collective shared interest in a historical event unfolding in real time; but it was also interesting to hear the various snapshots of differing opinions on the topic. People surrounding me also expressed their lack of interest in attending the play while others conversed about the various snippets of information in the playbill that hinted at the contents of the play. A few people even expressed that they searched up a synopsis of the play before arriving. These differing levels of interest and preparation for attendance illustrates the broad range of personalities that you interact with on a daily basis. As the lights started to dim and the play started, everyone provided the respect that comes along with being an audience member. After the play's conclusion, Precious and I would agree that we both were pleasantly surprised at how good the play was and we would converse on the way home about several of the scenes. Social interaction, or shared experiences, comprise a significant factor in the achievement of a "good life." Just as place informed experience; so to does the people that witness those experiences alongside us. Furthermore, interactions with others often color or directly determine the course or personal evaluation of our experiences. A human being does not exist alone. Instead it shares places and experiences with other human beings; and as such many of our ideas, goals, and attainment of enriching experiences that form a "good life" are linked to relations and interactions we have with others trying to do the same.

Precious Patton (roommate) and I in front of Constans Theatre before start of the play. Photo taken by a kind stranger , Jan. 20th, 2016.

Cultural/Intellectual Experience

Part of the reason I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the performance, were the various cultural issues and intellectual discussions that were featured in The Divine: A Play For Sarah Bernhardt. The setting of the modernizing and industrializing turn of the 20th century Quebec City, allowed the play to tackled burning issues of that time period: Class disparity/workers rights, the social responsibility of art, the hypocrisy of leading religious institutions, sexism, and the battle over the classification of societal morals. Out of all these topics; the two I found most engaging were the discussions about religious institutions and the examination of class disparity. The depictions of the hardships of the urban poor and their lives' vast difference with that of the wealthy, both highlighted how much situations (such as worker's rights and living standards) have improved over the 20th century and into the 21st century and how wealth disparity has been and still is a continuous social dilemma for society as a whole. The story-line of sexual abuse in a catholic seminary, the play's means to examine hypocrisy in such religious institutions of authority, seemed especially pertinent considering the frequent abuse scandals that have rocked the catholic church. This part of the play reminded me that abuse has been a reoccurring element of not just religious authorities; but any authority in general. My favorite intellectual aspect of the performance was the thematic connection that ties this considerable collection of social issues together and what is the central focus of the play; the soul crushing irony and hypocrisy of people's endeavors to do what they consider to be right. From Talbot's struggle between raising his family out of the despairs of abject poverty and allowing a system of abuse to continue in the seminary to Michaud's conflict between following the studies of the seminary and his pursuit of the arts to Sarah Bernhardt's ironic quest to call attention to social issues while not being able to help those that she's advocating for and indirectly contributing to their plight; the play uses these questions and issues of ethics to drive home this theme. The conclusions for these characters; Talbot staying with the seminary after his brother's death, Michaud's flight from the seminary and completion of his play, and Sarah Bernhardt's expulsion from Quebec City; illustrates that human endeavors to uphold ethics and do what they believe is right produces unwanted results that might be counterproductive; undermining that same quest to do right. This counter-productivity of the results of the character's endeavors, is directly set up through the hypocritical and ironic expressions and acts that occur throughout the play. While this theme proves to be pertinent to modern day; I believe it to be a tad bit too pessimistic and nihilist, as it disregards the shared ethical endeavors of society that generates concepts and collective acts of progress. Perhaps this belief is merely theoretical or maybe it is my propensity to hope that progress is a real construct.

Precious Patton (roommate) and I leaving the Constans Theatre after the conclusion of the play. Taken with Precious' phone, Jan. 20th, 2016

Emotional Experience

In examining the Cathartic qualities of The Divine: A Play For Sarah Bernhardt, I believe a cathartic experience solely depends on the individual's relationship to the play. Personally, I experienced a catharsis related with my sympathy to the sadness and futility displayed in the play. While the performance really didn't effectively capture other emotions in a manner well enough to generate the sympathy required for a catharsis of other emotions; I believe the catharsis to the aforementioned emotions made the play an enjoyable experience. I believe that man tells himself stories ( in many forms from novels to movies to theater) as a means of emotional reflection. Stories are not merely happy or entertaining; but instead, reflective of the wide arrange of emotions that humanity expresses over time. Thus, we consume stories in order to exercise and feel these emotions; as to be better acquainted with them, to understand them better. Our ability to sympathize allows us to experience the futility and sadness of the performance's characters without having any real personal stakes involved. Thus, stories, and particularly the marriage of visual and auditory story telling found in plays, is an effective means to experience, understand, and exercise these emotions. As a result, the sole job of any story, in any form, is to produce some sort of catharsis. It was this well executed catharsis that made me really enjoy the play and which prompted several conversations about particular scenes with my roommate on the way home. Overall, I found the emotional aspect of the play to be its strongest attribute.

Created By
Riley Bailey


Spark Story for Good Life performance

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