A Night with "the divine" My Experience at the Constans Theatre

Introduction

Theatre and acting in general have long been an interest of mine. Its just so fun to get lost in a story other than your own, to see and feel through others eyes, and to simply just be. That being said I was overjoyed to have watching a play be one of my assignments for this course. So, regardless of what I would eventually think about the play it was simply refreshing to at least get to talk about my experience and share it with others as if I was some fancy critic. That being said, here was my experience at "The Divine".

Spatial Experience

The Constans is quite the interesting space. Its fold out chairs mimicking the permanent seating of an older opera house (while still being quite comfortable). Not too large to the point that walking it set me in a state of awe but big enough to make me feel calm, if not a little small. The lobby was a touch confusing coming in from the Reitz but that only aided in my suspension of disbelief. Ultimately when I finally got in my front section seat and the lights dimmed I settled down and braced myself for the sudden spotlights and flamboyant characters. Throughout the play, the decision of the tech crew to let us see their silhouettes as they changed the scenery provided for me a visually interesting contrast that, intentionally or not, allowed me to make the connections between the various scenes. As for the Good life I feel that space serves as a background (duhhh) for life. It serves as a talking piece and sometimes it can meld into amazing events in order to make them more special. Personally, I feel that setting should never detract from the experience of life, only add.

Social

Well the actually good Selfie failed to upload so here is my less then stellar one. Enjoy!

Attend with friends? HAH! I often find that when watching movies with friends I often feel the need to over analyze the work in front of me lest I be mocked for missing the off-beat joke or the major plot point. So I decided to watch this play letting fate choose my seat neighbors. Luckily I was placed next to some people with shared interests in DnD and PC gaming which made for some lovely conversation prior to the play and during intermission. However, the play itself demanded an almost mandatory isolation with the audience bathed in darkness and the characters in the play claiming center stage. Therefore, the social aspect was more relegated to the pauses between Acts or Halves of the play and the "talk back" section where we got to discuss with the cast just what went into the making of the play. Personally, I loved hearing about the production of the play as even a bad play has some interesting stories to tell and challenges that they had to overcome so that particular section was very enjoyable. On the whole though, good company made waiting a breeze and allowed me to enjoy the play in the best way possible!

Cultural and Intellectual

"The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt" to me did not seem to have any modern cultural relevance beyond the general issues of abuse and greed. The play itself is set in industrial revolution Quebec, a time rife with strife, poverty, and abuse making it perfect to create commentary on modern classicism in either a funny or serious manner. The problem here was that it attempted to do both. Michaud presented a comically unaware view of poverty, contrasted with Talbot whose desire to just see his family happy causes him pain. I see room for a great play here its just that it never quite settled on an issue.

Some of the issues covered were abusive working conditions, child labor, child abuse at the hands of the church, and general corruption. That is quite a lot for a play, especially when you consider the amount of "meta theatrical" moments and comically over reactive characters. Individually I have very little problems with any of these but when they are all compounded into one play it feels cramped. Of course, I checked the reviews to confirm and sure enough

"But the script, translated by Linda Gaboriau, still needs some work. It has strong threads but they're not yet well knit into a whole." - Jon Kaplan (nowtoronto.com)

"Its too bad that Bouchard uses such a heavy hand to tell a great story of inhumanity and injustice." - James Karas (jameskarasreviews.blogspot.com)

Overall, I enjoyed the play and laughed along with everyone at the Seminarian pair and felt for the struggles of the working class. Yet beyond the universal sentiments of abuse is bad no matter who does it I cannot seem to find much modern relevance.

Emotional

Catharsis? In a classical sense catharsis is the experience of intense emotions, the causes of which don't directly effect you, therefore allowing the viewer to feel a cleansed. So where do we see this? Perhaps it can be seen in the break-down of Michaud's desire to make the play and his rebuilding? Or maybe it comes in the overall culmination of the abuses upon the working class of Quebec city. Either way there are a few places where catharsis can be achieved though perhaps not as dramatically as in Othello or even Harry Potter.

Credits:

Alden Swartz

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