The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt Kayla Weinberg's visual story

The Spatial Experience

It was my first time going to the Constans theatre and although I had always seen the theatre from the outside, I had never seen the inside. Before going in, I did not have many expectations as to what the theatre would look like, but once I entered, I was pleased to see the place decorated with art. However, I felt the excitement more once I saw the actual set of the play. The dark color scheme and intricacy of the stage props led me to believe that what I was about to witness was important and would probably evoke many emotions. I sat in the middle of the theatre, which I was happy about since I was not too close to the stage nor too far away. I liked that the size of the theatre was small, because it felt cozy and added to the mood of the play. For me, the small size of the theatre made me feel like I somehow was a part of the play and not just someone in the audience viewing. For instance, when members of the play would walk around the theatre to transition to the next scene, it did not necessarily feel like it was a play, but rather an event that was actually happening in that moment. I was full of curiosity and excitement when the lights dimmed, and I felt a feeling similar to the feeling I get when I’m giggling. In the good life, I believe the role of place is to set certain guidelines. We as humans tend to set injunctive norms, or guidelines that tell us what we should or should not do in a particular setting. For example, the setting of the play took place in the Grand Seminary of a catholic church. It is a holy setting, meaning anyone who stays at the Grand Seminary would be deemed inappropriate if they talked about or did something, like stealing. A place in the good life sets boundaries and it is up to the individual to decide whether they will follow those boundaries or go against them.

The Social Experience

I attended the performance with my best friend, who also happens to be my roommate. Before the performance, we had gotten dressed into clothing more appropriate. We didn’t have to do many preparations besides reserving our ticket the week before. It was definitely more exciting going to the play with my best friend. It was her first time going to see a play and I could tell she was excited, which led me to share her excitement. From taking pictures together and having similar reactions to certain scenes in the play, it was great experiencing the night with her. I think this best demonstrates the role shared experiences have in the Good Life. When you get to share an experience with people you love and care about, it makes that experience so much more memorable. Shared experiences give insight into other perspectives and allows you to grow in ways where you become less close-minded and more open-minded.

The Cultural and Intellectual Experience

I believe the central issues addressed in the performance is conformity. The play, based on the ideals of the catholic church, deals with the conflict of self. For someone like the young seminarian Talbot, he was not sure of himself, but rather went to school to become a priest because he knew it was what his family wanted and what they worked so hard for him to become. Despite Talbot at first not wanting to be at the Grand Seminary, he decides in the end to not come forward about his past of being sexually abused and continue his journey of becoming a priest because he wants to do what is best for his family, especially after his younger brother dying. In his eyes, he finds that may be his only way of obtaining the “Good Life.” Before the performance, I was aware of the important issues addressed in the play such as child labor and sexual abuse within the catholic church, however, the play made me realize that people will do anything to maintain a good reputation in society or still work in conditions that are not ethically right just to have the “Good Life.” This subject matter does not relate to me directly, but I feel like the characters in the play, who put their self-conflicts aside to have the “Good Life,” are somewhat similar to students who continue to work hard despite issues they may have at home or mental health issues like anxiety or depression. Although students struggling with stress is completely different from a seminarian who was sexually abused and a mother losing her child because of harsh child labor, I somehow see this connection of both groups conforming.

The Emotional Experience

The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt provides us an opportunity for “katharsis,” because it speaks of the unspoken. It is not every day that society confronts the catholic church for allowing sexual abuse to continue to happen behind doors. As an audience, we cannot overlook the fact that although the issues discussed in the play took place in the 1900s, it does not mean that they do not happen now. It just means we’re unaware of these issues. Issues like children dying from harsh labor are not necessarily issues we deal with today in the United States, but the overall message we can take home from it is to speak up. Personally, as a member of the audience, I felt the play was telling me to stand up for myself. Stand up for myself in the sense that we cannot hide our past or continue to let others treat us in ways that are not ethically right nor culturally respectable. We cannot be scared nor make excuses for those who do treat us like we do not belong or like we do not deserve to be respected. In other words, the play provides the audience to come clean about personal hardships everyone in the audience faces. Rather than tucking them away, we need to face them.

Created By
Kayla Weinberg


Photographs taken by me

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