Good Life Performance Mila gajić


Theatre play ''The Divine: a Play for Sarah Bernhardt'' was incredibly insightful for the themes of good life, different perceptions and different sacrifices people make in order to achieve the good life. It enlighten me in a way that now I see better the complexity of challenges and fights that a journey of seeking the good life requires. The play taught me that sometimes we need to chose among things we love and things we have to do to fit into certain social or personal expectations. When facing this challenge, we have to decide which of these two values are more important. Depending on our circumstances, sometimes having a ''good life'' means sacrificing what we want at the moment and going with the way that society considers to be the right one. We see this choice in many characters of the play, especially Michaud, a man who loves theatre and constantly writes a play, but he has to inhibit that passion in order to stay in the church. The play represents a past tense but many of us face same challenges today. It does not have to concern church, but many of us chose whether we will pursue our individual passions or try hard to fit social norms. We all decide between these possibilities based on what we think is going to bring us more happiness. The play was very insightful in a way that it represented different norms each of us face with our expectations of the good life. Sometimes, our only goal is to sacrifice our strength and time to bring the better life for someone else, our children for example as Talbot's mother character demonstrates. The play offers many options to consider, where a lot of characters sacrifice their desires, but it also comes to one of the main character to whom play was dedicated - Sarah, who is the only character who dismisses others' bans for her to play and pursuits her biggest love for theatre. However, the play also shows how our circumstances matter a lot in our lives, as they can be a huge limiting factor in attaining the good life we strive to achieve. The good example of this limitation is child labor and work factory presented in the play. In this story, I will present additional ways in which the play showed me different concepts of seeking the good life and challenges we must face on that journey.

The Spatial Experience

Picture 1: ''Me at the entrance to the theatre hall'' Constans theatre, photo by Lamija Repesa

The physical setting of a theatre was an especially important factor in the experience of the play and connecting it to the concept of good life. The huge space of the auditorium and looking at the big, black stage and many empty seats ready to be filled, evoked feelings of excitement and mystery. Seeing the stage set up to look like a dormitory without actors, evoked curiosity about the theme of the play and things about to happen. I think that auditorium contributed a lot to overall impression of the play because it additionally impacted my feelings by bringing excitement and sense of spatial possibilities, because the actors had a lot of space to use in order to convey the story better. They would come off the stage and walk through the row in the audience or appear at many different parts of the hall, as facilitated by auditorium's construction and wideness. We were all assigned specific seat as we entered and since I came earlier I got the seat in the second row right next to the stage on the left side. This brought me very close to the scene and all actors. I could see their facial expressions clearly wherever they were and this was a huge factor in helping me understand the play and its characters. We waited a long time before the play started and it was noisy as the hall filled completely. All the time, scene was empty and set up ready to welcome the actors and the excitement built over this waiting time as we didn't know what is going to be the first move. But, when the lights dimmed and the noise stopped, that excitement reduced since now the play was starting, but the mystery rose since we were about to discover what the play's problems and highlights will be. The beginning required a lot of concentration since it is the time to meet the actors and get the background information needed to understand play's messages and hidden meanings. The size of auditorium contributed to making a whole experience seems more real since not everything was concentrated in front of the audience in the middle of the stage but since I was sitting right in front, some actors even came behind my back which means I had to turn around myself numerous times and it definitely made experience seem more realistic, like I was actually in the event, not only watching it from the distance. The role of place in Good Life is important, since our place (location and time period) determines the extent of the opportunities we have. For example, I was very close to the stage and I had the opportunity to see facial expression and tiny move of every actor whereas someone sitting in the last row did not see as good as people in the first row. I think this symbolizes that depending on where we are in the world, our opportunities vary and it really matters where we are at the moment and what opportunities we have in our search for the good life.

The Social Experience

Picture 2: ''Entry to the Constans theatre'', photo by me

I went to the play with two of my friends. We talked before we reserved a ticket so that we find the time for the play that fits all three of us and we could go together. The experience of going with my friends to the play definitely enhanced how I felt about the play since I could freely talk about it during the breaks we had and after it. That enabled me to go through my opinions and impressions of the play after it finished, which helped me understand better how it connects to the themes of Good Life and what were the symbolisms and meanings of the play ''The Divine''. I believe that I am better prepared to write about all my experiences now, because after the play ended I had the opportunity to go over many details of it with my friends. So, I think that the main role of my shared experience of the play was to actually talk about them and to together discover play's hidden meanings and to further explore the characters and their lives and sacrifices they took in order to try to achieve the good life and their life goals. The shared experience of the play was one of the most important factors in connecting the topics of the play and themes of the Good Life. I was sitting next to one of my friends that I came with and since we were in the second row very close to the stage, we also had the same physical perspective and could talk about how that enabled us to experience the details of the event better. In the beginning, the three of us wanted to sit in the middle of the hall to have whole stage in front of us, but we were assigned a seat right next to the stage. We were confused with this, but as we talked about this, we came to see all the ways in which the position is going to help us experience the play and get to know its characters better.

The Cultural and Intellectual Experience

Picture 3: ''Me reading about the play'' Constans theatre, photo by Lamija Repesa

The play was incredibly insightful when it comes to the information about culture and the importance of time and place of historical and present events. The play taught me more about the challenges and sacrifices people faced in history that i didn't think of often before. The play puts a big emphasis on the time and setting of the story. The setting is in the twentieth century and describes the beginnings of industrial period and development. The performance addresses challenges and problems that actress Sarah Bernhardt faced in her time and demonstrates how her work was rejected. However, despite clearly presenting challenges of Sarah, the play addresses the issues of moral and ethical obligations and choosing between those, as demonstrated by life stories of other characters such as Michaud, Brother Casgrain and Talbot. I didn't know what will the performance be about before I came, but that made me engage and concentrate even more in order to discover characters' lives and secrets and therefore understand the hidden meanings. The performance definitely changed some of my previous beliefs and views. I realized that sometimes. depending on the circumstances, people cannot rely on their dreams or passions in order to achieve good life. Play shows that good life is partially defined by social norms and partially by us. But, this means that we have to take into consideration both factors. Many characters in the play face with dilemmas about whether to follow their passions and instincts or to inhibit those desires and follow the strict rules imposed by institution they are confined to, such as church. We have the opportunity to see different privileges and circumstances of characters who meet in one place. We see how characters' backgrounds such as financial standing influence their experience, life in the dormitory or decisions and priorities they have to make. Play shows a lot of aspects in which society defines our position in the world and quality of our lives by addressing issues of differences in gender and economic class. Overall, attaining the good life isn't just about pursuing our own needs and personal ethics, but it is often sacrificing those in order to attain the life which is considered to be good in a society and circumstances we have. Every single character in the play has made a sacrifice in order to get closer to the good life, or perception of good life. They set up their priorities, such as place in the church and thus deciding on inhibiting other desires. This subject matter can be connected to some of my personal experiences as well. My sacrifices are not as tragic or hard as in the play, but I believe the concept is similar. I am from European country but I chose to attend US college because of program I wanted that was not well developed back home. For many people that know me, they can't believe that I will see my family only once a year for summer breaks. But for me, that downside of my study abroad is not bigger than the advantage of studying what I want. I look at my life and I see how privileged I am that I have all I want and the chance to chose. I have good education and I have my family. I will not see them so often but I know that they love me and support me. More importantly, I know that they are waiting for me to come, and some people desire that because they don't have it. So, for some this is not a good life because I don't have my family with me. But, for me it is a good life because in my perception I do have both at the same time because I definitely did not lose my family by going to the US, but huge distance was one of the sacrifices I had to make in order to achieve my goals that I believe comprise the good life.

The Emotional Experience

Picture 4: ''In the Constans theatre'' photo by me

I think that the play provides us with the opportunity to achieve katharsis by confronting us with the controversial topics such as gender inequality, child labor, religious obligations, sacrifices and unhealthy working conditions. We achieve katharsis by getting to know ourselves better through the comparison and identification with the characters. We get to see the similarities and differences between us and them and therefore come to realize better our own opportunities, privileges and identity. But, we also gain a better sense of a world we live in. The play also made me think differently of a good life. Previously, I thought of it as an individual thing but now I think of it more as a common way of living. So, by achieving this katharsis I came to a question: Will we ever be able to say that there is a good life in this world? This is because, even when we achieve our life goals and say that we have a good life, at that moment there will be someone else who has to work in unhealthy conditions or be treated differently on the basis of class or gender. The play exposed us to so many issues that do not remain in the past, but are still here in this world. By doing this, it becomes impossible for us to ignore those problems at least while we are in the theatre hall. With all these problems in mind, we place ourselves in such a puzzle and think about where we stand. Therefore, by seeing our good position we go through katharsis by appreciating our circumstances more and feeling more empathy towards those who don't have same opportunities and background as some of us do. I understood that I went through katharsis by comparing my feelings before and after the play. When I came I was excited to see the play, but I didn't feel particularly happy, angry or frustrated. But, after the play I felt strong mix of different emotions evoked by thinking about good versus unfair life, characters' faith and different inequalities. I became frustrated with the realization that little has changed until today when it comes to issues presented in the play. This play indeed provided the opportunity to realistically look at part of our social problems and to better understand our own life and the qualities we appreciate or not.


Cover Photo: ''Entry to the Constans theatre'', photo by me

Picture 1: ''Me at the entrance to the theatre hall'' Constans theatre, photo by Lamija Repesa

Picture 2: ''Entry to the Constans theatre'', photo by me

Picture 3: ''Me reading about the play'' Constans theatre, photo by Lamija Repesa

Picture 4: ''In the Constans theatre'' photo by me

Created By
Mila Gajic


Photo credits to Lamija Repesa for pictures 1 and 3

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