The Divine Life Will Petro

Walking into the Constans Theatre in the Reitz Union was an interesting experience for me, as I have attended very few plays so far in my lifetime. I quickly realized that, although the design differed in some ways, the theatre was constructed with the same overall practical goals in mind as many cinemas. For instance, when a film begins, one generally expects for the lights in the cinema to go dark or at least dim almost to the point of darkness. The same was true for the theatre. Obviously, the intention of this is for the happenings on stage to be more visible by contrast. It also helps audience members appreciate intentional lighting choices that occur in the play, such as a spotlight being shined on a specific character to signify their importance in the scene. The play also utilized the space in interesting ways. Often times, characters would be walking through the aisles and standing in areas off-stage.

I arrived at the performance with my roommate and also anticipated interacting with another friend at some point either before or after the play because I knew he would be in the audience as well. Interestingly enough, I encountered a group of friends that I hadn't expected to be in attendance and had the opportunity to sit with them as we watched the play. I don't believe I would have minded if I was forced to watch it alone. However, although I don't necessarily shy away from social interaction with strangers all the time, I'm a relatively introverted person, so I doubt I would have gained much from the experience from a social perspective. I was happy to have other people to share my opinions of the play with, and in fact, my friends and I immediately discussed our thoughts as soon as it ended. I really value the ability to present my opinions to others and to hear theirs as well. I always enjoy a good debate if it comes to that. It is definitely a terrible feeling for me when I experience something that I really want to discuss with someone else but I can't find anyone who shared it with me.

The play takes place in Quebec City in 1905. I thought the characters' appearances and mannerisms reflected this setting relatively well but there certainly were some aspects to the performance that challenged my immersion in this regard. I personally prefer to try to experience things in their original contexts if at all possible, and was thrown off by the fact that the supposed residents of Quebec City and the surrounding area had accents that sounded much more characteristic of the New England area of the United States than the primarily French-speaking area of Quebec. Obviously, I recognize the limitations of the play as a media form, but I personally felt as though the accentuation of the voices was still peculiar even with that context. I honestly learned precious little about the culture of Quebec other than the esteem with which the citizenry held the Church. The opportunity to make a profession out of the Christian religion seemed to be equated very much with high social status and prestige. This didn't surprise me given my basic background knowledge of European history and the effects of colonialism in the Americas, but it was interesting to learn more about, nonetheless.

I left the Constans Theatre having witnessed a play that was very much built around themes of social injustice, privilege, and ethics. In my humble opinion, it spread itself perhaps a bit too thin and failed to have a strong central message, but I enjoyed how it presented its wide range of themes for the most part. I am personally very interested in learning about social issues and the history behind them, so the play acted as an insightful window into the particular setting. I certainly experienced Katharsis in that way. The play led me to reflect upon the ways that society uses certain institutions to perpetuate oppression.
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William Petro
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Created with images by kaykaybarrie - "Factory Theatre"

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