The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt By: Jordyn McKenzie

The Spatial Experience:

I have always loved the theater, both acting and movies, they have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. When I walked into the theater, I thought that it was very aesthetically pleasing, it was a good size, the dark colors and the lighting held promise. I personally felt that the props and backgrounds displayed the themes of the time very well, showing the disparity between the Catholic Church, the factory, and Sarah Bernherdts dressing room. I especially enjoyed watching the transformation from the church into the factory. I felt that it was beautifully done, and I loved how they made use of turning things like the beds into the working stations for the sewers.The various backgrounds were also really well done, starting out with snow, showing the fragility of the times, as well as the idea that the time and the people were cold metaphorically. I was seated on the walkway that the actors and actresses used in order to have greater access to the audience. I think this definitely enhanced the experience for me. I felt close enough to capture the raw emotions that they displayed, as well as the storyline. When the lights dimmed and the audience quieted I got pretty excited because I came in with no expectations for the play, and only a small idea of what it was about. Arriving with no prejudgements allowed the play to touch me deeper than if I had come clinging to my counterarguments. The auditorium had more of a narrow build, but I felt that it made the stage more accessible to the audience. I do not think I would have felt deprived of the experience if I had to sit in the back. The dark colors and the larger state of the room contradicted each other nicely, making it feel smaller and more intimate in my opinion. The role of place in the Good Life is essential in a literal and metaphorical sense. I think our surroundings and placement in life build who we are individually as well as society, we are built by both our experiences in the here and now, as well as the perspectives we hold about where we are.

The Social Experience:

I attended the performance with a girl named Victoria that is in the scholarship house I recently moved into, as well as four of her friends. Before attending I read over the plays background and about Sarah Bernhardt. I felt more informed, but I was still unsure how they were going to approach the many themes behind the era. I wasn't very close to anyone I went with, but it was neat to see other peoples' reactions to the play, I felt like I got to know a couple of them by simply talking about the play afterwards, exposing to me their views and their values. Through this exposure I felt like I knew their definition of the Good Life a little better. I believe the role of shared experiences in the Good Life is aimed at revealing how we can all have different experiences and views, but instead of having them detract from the experience it builds the entire picture, making it more wholesome.

The Cultural and Intellectual Experience:

The play made me realize how little I question things. During the play, The Boss spoke of how society only cared about was how nice the shoes are and how much they cost, no one ever thinks about who's making the items or about their conditions; I think we avoid the question because we don't want the answer. It wasn't completely the factories fault for the exploration and deaths, it was also societies fault. The role of explotation throughout the play was evident through the Preacher who raped the young boys (including Talbot), the presence of child labor, loss, and the intensity in which the church and factory tried to mask their shortcomings. All I really knew about the Industrial Revolution was what I had learned in history books. I knew dates, strikes, the pollution it caused, the conditions of the city and the workers, but I did not know the experience. I think actually watching them act out the experience on stage created a more personal approach, making it real. When Leo died, and we found out Talbot and Brother Casgrain were raped in a place they were meant to feel safe, my heart broke. It was then that the whole play changed for me. I could see my family in that position because of our own economic standing and the amount of siblings I have. I saw the twins who were decapitated as my two little sisters, one of my three brothers suffocating under the floorboards like Leo, I could see my own mother fretting over the bills in Mrs. Talbot, and I could see the pressure of holding it together and playing your part in myself from Talbot. It changed my views on not questioning things, not asking who or where I am getting things from, how some people still struggle in the same ways, and how society is not meant to be perfect, but if we asked questions and actually wanted the truth we may be able to change things.

The Emotional Experience:

I think one of the hardest parts of being human is accepting that were not perfect. We all have dark sides, bad days, and less than noble qualities we would rather not confront. It is through this confrontation with ourselves that we grow. I think this play displayed catharsis very well, especially at the end when Michaud told Talbot that it was his truth to tell, and that no matter what he decided to do with his secret, the choice and the consequences were his. I think there is comfort as well as discomfort in the idea that we have control of our truths. Being a human and happy doesn't require things to be perfect all the time, because if that's what you look for you will never know happiness. I think in seeking the truth and accepting imperfection we can learn to be happy with reality. We can be like Leo, who turned a dark, miserable factory room into a place where people could laugh. Being a Christian is a big part of my Good Life, and even though there was an attack on the church in the play, I thought it was enlightening. I think it showed that not even those that people deem as morally upright are also imperfect; we are all human. Even God knows we are imperfect yet we still look for ways to hide from this truth.

Created By
Jordyn Mckenzie


Created with images by Phil Roeder - "Number One" • nimrodcooper - "Miner Boy" • radworld - "truth mural on side of building 02"

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