"The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt" Caroline Lane

“The Divine” performance embodied all aspects of the good life that we have discussed thus far- from the theater itself to the performance. The performance touched on several societal issues, and it specifically focused on how one family fought to achieve their good life in such a society. Additionally, for a parallel, the play also showed the life of an actress who did not need to do much in order to obtain her idea of the good life. “The Divine” showed how the good life is not easily obtained by all, but all are capable of making their life a good one.

Spatial Experience

This was my first time at the Constans Theatre so I was not too sure what to expect. The entrance was very pretty and modern, and the waiting area/lobby inside the theater was also neat- there was some art work to look at, and there were large stained glass pieces hanging from the ceiling which I found to be very artistically appealing. Once we entered the theater it was similar to other theaters that I’ve been in. What I found unique was that instead of walking into a dropped curtain, they dimly lit the stage and kept the first set visible. So, we saw a large window and several beds. The lighting inside the theater added to the mood of the play, it was fairly dim so it felt like a movie theater. Our seats were close to the stage, but off to the right side so we may have paid more attention to the characters and props on the ride side of the stage. The theater itself was smaller than other theaters I have been in, but that made the experience more intimate. The spatial experience contributes to the good life, because appreciation of our surroundings is a part of the good life.

The Social Experience

I attended the performance with two of my friends. To get ready, I read what I was supposed to do prior to the performance on canvas, and picked out a theater appropriate outfit. Attending the performance with two of my friends enhanced the performance because it is always comforting going places with people you know, so to go into a theater and be able to sit comfortable with people I could discuss the performance with was nice. The role of shared experiences contributes to the good life, or at least mine personally, in a tremendous manner. Spending time and enjoying experiences with people whom I care about is something that I thoroughly enjoy. Being able to reminisce on an experience and who you spent it with is an important aspect of the good life.

The Cultural and Intellectual Experience

The central issue of the “The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt” is the social inequality of classes and child labor laws. The main characters of the play are Talbot family. Mrs. Talbot is a widowed mother who works in a shoe factory, she has six children and she sends her oldest son, Talbot, to a Seminarian school. Attending the Seminarian school is not only a big deal to Talbot, but to his family- if he is able to become a priest it could mean a better life for his whole family. One of the younger Talbot brother’s is Leo; he is young and chipper, and admires his older brother. Talbot seems to be the only one who is not excited about his attendance at the Seminarian school, but he knows becoming is priest is the only way for someone in his social standing to become something in life. I grew up in Waltham, MA, which is home to some of the first factories in the United States. Waltham is rich in industrial history, and all throughout my school years we learned about the textile and watch factories- specifically, the employment of children and women. So, my understanding of the issue of child labor is quite vast, and watching the performance brought all the history lessons I’ve learned to life. Reading about history is not comparable to watching a reenactment of it, so I feel as if the performance deepened my understanding of the consequences child labor and the divide of social classes impacted the lives of many.

The Emotional Experience

Naturally, the theme and central issues of the play are uncomfortable. Thinking about the lack of ethics that were implemented in society over the course of history forces the audience to reflect on modern society and their place in it; while watching the performance, the audience is given the opportunity for katharsis because everyone can reflect on what they can do to improve themselves and the world around them; Sarah Bernhardt was given the opportunity to expose child labor in a small Canadian town, and there are plenty of unethical things that are prominent in our society today, and all it takes is one person to ‘come clean’ and fix the issue. Today, we have racism, sexism, and mass inequality, and when people become knowledgeable and take charge on an issue, real change can occur and we can cleanse ourselves as a whole. Katharsis can also occur on a personal level, realizing how you can individually impact society and cleanse oneself is an essential aspect in achieving the ‘good life’.


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