The Divine A Play for Sarah Bernhardt

By: Natalia Braga

Me, Natalia Braga, in front of the Theatre before the show

The Spacial Experience

Walking into the Reitz Union, I assumed the theatre would be very modern like the rest of the building. Everyone pooled around the entrance of the Constans theatre taking pictures as we waited until 7:30 for the show to officially start. I stood in front of the Constans theatre and snapped a picture as well to begin my experience with the play. My friends and I wanted good seats because personally, sitting in the back squinting is not my idea of an enjoyable experience. We chose to sit in the front row of the back section. Our seats were elevated above the seats in the orchestra section, yet we were also close enough to see the entire stage. Considering I had no idea what to expect from the show, I thought the seats we chose were a far enough distance from the actors. To my surprise, the actress playing Sarah Bernhardt would have narratives or long metaphorical explanations which she would recite while walking amongst the crowd. My seat was right in this aisle to the point where if I wanted to I could have touched her. (I had no desire to touch her). I really enjoyed this because it was intimate and inclusive. The audience then became an important component of the play. My seat in the theatre most definitely contributed to a positive experience. Regarding the actual play, the set design was so enchanting. I loved the dynamic and the angles which they created. Everything was very symmetrical. The symmetry of the set emphasized the outliers. For example, Sarah arrived to the clothing company where Ms. Talbot and her youngest son worked. The symmetry of the set showed the place was dirty, grimy, and unkempt. Suddenly, Sarah Bernhardt arrives wearing a pure white and expensive dress. It contrasted so heavily with the set because Sarah emulated wealth in the midst of the working class. The set was truly fantastic. Observing the set unfold before my eyes also contributed to a positive experience in the theatre. The spacial experience is important for the Good Life because it demonstrates how people react to their environments. An environment and its intricacies can truly devastate an experience if things don't necessarily fit. In my case, the theatre, my seat, and the set augmented my enjoyment. Whereas for those people sitting in the back right corner, the environment may have hindered their ability to enjoy the show.

The line of strangers entering the show before me

The Social Experience

Whom you attend a play with has an effect on the overall experience. Fortunately, I went with people who were also anticipating the show. If I had gone with people who were actively complaining about the show, I would have been disdained to watch the show in the first place. Thankfully, that was not the case. I went with two friends; we all met up beforehand and talked about how we were genuinely looking forward to the performance. This performance was 3 hours long; the least we could do was be excited for it. During intermission, we shared our thoughts and ideas. I really enjoyed the show while they were a little confused. They both asked me to summarize the first act and my interpretation of the plot. Explaining the plot also aided my own comprehension of the summary, so I was thankful they had asked me since they were unsure of the details. The second act was much more exciting for them. After it ended, we talked about the entire show, and I was glad to hear that the second act really made a lasting impression on them. Sharing experiences is important to me because we all have distinct perspectives; however, no perspective is more correct than the other. Regardless of whether or not we enjoyed the play, we all left with a deep understanding of the show that impacted us on individual and interesting ways. The Good Life I think is possible with various perspectives. We want to understand the world in diverse ways. Sharing experiences with others provides this diversity.

Constans Theatre

The Cultural & Intellectual Experience

My favorite part about the play was the fact that it confronted a lot of issues. The play addressed issues in a different time era, yet also issues that still haven't been resolved today. One of the major issues was the indecency of child labor. The play showed us the unfortunate truth about child labor in the past. Although it was wrong, some families felt it was necessary considering their financial circumstances. Then after the youngest brother dies, we are shown how devastating child labor truly could be, for a child dying at work wasn't an uncommon occurrence. The play educates us about the history during industrial time periods. In general, we also learn about the world of the laborer. Although in our society we no longer have issues with child labor or terrible working conditions, other nations still face these issues. The performance highlighted labor and capitalism in our history and culture. In conjunction, it talked about the Catholic Church and how historically, they were able to blanket crimes against young boys. Talbot was raped by a pastor, and we were showed harsh reality since the Catholic Church made an active effort to cover up the truth. The Catholic Church is notorious for these allegations. Although people don't want to know what happens in real life if it isn't pleasant, we are shown what actually happens and how frequently it happens. The central issue in the play is whether or not someone can reveal another man's story in the name of justice. Does someone have the authority to act for morality and justice if it involves another man's life and reputation? Bouchard, knowing Talbot was a victim of rape, attempts to convince Talbot to confess he was raped. Talbot chooses to stay silent. Regardless, Bouchard acted otherwise and notified the police. I learned that people make decisions subjectively, and that is okay. The Good Life is incredibly subjective. With cultural and intellectual awareness we can understand perspective. An open-minded person can appreciate perspective and the sharing of ideas. To me, the Good Life is only achieved if we are pliable enough to incoming knowledge and experience.

After the show

The Emotional Experience

The Divine was a play about a play. At first, I couldn't grasp the concept that this play was about itself. After watching the performance, I realized this concept was what made it so perfect. For 3 hours, I had the opportunity to experience the past, present, and future; it was really interesting to me. In the performance, they mention how theatre is an art that plays a major role in revealing social injustices. The theatre can be a reflection of reality. Reality is not always great; art emphasizes this. In the show, the actress, Sarah Bernhardt, refused to stop performing, for she thought the theatre addressed issues in society that were controversial yet still occurring. Its human proclivity to ignore problems when they are seemingly to burdensome to deal with. Its human proclivity to push away hardships. The theatre acts as a mirror. It confronts you with truth and forces you to listen. At the end of the day, avoiding a situation does not make it go away. Art shows us that things that are politically polarizing, socially discomforting, or disgustingly controversial exist. No matter how hard we try, these issues cannot go away simply by disregarding their very existence. We need to solve problems, but the first step is to accept that there may be problems that need to be solved. During the talk afterwards, the actors said that we live in a society filled with problems, yet fortunately, we live in a world where we can reflect on our actions and act accordingly. Thereafter, they mentioned how protesting or expressing your opinion in a peaceful way shows how activist we can be. Change is good and admirable and as people with conviction, passion, and purpose, the theatre and our actions speak volumes about our values. We come clean with art because it surfaces issues we need to overcome.


Created with images by kaykaybarrie - "Factory Theatre" Images were taken by Natalia Braga

Made with Adobe Slate

Make your words and images move.

Get Slate

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.