The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt Amber Heemskerk

Spatial Experience

Before entering the theatre

While the entrance of the theater was relatively small, the auditorium was much larger than I expected it to be. I was seated near the front, so I was quite close to the stage. The physical setting of the theater made it easy to forget where you were. The dim lighting and large amount of people in the space provided a much different atmosphere than other parts of the Reitz. Once the lights dimmed completely and the snow began to fall on the stage, the audience silenced and the atmosphere changed again. The physical environment of a space can greatly affect the atmosphere and general mood of the people, therefore playing a role in the Good Life.

Social Experience

Before the performance began, I spoke with others both outside of the auditorium and inside. Speaking with the strangers I sat next to in the auditorium, I was able to learn about their expectations for the play and compare them to my own. We all expected to be entertained, but I expected the play to be more like a drama while others expected it to be more comedic. During the intermission, we discussed our feelings on what we saw so far. Talking to others about my experience and listening to what others had to say helped me to understand the play from other points of view and gain deeper understanding into the meaning of the play. This shared experience helped me to better understand other's ideas on the play while solidifying my own, which is a main component to reaching the Good Life.

Cultural and intellectual experience

The story takes place in a very stratified society. Sarah Bernhardt and those who could afford to attend her plays lived a very different lifestyle than those who worked in the dangerous factories alongside their young children. The play focused on ethical issues -- child labor, poverty, and shame of victimization. Child Labor was a huge issue during this time as the country became more industrialized. As a result, many children faced extreme working conditions and were harmed, or even killed. The play also exposed the extent to which victims are shamed and forced to remain silent after experiencing assault or trauma, especially within the Church.

Emotional Experience

The play, specifically the second half, provides an great opportunity for katharsis. The weight of the ethical problems that presented in the play are truly revealed in the second half, when Tobalt's younger brother dies in the factory and Tobalt admit his history of sexual abuse. Michaud felt the burden of all the other characters and underwent a visible transformation. The feelings that the audience experiences are embodied through Michaud, as he struggles with how to deal with all the sadness and problems he sees.


"Project Details." Foresight Construction Group,

"The Divine: A Play For Sarah Bernhardt." School of Performing Arts, Virginia Tech, 2014,

Cooper, David. The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt holds harrowing moments but doesn't quite jell: review, The Star, 25 June, 2015,

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Amber Heemskerk

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