The Divine A Play for Sarah Bernhardt

A selfie in front of the Contans Theater Art before the play

The Spatial Experience

I have to be honest, I forgot about the performance. I was at the gym from 6pm to 7pm when my phone reminded me to go see the play. I then raced to my car, drove to campus, parked as close as I could to the theater, and ran (actually ran) to the theater, which was about 0.7 miles from my car. And on this 45 degree Tuesday night I was in a tank top and shorts. So that was my journey.

Entering the theater, I met a guy who looked just as confused as I was. Which is how we ended up sitting next to each other. It so happens that we got there at the time that they were seating the best seats in the house: the center seats positioned in the middle-upper area of the audience, where the sound waves from the walls/speakers perfectly converge. I would like to add that if I had remembered to come to the play earlier, I would not have achieved such seats. The size of the theater was small enough for me to have the perfect view and the perfect audio. When the lights dimmed, I was anxious to see what I needed to listen for, and what I needed to write about. Place is very important to The Good Life. In my mind it is closely related to time and ultimately, destiny. In the right place, you are surrounded by opportunities and people that could change your life forever. I felt that night, that I was in the right place at the right time.

Social interactions from an outside perspective.

The Social Experience

Aside from the guy I met in the lobby (whose name I do not recall), I went to the performance by myself. I guess you could say I prepared for it by not preparing at all. I would have invited someone else to go with me, if I had remembered to go in the first place. But the lobby guy was good enough. He was nice, older than me, and needed help finding the theater. When waiting for the play to start, we talked about what it might be about, and the words "Sarah Bernhardt fan fiction" was mentioned, which turned out to be kind of true. I'm glad I got a chance to contemplate the play and question it's content with someone, because those thoughts would not have crossed my mind if I had been alone. When trying to reach The Good Life, you need people to let you see things you would've never seen. At intermission, my new friend did not return to his seat. I don't blame him because it was absolutely freezing in the theater. But, watching the play next to an empty seat was not the same as watching it with a companion.

The play program for The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt

The Cultural and Intellectual Experience

I skimmed over the information in the program, not fully comprehending it. I knew Sarah Bernhardt was a famous actress, and that's about it. I quickly learned that even though she is the center of attention, she wasn't the problem. A poor, sullen young man named Talbot arrives at his first day in seminary school to meet a theatre-loving, enthusiastic man named Michaud. The two men where complete opposites, in wealth, attitude, and demeanor. Coincidentally, Sarah Bernhardt has just arrived in town and every man, woman, and child is talking about her. When Michaud and Talbot finally meet her, Michaud is dramatically overreacting to her presence, and I think, as I always do about famous people, that she is just another human being. Sarah proved this by never being satisfied with what she had. Sure, she's a great person with good intentions, but even with the wealth, talent, and fame that she had been blessed with, she still wanted more. This was a huge contrast with the Talbot's family's situation. His mother and kid brother worked in a shoe factory, and after the Church forbids Sarah from performing her play, she pays the factory a visit. On this visit, she realizes the reality of the lower class people. These perspectives on the rich and the poor emphasized that happiness does not come with money. Although Talbot seems to struggle with his happiness, Michaud found his calling: play writing. Sarah's happiness comes from theater, and as she argues, "theatre reveals turpitude and excesses," meaning real emotions and troubles should not be forbidden, they should be experienced and understood. This is a concept I had never related to theater. I've been to over fifty plays in my life time, but I had never considered Sarah's perspective on their purpose. The irony of this play was that the church forbid Sarah's play of "the praises of adulterous love" when in fact, the church was the source of unspeakable, adulterous actions. As for me, this is why I do not belong to a religious institution. The people who claim to be pure sometimes turn out to be the most destructive beings.

Talbot pleading with a stern-faced priest

The Emotional Experience

"Katharsis" or coming clean, reminds me of the TV show "Family Guy". I know it sounds strange, but if you've ever seen it, it makes fun of people-- mostly Americans. Just like "Family Guy", The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt holds up a mirror to the audience, forcing the people to take a look at themselves. Throughout the play, I kept asking myself questions. "Will I ever be completely satisfied?", "Do I truly know what it's like to have no wealth?", and "Do I follow the advice that I give others?". The unanimous, "coming clean" answer is no. Seeing hypocrisy, irony, and foolishness from an outside perspective allowed me, and hopefully others, to see the imperfection of the world and it's people.

As a small side note, I got back to my car and I had a flat tire. Take that how you may, but to me, that is a sign of something...

"The Thinker" is a visual representation of me during the play



Created with images by Dieter_G - "curtain stage theater" • crystal710 - "international conference forum conference" • _Fidelio_ - "The Thinker."

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