Experiencing The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt By: James Donnarumma

My Spatial Experience: When entering the Constans Theatre I had no idea of what to expect. I had been to only one smaller theatrical performance since attending the University of Florida so I did not know what a large scale performance would be like. The Constans Theatre felt four times larger than the smaller theatre I had been to last semester. When entering with some of my friends I was struck by the stage design instantly. It was simple in terms of props, just beds and desks. However, the windows and lighting were beautiful and it illuminated the stage. As I walked and was guided to my seat I noticed how many individuals were for the play. Even though I was seated on the right side of the theatre in the back, I had a good view of everything. As the lights dimmed I was immediately immersed by the theatrical performance as the audience became silent and the actors walked on stage. I felt that the large size of the theatre made the whole play even more of a spectacle. I feel place has a large role in the Good Life as where you are really affects your perspective of the events going on before you. If there were some external factors, such as a smaller theatre or a seat too far back where I wouldn’t able to see, my impression of the play would have been negatively affected.

My Social Experience: Going with a couple of my friends I was able to enjoy myself much more than if I went alone. While not all of us were seated in the same row, I had a good experience meeting some new people. No one was disrespectful during the play which allowed me to be immersed in the theatrical performance. All members of the audience were mentally and emotionally invested in the same experience, which I thought was awesome. Attending the performance with Trey, Johnny, and James allowed me to have people to discuss some of the themes of the play during intermission and after the curtain fell. It was really enjoyable to debate about certain aspects of the play, such as Sarah’s character motivations, the irony of Leo’s death, and how Talbot transformed into a younger Brother Casgrain. Shared experiences allow for individuals to further their own perspective through others’ opinions, much like the analogy of multiple people standing around a single statue.

My Cultural and Intellectual Experience: Coming from a heavily religious background, seeing a horrible side of Catholicism was hard for me at first. While I was aware of the abuse children had suffered from being molested, I did not understand how heavy the repercussions of those actions could be. Talbot and Brother Casgrain characters had suffered for years without anyone being able to help them. Those characters brought to my attention a past my culture has, one that I am not proud of, but it is a part of my religion. Being located in Canada in the twentieth century, I felt as some of the themes, such as class and social injustice, still has applications to our world in regards our social structure and how people are discriminated against. The central issue addressed in the performance was the Catholic Church and its control and manipulation of the people. I knew a lot about the Church but I had no idea of its censorship of the arts. The Divine really opened my eyes to the pain people had gone through and made me sympathize with them on a higher level. It made me evaluate the Church’s control of my life and if I was really in control of my own decisions. It also brought to my attention the importance of class and financial standing.

My Emotional Experience: The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt made me uncomfortable at times. When Talbot revealed the true reason for why he struck the priest, the whole audience grew silent and an awkward aura filled the theatre. In addition, Brother Casgrain’s pain drew from the same source as Talbot’s. The thought of having to suffer every night and not being able to fight back made me very upset, especially since this crime was committed by the Church. It made me think about some of my own personal struggles and how relatable Talbot was in the beginning of the play. He was forced into doing something he did not believe in fully and was raped night after night for five years, yet he stayed because he wanted to help his poor family. I felt sorry for most characters in this play, but mostly for Leo and Talbot. Leo dies unjustly and Talbot accepts the truth the Church accepts. I was able, however, to reach Katharsis when I related to Talbot and thought about some of the things I hid. I realized my struggles were not as hard as his, but I was thankful for who I was and knew that I would have worked towards justice instead of accepting a false truth. I would have walked the path Michaud walked and follow my heart instead of being forced into the status quo as I felt that led him to feel both satisfaction and pride.

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