The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt Good life experience by laurel duggan

Constans theater before the play began.

The Spatial Experience: The auditorium was large and dark, and filled with a serious atmosphere. I sat on the far right side around the middle, so I could see well but was not too close to the stage. This allowed me to watch the play from a literal and figurative distance, not exactly immersed into the moments of audience involvement. As far as auditoriums go, this one was small, making the experience more intimate. When the lights dimmed right before the play began, I felt anticipation and found myself wondering about the details of the play I was about to enjoy. The theater is a place not only of entertainment but also a place to learn and grow while sharing experiences with others.

My friends walking ahead of me while leaving Constans Theatre.

The Social Experience: I attended the play with two of my close friends who are also taking The Good Life. Before the play, we got ready together and went out for dinner. Having shared experiences between the three of us enriched the play because we were able to give each other quick glances when a portion of the play obviously pertained to our own lives. For example, when Sarah Bernhardt was dramatically struggling to find the perfect shoes, I glanced over at my friend who I live with, who has a similar experience several times a week. Since the majority of the audience there were also freshmen at UF, there was a sort of unspoken bond among us as we laughed and as the play became more serious. When the play was over, my friends and I discussed the meaning of the play at length and tried to determine which takeaways were the most important--the power of art as an agent of social change, the struggle of the working class, or the corruption within organized religion.

Photo provided by Adobe Spark.

The Cultural and Intellectual Experience: The storyline revolved around the corrupt and politically powerful catholic church's hold on Quebec City, as well as the deplorable labor conditions for the working class. The storyline is a lense through which the writer displayed the play's central theme: the power of art, specifically theater, as a means of creating social change for the better. The history of abuse of laborers is familiar to me through history classes and through the books I have read, but their struggles are something I struggled to understand on a human level before seeing this play. The labor conditions shown in the play reminded me of the very real and current problem of child labor in third world countries, which is not only physically grueling but often actively prevents children from getting an education which would allow them to build better lives for themselves. In this way, theater allows us to empathize with people we do not know by showing us imitations of their lives as if they were happening right before our eyes.

Photo provided by Adobe Spark.

The Emotional Experience: The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt was an opportunity for catharsis in that it presented many human and societal flaws in plain sight for investigation. The audience saw a corrupt church that controlled an entire city, and were compelled to examine the meaningful influences in the own lives--be that religion or government or something else entirely. The focus on abusive labor organizations forced the audience to confront our moral involvement in the money we spend in support of child labor overseas. The scene where the theater stars, the progressive elites of their generation, sat above the hole the young boy was working in and discussed the corruption of child labor as a child died, trapped beneath their seats, was especially poignant. These difficult topics challenged the audience to evaluate our moral and ethical standards.

Credits:

Created with images by MissWatson - "cathedral church architecture" • cr03 - "Theatre" • MCAD Library - "Hamlet / Sarah Bernhardt"

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