The Divine by wilson erickson

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A different perspective of the theater from a friend (permission given by Nikita Kostrubsky)

The Spatial Experience

I was initially excited about the play. Before even entering the building, I walked up a sloping ramp towards the entrance as Lydia and I discussed what the play might be about. Entering the theater itself added to the sense of excitement. The theater was buzzing but enough seats were available that we got seats near the front and in the very center. While the theater itself has a great deal of seating, our closeness really embedded us in the action. Observing the stage's initial set design added to my curiosity, and the slow dimming of the lights gave me a final boost of anticipation; I wanted to see if the play lived up to the positive reviews I'd heard. In the Good Life as a whole, place can be critical in a variety of ways. In this instance, place shaped perspective. By being closer to the action, I saw the details of the set and the intricacies of the actors' emotions more clearly; in my opinion, this probably heightened the quality of my experience. However, as the above picture (taken by my friend Nikita Kostrubsky) shows, perhaps a more distant seat would've allowed me to get a better understanding of the bigger picture, as I couldn't always see all the actors at once. With different perspectives, we get different understandings of events.

My partner in crime, Lydia Conrad, and I before entering

The Social Experience

I went to the play with my friend and classmate, Lydia Conrad (who has given written permission to use her image and her photos). We got dinner together, glossed over some reviews of the play, and made some patchy guesswork about the exact subject matter of the play based on its title. We sat together at the play and were able to share in annoyance at the people who whispered throughout the play behind us. We were also able to discuss our thoughts and interpretations of the play during intermission at the end. I enjoyed the play more than Lydia, but I enjoyed the opportunity to hear her opinions. She and I agreed on certain good qualities of the play (we both particularly enjoyed the performances of the two leads), but she also made some good points about the plot that I hadn't considered. This different perspective led me to consider the play's overall worth and meaning more, and increased the depth and quality of my experience. In this instance and in other aspects of the Good Life, sharing an experience with someone leads me to consider differing perspectives and opinions. It also leads me to synthesize and consider my own thoughts more, as I have to draw my own conclusions so as to present my own interpretation to others. A diversity of opinions improves the depths of an experience, and being able to share in enjoyment is always more fun and thought-provoking.

A promotional poster from the UF College of the Arts Website

The Cultural and Intellectual Experience

As the above promotional poster details, this is a play about 1905 Canada that has been translated from its original text and adapted into its form that I saw by our directory, David Young. This involves a string of slightly varying interpretations, meaning that the original vision has been slightly obscured, potentially opening the door for slight cultural adjustments more in line with modern American culture. The story itself is timeless, and falls in line with many issues society faces today. Of course, child labor is no longer widespread in the Western world, but poverty is still present in some areas, and there is still a definitive issue of pedophilia scandal within the Catholic church. To prove the relevance of the latter, the Oscar winner for Best Picture just last year was Spotlight, a portrayal of the real-life contemporary events unraveling a story of sexual scandal within the church that was covered up by clergymen. The play revolves around a series of conflicts, primarily Talbot's struggle to move on from his past and establish a successful future for himself and his family. In a series of intertwined storylines, the themes of authenticity and justice are focused on. I chose to learn no more about the play beforehand than the title itself, which only told me that the play would likely have something to do with religion and/or spirituality. The poignant performances by the young actors portraying Michaud and Talbot helped the horror of Talbot's past resonate with me in a more emotional way than simply reading about abuse would have. Coming to enjoy Talbot's young brother only to have him die tragically also led to an emotional moment of understanding the hardship faced by many impoverished families that still live similarly around the world. I've been lucky enough to not face any such hardship in my life, but to see Talbot's determination to make a better life for himself and his family likely resonates with any college student, including myself.

My goofy-faced satisfaction after the play (photo taken by Lydia Conrad)

The Emotional Experience

Every character in the play has, to one degree or another, flaws. Many characters demonstrate blatant hypocrisy, which only serves to highlight their flaws. However, by the end, a degree of closure helps to provide ample "katharsis". The guilty priest, after years of administering abuse, confesses to his crimes; finally there is justice. Talbot, after years of struggling with his own bitterness, aggression, and lack of self-control, is able to put his past aside and fully commit to becoming an ordained priest. As Sarah Bernhardt frequently reminds Michaud, it's injustice to conceal the darker sides of life. In order to move forward, such atrocities must not be skimmed over due to discomfort or shame. Michaud starts off all too excited about learning about hardship, and what he finds shakes him to his core. Tough times aren't romantic or heroic, and everyone has their own issues. One particularly powerful moment included a crowd of people squabbling over what's best for children as Talbot's brother dies horrifically right under their feet. There's no undoing such terrible things, but the characters grow to spot their mistakes and overcome their shortcomings in what ways they can. Each character learns something from one or more of the others.

Credits:

photos by Wilson Erickson, Lydia Conrad, and Nikita Kostrubsky

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