A Reaction to "The Divine" The Experience of Play-going


This is a Spark Story about my personal experience at The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt. It was a wonderful play and the actors were on par with most of the Broadway actors that I have seen and met. Overall the play itself was thought provoking and very well done. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Spatial Experience

Upon entering the theater, a wave of reverence washed over the crowd bustling to get in. The low roar of the Reitz Union crowd had diminished to the dull whisper of the theater staff and play-goers. It was strange. I was escorted by the theater staff into a seat on stage left and I watched as people filed into the rest of the seats around me. The lights were on but there was an overarching darkness to instill a solemnity into those who were already present in the theater. The room itself was not horribly large but the atmosphere made it seem larger than it actually was. Close conversations seemed distant, and when the lights actually dimmed, it was silent. I felt out of myself. Rather than being busy and talkative and individual, I became what everyone else in the room did. I became an observer.

The Social Experience

During the play, there was no communication or recognized social interactions. I attended the play with a friend that I had known since grade school. She and I did not spend a lot of time together prior so you could say the play was an opportunity for us to see each other again. Before the performance, I had to make sure I looked like I was going to a play and not getting Chomp It at 2 a.m. in my pajamas. Everyone else in the theater was a stranger until after the play when there was a chance for the talk back. Five actors came back on stage and there was a short time for us to interact with them and ask any questions that we had. I personally had nothing to ask, but there was one question that stuck with me and that was about the actors lives. They were all students and had a lot of work on top of the rehearsals and researching their characters. For them, acting was the good life and they chose not to live just one life, but many through the characters they played.

Fiona Reid, who plays the titular character, digs deep to come up with the required passion for The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt. (David Cooper / Toronto Star)

The Cultural and Intellectual Experience

This play was very different from the culture that I live in. It featured a poor family who had to do everything to make it by in life. The play featured a strict criticism on the factory industry and the church in the early 1900's. I was actually very well versed in the matters before I attended the performance and I believed the play had done a good job of introducing and criticizing both issues. It didn't change my opinions about the issues but rather enforced the ideas that were already present. I felt there was a problem with the dramatization of the two issues though. The theater in itself may draw attention to problems, but I believe they do not always do problems justice. The theater normally adds drama to its subjects so the criticism is belittled.

The Emotional Experience

The play in itself did not evoke a major emotional response. The actors were wonderful and amazing but I believe that the age of television has ruined theater for me. I am also not considered an emotional person. I could understand the emotions of the characters in the play, but to me it was simply another show. Katharsis was not something that could have been achieved in my mind. There were preconceived ideas that I had about the problems and therefore, there was nothing exposed that I was not already aware of and capable of talking about with my peers. It was an past setting also so the problems that were presented did not have very much to do with the problems of today. The were dated and therefore there was a limited response from me in regards to emotions.


Cooper, David. Fiona Reid, who plays the titular character, digs deep to come up with the required passion for The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt. Digital image. TheStar.com. Toronto Star, 25 July 2015. Web. 5 Feb. 2017.

Stanic, Ana-Katarina. The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt. Digital image. The Independent Florida Alligator. The Independent Florida Alligator, 25 Jan. 2017. Web. 5 Feb. 2017.

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