The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt By: Emily Watts

The Spatial Experience

As we entered the double doors, the whole auditorium was dully lit. The stage was brightly illuminated compared than the rest of the room which drew the audience’s attention towards it. There was a quite buzzing of the eager audience waiting for the show to start. When the lights began to dim, the whole audience hushed and all eyes went towards the stage. That is when everything else outside of the auditorium no longer mattered and the only thing on everyone's mind was the stage and the actors emerging. they immediately captured all of our attention in a matter of seconds. My friends and I sat in the middle of the auditorium about a third of the way up. I personally think we got very good seats because we were far enough from the stage to see the whole set, yet close enough to see the actors faces and the emotions they wanted to convey. As far as the size of the auditorium, it was definitely on the small size but it made it have a cozier feel. Another benefit to the smaller size of the auditorium is that audience felt more involved in the play as opposed to a large auditorium where we would have felt distanced and disconnected. I believe that the place plays a very important role in the Good Life because if we are in a setting that is too distracting we can't be fully immersed, or if we are in a place that is too sterile the experience won't be genuine. In order to have get the most from our experiences, the spatial experience must be more than what is physically in the room with us; it is also the noises, the light, the societal pressures, the others in the room, and much more. We must be comfortable in the place that we are in to fully experience the Good Life.

The Social Experience

I attended the play with a group of friends. One group of us met at a dorm and walked over to the Reitz Union together where we met up with the rest of our group. It was nice to have gone with such a large group because we had people to take pictures with and people to take pictures of us. Attending the play with friends was enjoyable and made going to this event seem more like a friendly outing than a school assignment. I was looking forward to doing this assignment for class as opposed to the reluctance I normally feel while completing assignments. Another benefit of going to the play with people was that I had people to answer my questions when I was confused and I had people to discuss the play with afterwards. Perhaps the best part in going to the play with friends is that it allowed for the exchange of opinions, which I believe is vital to any intellectual experience. Everyone experiences things differently, so it was informative to hear others' perspectives on the play. I think the company you have really influences how you experience the Good Life. If I would have attended this play alone, I would be missing out on other peoples' reactions to the play and I probably wouldn't have enjoyed going to the play that much. However, not everyone is like me. There are people who would rather experience things on their own, which is completely understandable. You don't necessarily have to share every experience with someone. There are certain experiences that you need to have alone to fully appreciate the Good Life.

The Cultural and Intellectual Experience

During the Talk Back at the end of the play an audience member brought up how the stage can be used to bring societal problems into the light, and how it can be a medium in which social issues can be addressed. That audience member was right; that is exactly what this play did. This play shed light on the poor factory working conditions, child labor law issues, and religion's role in society during the early 1900's. Before watching this play, I was somewhat aware of the dangerous working conditions in the factories and the factory owners evading the child labor laws, but I did not realize just how influential the Catholic Church was and how the church tried to control the popular culture and the performing arts. There are some similar issues addressed in this play, set in the 1900's that apply to issues today, over 100 years later. During the Talk Back a gentleman in the audience pointed out how both the Catholic Church and the factory owner thought that what they were doing was for the best. The same could be said for today's presidency. Trump has to believe that what he is doing, by restricting who can enter the United States, is right. There are going to be a bunch of people who suffer from his decisions, much like how the women and children in the factories suffered, but he believes that what he is doing is for the better.

The Emotional Experience

The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt allows for "katharsis", or allows us to "come clean" as it highlights the major differences between the wealthy and the poor. The play points out how little the wealthy knew about the life and the hardships of the impoverished, as seen when Michaud visits the shoe factory. Another aspect of the 1900's society that this play "comes clean" about is what the factory owners would do in order to keep making money. The factory owners were consciously putting the women and children who work at the factory's lives in danger. In this play, two young girls died in the factory and yet the owners did not change anything. They actually hid the child workers all day just to evade being caught. Perhaps the largest thing this play "comes clean" about in this play is how plays were not only used for not only entertaining the rich, as Talbot believed, but also to show the true issues in society and teaches people of these issues. Sarah Bernhardt explains raises awareness by educating the audience, even though they may not realize it. They are being exposed to social conflicts that they would not have otherwise noticed. This is not only something that happened in the early 20th century, as it still happens in today's films and plays.

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Emily Watts
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