The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt Spark story by Melissa Gurney

IUF1000 Good Life. Spring 2017. Capaldo. Ayers (094H).

The Spacial Experience

While everyone was waiting for the doors to open and for their friends to join them, the crowds waited outside the theater in the brightly-light and open surroundings of the Reitz Union. Once it was almost time for the play to start, people funneled into the lobby of the theater to make a line at the theater doors. The lobby was not as bright as the Reitz Union but it was not as dim as the theater. Once crossing over the threshold to enter the theater, I was welcomed by the dim lighting and noisy chatter as the crowd was directed to their seats. My seat was in the left part of middle section towards the back. I enjoyed my location. I saw the full stage and all of the scenes that happened off stage or in the audience. The mass of the crowd talking and then becoming silent as the lights darkened gave an overwhelming feeling of the arts and theater because everyone came to enjoy the same production. Spacial place is important to the "Good Life." In order to experience a "Good Life," you have to be happy with where you are first.

The Social Experience

(Left) Karan Aulakh and I before the performance. (Right) Aubree Stillman and I after the performance. (Written permission granted)

I took the time to get ready for the performance because I like to look nice when going to the theater. I first met up with my friend that I sat with during the performance. Besides socially talking, we also discussed the stage and what we thought of the program. After the performance, I met up with my other friend and we discussed what we thought of the play. We also took a picture with the cast. Attending the performance with friends made the experience more enjoyable. I am a very social person and enjoy sharing experiences with others. Social experiences with friends are the highlights of my personal "Good Life."

The Cultural and Intellectual Experience

Photo with cast. (Written permission granted from Aubree Stillman and Samantha Micallef)

The performance helped me see the many aspects of the problems that were prominently in our society at the turn of the 20th century and in a way that presented them all at once. While these problems still exist, the fullest and possibly the most extreme cases occurred during this time period. There were many large issues addressed in the performance such as child labor, societal classes, and sexual abuse by priests. I knew a majority of the information relating to these issues but I had never seen them presented all at once or performed live. It is in this way that the performance changed my views on this. While the subject matter is not related directly to my life, it does have a lasting affect of its effects on society and the performance of it was very moving.

The Emotional Experience

The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt expresses katharsis, the Greek word for the process of "coming clean," by addressing all of the previously discussed topics such as child labor, social classes, and sexual abuse by priests in a manner that exposes these issues. The audience is shown the horrible aspects of history and the issues still faced today. Theater publicly presents issues such as these to allow the audience and society to reflect on them. This performance uncovers and reveals multiple important topics through the lives of the characters in this play. During the Talk Back, the actors expressed their devotion to this play and what it meant for them personally. They also discussed the societal impacts that they believe this play has. It was made clear by the end of the performance and Talk Back that this play is emotionally moving, not just to me personally but to the entire cast as well the audience. The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt is not just any play; it is play written to expose not just one issue but multiple important issues and is performed in way that emotionally, culturally, and intellectually changes you.


Melissa Gurney

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