The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt By Brian Cerny

The Spatial Experience

After literally running across campus to make it to the theatre before it was too late, I was encapsulated in a modern, nicely finished building with several other students waiting in line to be seated. We were shown the door to the theatre and stepped inside to find a room bigger and dimmer than I had imagined. Unfortunately, we were forced to sit next to the people we walked in with, so I was unable to sit with my friends that I planned on sitting with. It worked out though because I had a few friends in the row behind me that I chatted with as we waited for the play to begin. Sitting on the far left side in the second row next to the exit worked well as far as being able to see, and it also gave me comfort knowing that I would be able to attack someone coming through that door with the intent to harm audience members or flee if they came from behind. With safety, a good view, and friends around me, I settled in with anticipation. When the lights dimmed and the audience quieted I felt as if we were all about to see something amazing. Picky as I am, I did not enjoy the actual play as much as I felt I was supposed to, in light of how much time and effort went into it. I think I enjoyed the spacial experience the most out of any aspect of the night.

The Social Experience

I planned on attending with my friend Ryan, but due to my late arrival and the decision made by the staff to not allow seat saving, I wasn't able to. It is one thing to attend a play for enjoyment, but it is completely different when we are forced to go in order to get points for a class. I didn't want to be there. My friends didn't want to be there. I could sense that this was how upwards of ninety percent of my peers were feeling too. Even the actors hinted at this tension, saying something along the lines of "In theatre, the performers are often assessed based on how well the play was written, or what that play is about." Because this tension was so overwhelmingly apparent and everyone was talking about it, I think we were all able to enjoy the night more. Sitting near some of my friends enhanced my experience because we were able to eliminate the tension in the room by discussing these things, and then move on to talk about how we've been. During the play, it was comforting to have friends around that were going through the same thing I was. Sharing experiences with others is an important aspect of the good life to most people because humans have evolved over thousands of years to work together, setting us apart from other species. Experiencing the play with all the other people in that room who decided to try to make the best of their current situation gave me a sense of unity and comfort that I would not have felt had I been alone.

The Cultural Experience

After seeing how influential the church used to be in so many people's lives, I realized that our society is far more open-minded and accepting than it used to be back in the early 1900’s. The central issue addressed in the performance was the church's power conflict with theatre and famous entertainers. Before attending the performance, I knew little about the extent to which this conflict went. In this day and age, no church in the United States has enough power to forbid a famous actor from coming to town and performing, so I was slightly surprised to see that it was such a big deal to them. I figure it’s because the church used to filter information the general public received. Now, with the creation of internet and social media, the church lost much of its power, and the rich and famous entertainers scooped it up. I predict that the world will keep getting more and more open minded because we are integrating more as a society and spreading new ideas all the time with the use of the internet. The performance helped me realize these things and relate them to my own life. As a young adult who strives to better this world environmentally, I now know that I can say what needs to be said, without the worry of a powerful group like the church silencing me.

The Emotional Experience

The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt offers opportunities for Katharsis, or coming clean in ways involving religion, power, and social pressures and limitations. It sparks ideas about each in the audience members and makes them question certain beliefs they may have. I noticed myself getting angry at the catholic church when they decided to deliver Sarah Bernhardt the letter forbidding her to perform because it showed that they wanted to restrict a form of information to the public. From that point, I began to question who had the power at that time- the church or the entertainers? The play also brought to light the pressures and limitations set on the lower social class with the factory scenes and the dialogue between the rich and fortunate Michaud and the poor and less fortunate Talbot. It did a decent job of prompting the audience to think about these issues for themselves, which is what Katharsis is all about.

Credits:

Created with images by Dominic's pics - "Stars above Queen's Park Pond, Brighton"

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