My Theatre Experience Seeing "THE DIVINE: A PLAY FOR SARAH BERNHARDT"

My Spatial Experience: When I entered the building for the Constans Theatre, I was wowed by the beautiful display of whimsical hanging art near the entrance. They looked like butterfly wings shimmering in the light of the entranceway.

Two cool kids leaning against the wall

As I explored the building, in search of the Constans Theatre and the check-in area, I saw these two guys hanging out in the corner. I knew UF had some interesting sculptures around campus, and now I had found my two new favorites!

A picture of a theatre found on Creative Commons

In The Theatre: When I finally entered the theatre, I felt very lucky as we filed in to the seats one by one and I just so happened to get the last seat in the section right in front of the stage! I could practically see up the actors noses. I had never seen any performance from such a close position before! I looked around excitedly, taking in all the new sights. The backdrop of the play was a gorgeous stain glass window and within a few minutes of waiting for the play to start, "snow" began to fall in the backdrop, making it appear even more breath-taking. I tried to soak in all the props I saw on stage, and imagine all the hard work and creativity that went into creating such a beautiful setting.

When the lights dimmed and the play began, a sense of awe fell over the audience as our eyes and ears stepped into this new world being presented to us. The changes in setting throughout the play allowed us to travel from a seminary school, to an old time clothing/shoe factory, to a famous actress's dressing room. To say that the spatial aspect made the experience 100% more believable would be an understatement. It not only made it believable, it truly felt like we were there. In addition to the beautiful stage, the Constans Theatre itself was so large and comfortable, and it allowed me to relax and fully enjoy the experience. Based off of my feelings, I'd say that place does affect how pleasant your experience will be, and therefore impacts the "Good Life". If the performance had taken place in a dingy little theatre, barely held together by nuts and bolts, with hard metal chairs and no air conditioning, I can guarantee I wouldn't have wanted to be there even if the performance was still spectacular.

My friend side-eyeing me.

My Social Experience: I didn't actually have any friends taking the Good Life course, so I ended up going to see this performance on my own! However, knowing that everyone else was there for the same cause made me feel like we were all strangers in the same boat. As everyone buzzed around taking pictures of this and that, I joined them like a fish joining a school of other fish looking for plankton. This made me feel more comfortable taking selfies despite people watching. I think shared experiences help us all connect better and makes us forget for a little bit how different all our lives are. No matter all the different futures we're all pursuing and all the different past experiences we have all had, we were all there on that Tuesday night to watch that play for the Good Life class. It makes the world feel a little less small to experience the same thing together as one, and can make the experience feel even more important.

A rather "cultural looking" piece of art right outside the theater.

My Cultural Experience: This play, while deeply moving and entertaining, also vividly portrayed an era of corruption in both the Catholic church and in the factories of the early 1900's. This piece addressed the sexual abuse of young men in the holiest of institutions by the holiest of men, the priests, and how the church would take extreme measures to cover up any instances of this in order to preserve its reputation. It also addressed the use and abuse of children in factories at this time, when women and children were the primary labor force as husbands and fathers went off to war. Sad instances of mechanical "accidents" where precious children's lives were lost happened a lot during this time, as is portrayed in this play. In addition, the play touched on the changing of values in the upper class of this time. Scandalous celebrities and newspaper headlines were beginning to appeal to more people, and Sarah Bernhardt is used to demonstrate this aspect of history with her controversial but widely popular plays.

While I learned about all of this in U.S. History class in high school, this play brought the emotions of the people living during this era alive! It allowed me to more deeply understand the way in which these issues impacted people of all socioeconomic statuses. The characters in the story came from all different backgrounds and economic situations, and yet the corruption of the day impacted all of their lives. The play taught me more than history books ever could about what actually took place during this tragic time. The subject matter also made me reflect on the corruption in politics in our own time. There are people in our government, powerful people, that will do anything to hide their scandals, just like the powerful people in the Catholic Church. This play had a central theme of truth - uncovering it, exposing it, and then putting it into the art form - and it made me wish we had more truth in our society. But as the play displayed... Corruption will always exist, we just need good journalists to expose it so that justice can be served.

Me, being as dramatic as Sarah Bernhardt

My Emotional Experience: This play provided us a means to feel the misplaced guilt of a rape victim, the anger of a censored artist, the crushing weight on the shoulders of a writer dealing with a moral dilemma, the rebellious fire of a human rights activist, and the grief of a mourning mother. We felt disgust for the selfish souls who would sell people's lives for a pair of cheap shoes, and then felt even more disgust because we realized those souls are us consumers. We felt repulsed by the way information was hidden away and tragic stories overlooked by the masses, and then left the theater and mindlessly scrolled through a Facebook feed full of tragic stories. The sad magic of Katharsis is that we can see and feel a wide range of emotion for humanity and society as we sit and watch it unfold in front of us in the form of a play, but then those feelings dull when we are exposed to it in real life. Plays like this at least allow us to look at society in a more thoughtful way, and realize they every person has a story, and if you just put a spotlight on them, anyone can become a main character, capturing the heart of its audience.

Credits:

Created with images by gosheshe - "curtain" • kaykaybarrie - "Factory Theatre"

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