The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt Vivek Tolani

The Spatial Experience

When I first got off the bus I expected to see a fancy and grand building labeled The Constans Theater. I thought it would be located in a unique part of campus that I had never been to but I realized that the theater building was located where I walk through almost everyday to catch the bus at the Reitz Union. Before going through the main entrance, I was expecting to see a small stage with the cheap decorations that are made out of paper. However, the statues and posters past the main entrance made me reconsider that the theater should look nice, but it won't set the mood needed for enjoying an act. The moment that I walked in the theatre was when the actual excitement was shown. The stage was set in a way that helped me relate to the setting of the performance. The seats were comfortable to a certain extent that made the audience focused on the act with minimum distractions. The effects on the lights such as the color change were effective in setting the mood for the audience or the reason for dimming the lights was to make the audience blind to their actual surroundings and make it seem as if their present in the play. When the coworkers went on the stage after every act and took all the pieces such as the bed and brought in the actresses's closet assured the audience that the setup for this play was done at a professional level (not a high school level). I enjoy watching good acting so I also had huge expectations when the lights dimmed because I had heard that the UF theatre students act very well. I felt that the auditorium was just the perfect size, because it wasn’t too big or too small. Even though I was in the back I had a perfect view of the stage and all the actors. I believe that place has a big role in the Good Life. At some places I realize that I feel better vibes than in other places, and I believe to live the good life you should be at places where you feel good vibrations and where you are surrounded by people who see the positivity in you.

The Social Experience

Since I wasn't very familiar with the content that the play was based on, I decided to read the brief description that was posted on Canvas. I decided to go along to the theatre with my friends when I found out that they’re also taking The Good Life. We would share ideas and thoughts about the play during the intermission and on our way back home which helped me understand and appreciate the play even more than if I was just watching it alone. I would meet people by laughing and agreeing on the same ideas with strangers sitting alongside me. Being present in the moment with other close ones makes that time memorable. Keeping record of the events that someone spent with their friends strengthens their bonds. Sharing your life and experiences with someone that understands you and respects you, is most people’s good life. They feel safe, secure, and happy around a person or group of people. For example, I believe I live the good life when I am around the Indian community. The Indian community consists of adults and children that my parents met when they all first moved from India. They always helped each other whenever someone needed help, especially since moving from so far away was very difficult for my family. I believe in order to live the good life you need to remember and cherish every moment with your loved ones.

Discussing over the play during the intermission

The Cultural/Intellectual Experience

Michel Marc Bouchard incorporates different themes dealing with religion, art, industry, society, abuse, poverty, gender, censorship, hypocrisy, and child labor in “The Divine”. The time and setting of the story was December 1905 during the very controversial visit of Sarah Bernhardt in Quebec City. The central issue of the play was the use of cheap child laborers in harsh conditions for personal greed and the vast amount of power held by the Church during the 20th century. The church was challenged by Sarah Bernhardt because the Church did not want Sarah to perform her play that dealt with adulterous love and ridicules a man of cloth portrayed as a plotting habitué of Parisian salons. The Church had so much of an influence on society and would maintain power through controlling the press, banning books, and planning ways to escape from any allegations of misconduct. I was not aware of the actress or the writer before I had come to the play. I had heard about the vast amount of power and wealth held by the Catholic Church, but I was not aware of the many controversies and the amount of control the church had on people during the 20th century. I was well aware of the subject of child labor, because I had learned about child labor while visiting India and looking at so many children going to clean people’s homes and sell different items on the street for vendors instead of being in a classroom. The Boss or the factory owner is very similar to the Church as he is a very controversial character and censors his workers from basic human rights. Just like how the church has to hide all their misconducts away from the public, he too has to hide the fact that his workers are extremely miserable from Sarah. The performance enhanced my knowledge about the French actress who is one of the most popular actor in the world, enhanced my knowledge about the Catholic Church and child labor, and also enhanced my knowledge about the battle between the church and the arts and how many topics that were seen as controversial or inappropriate were censored by the very powerful church. The play has a slight resemblance to something that has happened to me personally. I have been fond of the subject of history ever since I took my first history class, however just like how the Church did not appreciate theatre and the arts and chose to censor information that was going against the Church, similarly because the Indian community does not see the value in the subjects of history and the arts my father decided to remove the history channel from my television and censor me of all my favorite historical magazines.

Heading out of the theatre after the play was done

The Emotional Experience

Portraying “topics that are socially uncomfortable” in any random situation can be prohibited in a social manner. In general, theatre is the moment to realize the impurities within us and become cleansed of its existence. Coming clean can also mean to confess something or to realize your mistake and take actions to prevent yourself from making those mistakes again. The moment during the play that hit me the hardest was the moment that the Boss says when a customer wants to buy expensive boots she does not think about where the boots were made, who made the boots, how much the person making the boots got paid or the working condition they were made in. All they care about is getting the lowest price possible for the boots that they want. I realized that whenever I go shopping for anything I completely ignore the fact that I could be supporting an evil employer who does not pay their employees enough, hires children and takes advantage of them, or provides their employees with dangerous working conditions. As a society we need to start changing and becoming more aware of which stores we are buying our groceries and clothing from. We should try to avoid companies that are known for child labor and trying to squeeze their employees and hardly pay them anything. For example, Walmart was accused of trying to alter their employees schedules so they do not have to provide them with certain benefits, and Walmart was also accused of bribing in Mexico which eventually led to being able to build a Walmart near religious and sacred property despite heavy protests by the Mexican people who wanted to protect a cultural site. After being exposed to this play I will listen to business news more carefully to learn more about corporations who are involved in controversial scams, ethical dilemmas, and environmental violations to try to avoid buying their products to prove people wrong who believe that consumers only care about getting the lowest possible price. We as a society should learn from our mistakes and actually take action against these huge corporations that believe they have all the power and can commit such huge atrocities and get away with it. Corporations will only change when they face a loss, so the real power actually rests with people because they can decide where to buy their groceries and items. Businesses should also learn that destroying the environment, putting employees lives in risk, and not being able to provide their employees with a sufficient amount to support their families is not worth the extra profit.

Credits

Getting written consent

Citations

Constans Theatre. 2004. Constans Theater, Gainesville. Constans Theatre at the University of Florida. 22 Jan 2017.Web

"Go to Bing Homepage." Theatre - Bing Images. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Feb. 2017

Tolani, Vivek. Vivek, Antony, and Joseph 2017. Constans Theater Gainesville 22 Jan 2017

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Vivek Tolani
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