Image from: https://alchetron.com/Sarah-Bernhardt-1176287-W
As my first time in a play produced by people other than high school students, I had no idea what to expect. My TA's reaction to the announcement of The Divine being the Good Life play was positive, so I assumed it would probably be good. I ended up attending the first performance of the year (and in the US!) and loved the play to bits.
The Spatial Experience
Inside the theater, I felt a lot of apprehension at the sight of the stained glass windows in the set. My Catholic background has caused me a lot of grief and problems, so seeing anything associated with it puts me off a little bit.
Sitting up front, I was able to witness everything, from the subtle out-of-character smirk to the spray of spit out of Michaud's actor's lips. It was definitely an immersive experience for me, as the actors walked at an elevated position all around me, looking like demi-gods. Once the lights dimmed, I completely lost my sense of self and became the transparent eye-ball Emerson spoke of in Nature.
The Social Experience
I walked over to the Constanz Theatre with one of my friends, but another good friend ended up joining us there by chance encounter. I felt more comfortable going with friends, as we were able to swap opinions and suspicions during the intermission and through arm-squeezing during the play. Afterwards, talking with them and hanging out for three hours helped me solidify the memory of both the play and the experience as a whole in my memory, making it a significant part of my college experience. I feel like it may not have been as significant if I hadn't enjoyed it with company. Good company definitely enhances experiences in the good life, as it adds meaning to single events through the sharing of perspective and knowledge.
The Cultural and Intellectual Experience
The performance helped remind me that art is one of the most effective forms of attacking injustice, as it persuades the consciousness through beauty rather than force, like religion. I think the efficacy of art, particularly theater as a method to expose injustices was the central theme of the play. The Divine angered me more when it came to how the church's representatives systematically hid the flaws of their system, especially since those flaws still exist today. However, the way Talbot continues to pursue priesthood regardless of his experiences and without wanting to bring light to them continues to baffle me, as it strikes me as a selfish act. I understand that he had a rough life and that being defrocked probably wouldn't have helped his mother... but still. He could have at least approved Michaud's plan to expose the injustice in the form of a play, and asked to keep his identity hidden.
The Emotional Experience
In acknowledging how selfish people are when it comes to sacrificing their comfort for the well-being of others, the play establishes a mode of katharsis and reveals an ugly element of what it means to be human. The way one of Sarah Bernhardt's troop members is more concerned with cheap shoes than with ethical labor, in the same way most of us are concerned with comfort over equity, shows us how selfishness brings about suffering. In Talbot's brother's death, the play gives us an opportunity to see the ways in which conscientiousness can alleviate suffering, and how art can give a voice to injustice. It might have hurt to see him die in such a pitiful way, but his death awoke a new sense of justice in me I had forgotten existed.