A Review of "The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt" by: Kelly Aaronson

Kelly at Constans Theater at the University of Florida


I am a dance minor student, so I am very familiar with the area around Constans Theater. The little lobby outside the theater and the Reitz Union are like a second home to me, since I spend almost all of my free time on campus hanging out around the artwork to listen to music or work on homework. The lobby is a very quiet, secluded space on campus with the exception of the friendly arts students walking around throughout the day. The Constans Theater is incredibly gorgeous inside, with comfortable seats and a very theatrical setting. I really love the size of the theater because it's not overwhelmingly large, so everyone in the audience can get the full effect of the show and hear/see everything well, even if they're in the back. My seat location was on the right side of the center aisles towards the back, which was nice because it was close to the entrance and allowed me to get a good view of the actress playing Sarah Bernhardt when she came out for one of her monologues. As someone who loves theater, when the lights dimmed and the audience grew quiet, I immediately got very excited. I especially loved how they began the play with a swarm of actors running out into the audience, getting us excited for the show. The role of place in the Good Life is very important because you have to be happy where you live in order to be happy yourself. Living a good life has a lot to do with where you are, for example, I've grown up in Florida my whole life and I know that I will never truly experience my own version of a good life if I stay here because I don't like the heat, beach, and just overall prefer the colder weather. Being comfortable in your location is a major factor in finding where you truly belong.

Kelly and Elizabeth at The Divine


My experience watching The Divine was absolutely incredible specifically because I shared it with my friends who are the in theater program at the University of Florida. Since they have always been involved in the arts, they know how to act in a theater- no talking, no phones, and general respect for the actors and other members of the audience. My friend Noah, a lighting design student who actually worked on the lighting of the play, sat next to me and helped me view the play from a whole new perspective to appreciate the differences in light, costumes, and special effects. My friend Elizabeth, a theater major, pointed out the passion and talent of each actor, and explained to me how hard it was to memorize that many lines and perform such long monologues with little to no mistakes. I believe that shared experiences are the most important part of having a good life. Without my friends, I would not have been able to appreciate the play for all that it was, and I certainly would not be where I am today without the support and friendship of people I've met over the years. Sharing experiences with others makes them significantly more important, because different people view things in different ways. Of course, solitary experiences are also important, but friends and peers shape who we are, our senses of humor, compassion, dignity, and trust.



The central issues addressed in the performance were child labor in factories, controversy of the arts, and the corruption of the church. The play includes a lot of turmoil and conflicts, including children getting killed by large factory machines, an actress getting shunned by a town because of the church, and a man leaving a seminary because he got molested by a priest. Throughout all of this, an innocent man also studying to become a priest plays the main character- and my own personal favorite character- and learns of the tragedies and corruption of the lower-class world in the early 1900s. I was completely unaware of the corruption in the church before watching this, since I grew up in a very Catholic household and never really discussed the church in a negative aspect. I was aware of the child labor troubles, although The Divine really opened my eyes on how tragic and sad they were. The controversy in the arts will always exist, since the church still views a lot of art as "inappropriate" and "offensive." Although none of this really pertains to my own life, I was definitely surprised at the scenes with the priests in the seminary and it forces me to look differently upon my own religion.



Watching this play sparked a lot of emotions in me- sadness for not being able to help those in the early 1900s, pain for realizing how terrible the times were, guilt for living such a privileged life. Katharsis is the Greek word for process of “coming clean.” The Divine gives us an opportunity for katharsis because it forces us to watch those less fortunate than us, living in a time where the justice system is corrupt and instead of fighting for what people believe in, they are forced to hold it in and pray for times to get better. In the play, a child passing away because of factory conditions is just another day- it's sad, but people force themselves to continue living life and deal with it because that's the reality of the time. Now, if a child was killed in a factory, or even working in a factory in the United States, it would be all over the news and thousands of people would be fighting against it. We are living in a more fair and just world now than ever before, but watching the play, watching another time period for 3 hours on a Friday night forces us to experience a completely different time that may put us in a lot of discomfort. I was uncomfortable sitting there, as someone who is devoted to their church, watching an account of religious corruption. But it forced me outside of my comfort zone and made me a more well-rounded, knowledgeable, sympathetic person.

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