The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt IUF 1000 - Good Life Performance

Introduction

Within the script of Michel Bouchard's The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt are controversial topics that can be related to the search for the Good Life. Every character within the play is on their own journey towards the Good Life, although some of their paths are far different than the others. During the two hours of stage time, I endured impactful emotions through the spacial, social, cultural and intellectual, and emotional experiences of the play.

The Spatial Experience

Excitedly awaiting to watch "The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt."

The environment of a situation greatly contributes to the overall experience, and I can honestly say that the Constans Theatre created a magnificent atmosphere for January 25th's performance of The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt.

Upon entering the auditorium, I was taken aback by the quaintness of the room. I have attended multiple plays before including productions put on by my high school and a few Broadway performances, but the Constans Theatre has by-far been the smallest auditorium I've ever been in. I thought that the quaint size really contributed to the audience's connection to the play. I also felt more involved and enthralled in The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt due to my seating location which was in the first row of the second section of seats. There was a walkway between my seat and the front section of seats on which multiple actors/actresses walked across during the play, bringing the performance into the crowd.

When the lights had finally begun to dim, a wave of silence washed over the audience. Feelings of excitement and curiosity filled my soul as I awaited the performance's first act. The set for The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt was magnificently created which definitely contributed to the overall spatial experience of the play.

Living the Good Life doesn't just depend on people and their individualized thoughts, but on one's environment as well. For example, a majority of the human population would agree that they would much rather spend time in a warm, sunny field of flowers than in a dark, musky room that was freezing. A sunny environment itself can make a person smile, but throw in some flowers and you've got yourself a real winner. Environments can alter an individual's perspective on events which can in turn create good experiences or bad.

The Social Experience

Although the play itself was great, the social experience of the night was even better. I attended The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt with my boyfriend, Michael. We got dinner beforehand so that there would be no distractions from hungry tummies during the play. After entering the auditorium, I thought that it was extremely neat and efficient that there were ushers sitting all the students as they came in, starting from the front of the theatre and working their way to the back. The fact that students were being seated directly next to individuals that they may not have known led to two outcomes, both of which can be seen as positives. One was that individuals may have made some new friends for the night after bonding over a great performance. The second outcome was that the students sitting next to strangers didn't talk and therefore the auditorium was kept silent during the duration of the play. Although I was silent during the performances, it was nice to have a familiar face next to me during the intermission and afterwards so that I could reflect upon the themes and storyline of the play. More importantly, having my boyfriend sitting next to me just automatically makes any experience better. Being able to witness a great play was just an added bonus.

The Cultural & Intellectual Experience

This photo shows the window in which Michaud looks out upon Quebec City and where Brother Casgrain jumps to his untimely death.

The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt takes place in Quebec City during December, 1905. The performance's central issues included moral/ethical obligations, social oppression versus privilege, and releasing the truth. These issues are all still relevant in today's society and probably will be until the end of mankind. Before attending the play, I knew the basic background information about these issues, but the emotions expressed throughout the play brought me to a new level of understanding.

The issue of figuring out and following one's moral/ethical obligations is a life-long struggle for everyone. A great example for this in the play is centered around Talbot, a young seminary who was victimized for years by a Father of the church. Talbot was faced with the choice of outing the Father for what he had done while at the same time spoiling his own name, or staying quiet and start healing with the support of his family. Although I believe that Michaud was right for outing the Father towards the end of the play, I understand Talbot's point of view and reasoning for why he wanted to keep quiet. The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt opened my eyes to the different views of the world and helped me to realize that everyone views situations differently. No matter how confident an individual is in their views, there will always be someone just as confident about an opposing view.

Social oppression versus privileges was a big issue in The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt, with the Talbot family at it's core. For there to be individuals considered wealthy in this world, there must be those considered poor. I think that my family would be considered well-off, yet we would look like royalty next to the Talbot family: a single mother struggling to take care of her children while sending one to school as the others work for pennies. This play really made me think about how much financial stress many families endure to send their children to amazing universities like the University of Florida. Many sacrifice their luxuries to pamper there family members, just as Leo Talbot did for his older brother.

It can be very hard sometimes to accept and speak the truth, especially when it involves an extremely controversial topic in your life. Throughout The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt, Michaud finds himself in eye-opening situations where the underlying truth of the matter is devastating. He learns of child labor and awful working environments. He learns of Fathers taking advantage of young boys. He learns that the world is far from perfect. After contemplating and attempting to understand everything that he had recently learned, Michaud decided to enlighten the rest of the world with the wrong-doings of Quebec City by writing a play that highlights each and every one. I believe this idea of needing to share ugly truths is still relevant in today's society, especially when it comes to how our government is currently treating individuals from certain foreign countries. Many people seem to find it easier to ignore the issues of the world, but we need to start standing up and speaking out.

The Emotional Experience

Leaving the play with smiles on our faces :)

The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt is a play filled with controversial concepts including religious hate, rape, suicide, the death of children, and scandal. Bouchard's play visits each of these uncomfortable topics in order to come clean about the troubles of the past. Katharsis, the Greek word for "coming clean," is provided to the audience of The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt with each new problem that arose throughout it's story. The play shows that the only way to happily move forward in life is to accept the past, whether that includes the rape or a family member's death.

The play is meant to inspire it's viewers to open up to others about the troubles of their past in order for them to finally be able start the healing process. Keeping deep emotions tucked away inside oneself can only lead to more pain and suffering, and possibly even suicide as in Brother Casgrain's case.

Citations

The Divine: A Play For Sarah Bernhardt. (n.d.). Retrieved January 31, 2019, from http://www.performingarts.vt.edu/events/view/divine

M. (n.d.). La Divine Illusion - The Divine. Retrieved January 31, 2017, from http://www.michelmarcbouchard.com/pieces-68.html

Created By
Kailyn Scully
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