Right before the play starts, first time inside!
The Spatial Experience
The Divine was performed in the Constans Theatre near Reitz Union. Although the building is relatively close to where I live, near Broward Hall, this was my first time stepping inside. Upon entering the auditorium, the lights were dimly lit, and the chatter was loud. We sat on the right side, relative to the stage, which wasn't as great as I imagine the center would've been, but considering how close we were it ended up still being pretty engaging. Although I had been to plays before, the moment when the lights went dark and silence fell over the room was still pretty new to me. It felt like the whole room thought "It's starting" at the same time! I felt pretty small where I was sitting; the auditorium was very full, and even still I felt it could've held more. I didn't really know what to expect, but when the play began and I heard voices coming from all different directions, and the actors sometimes walking right past and between aisles, staring dead at me and others in the audience from only a foot away, the space seemed to shrink. In the Good Life, where we are and how we are oriented in a space changes our perspective on whats happening, and what we expect to happen. People in the same spaces can feel and experience a myriad of different things just by where one stands relative to their surroundings. The amount of people, and the types of people that surround us also change how we "see" a space. The way the theater was populated and utilized by the players made my experience unique.
I'm glad she finally mustered up a smile.
The Social Experience
Getting ready was an ordeal; my roommate ended up buying a ticket for the same day, so we got to raid our closets together. We thought that formal attire was required, so we had to look deep. My friend, pictured, and I decided to go together. Having someone to go with usually makes it a lot easier to enjoy the experience and go in with a clear head. We also ended up meeting one of her friends in line, so the three of sat together and occasionally made comments as the play went on. It made the play a lot more enjoyable being able to hear the people I was sitting with mirroring my thoughts on what was going on, and at the same time giving different perspectives and answering some of my questions. Shared experiences allow us, as social creatures, to see different sides of the same story, and keep us engaged with the world around us.
"An idealistic face-off?!" - Right in front of the doors to the auditorium
The Cultural and Intellectual Experience
Before coming to the play, topics like child labor, the corruption of the church, and the divide between the rich and the poor weren't new to me. The Divine touched on several topics in its narrative, the most prominent being the loss of innocence. During the 18th century, this was brought up in many forms. Child labor was rampant and labor as a whole was unregulated, as we saw Talbot's family suffer through. The church preached good will and reverence to God, but was oppressive and had dark secrets that they were no stranger to hiding from society. The poor had to live stories that would be left untold unless by people who wanted to use suffering as a form of drama and entertainment, like Michaud and Sarah Bernhardt did both knowingly and unknowingly throughout the play's events. Leo's death and Talbot's reveal of the Church's sick abuse were both tales of lost innocence, and the whole play was one for Michaud. The play showed me even more that these issues are never isolated, and exploitation came and still comes in many forms. Even today, exploitation continues, and there are many across the world, both in the U.S. and abroad, that are exploited by forces seen and unseen.
After the talk, we mustered the courage to ask for a picture!
The Emotional Experience
The play addresses a lot of different issues: the loss of innocence, the divide between the rest of society and the church during the time period the play was set, and the lies sometimes hidden underneath the droves of our daily lives. The play points at the audience hypocrisy of the audience. Both back then and now, even as we cry over Leo's death, the laborer's struggles and Talbot's situation, what do we do to change? Do we ask ourselves who made our cellphones, our shoes, and other things we use day by day to get by? The audiences in the 18th century didn't, and to extent today we still don't. However, the play also addresses a much lighter topic: how we use art to express and deal with our daily lives. The Divine is a product of it's time; child labor, social injustices, and societal divisions all have a hand in the narrative proper, but while deconstructing the act of theater it highlights the fact that we use theater and other art forms as a medium to express our feelings and the things we find important. During the talk after the play was over, the actors wanted to hear our thoughts and share a little of their perspective. They don't really care about if we liked the play or not, but why we did or didn't and what thoughts the play provoked. They wanted to tell a story, and whether that story brought awareness was the key to their catharsis. Everyone has stories to tell, and whether you are the playwright or the person sitting in the audience, seeing your story or elements of it on stage is liberating. Being able to acknowledge not only that these stories exist, but that we can use them to embrace our own imperfections and be apart of a shared human experience is even more so.
"The theatre is the involuntary reflex of the ideas of the crowd." - Sarah Bernhardt.