The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt An experience by Samantha Tiffany

Spacial Experience

As I waited in front of the theater, a dull roar of the other Good Life students surrounded me. I sat in a comfy leather chair outside before going in. There didn't seem to be very many people there, which was a good thing as we weren't fighting to make our way inside the theater. Once I entered the theater for the first time since I've been at UF, I was in awe. The stage setting was beautiful, people were laughing as they waited, and the seating was luxurious. I took my seat to the right side of the stage. I was pretty close to the stage and on the edge closest to the middle--not bad if I do say so myself. The lights dimmed, and the once noisy room instantly got quiet. You could see everyone looking around in anticipation waiting for the actors to appear. The atmosphere of the place was one of excitement and anxiousness, yet the cozy design of the theater allowed for a relaxing experience. In the good life, place is very important, its what allows one to fully experience the world around us. Each experience we have is shaped by the place and culture in which it takes place.

Social Experience

For the play, I went alone. My friends had all gone the week before, but I was actually excited to go alone. I did my hair, put on some nice clothes and a friend drop me off. Going alone gave me the opportunity to enjoy the play as I pleased. Waiting outside, I watched as everyone excitedly took group photos or a sneaky, yet uncomfortable selfie. As I walked into the theater, I ran into a friend and had her snap this photo of me, as the selfies weren't too great. I walked in and sat with her and her friend inside. We chatted about the spark story, what we had heard about the play, and what we were expecting. I was initially nervous about going by myself, but being able to share the experience with a new friend was exciting. We had so much to share with each other and were able to work through the thoughts in our heads about the play. Shared experiences are extremely important in the good life. To me, having friends or family to enjoy what life has to offer is what really brings joy to people. Though being alone has great advantages, pure joy is found in communication with others through laughter, joking, stories, and memories.

Cultural and Intellectual Experience

Personally, I thought the play did a great job contrasting the social classes at the time period. From the young man escaping poverty through priesthood, the wealthy theater buff studying seminary, and the world renowned actress, all three play distinct roles in both society and the play. The young man, Joseph, represented the oppression faced by the impoverished. He was abused, forced to lie, and treated as nothing. His problems were of little importance as long as they didn't distort the view of the highest priesthood. The theater buff seminarian, Michaud represented the upper middle class as he is entering priesthood by choice and familiar tradition, in contrast to the younger Joseph. Michaud's love for theatrics is frowned upon and stifled. He believes in justice, but this is also stifled. Next, Sarah represents the high class. She wears elegant gowns and hats to prove her worth, and even has the audacity to rip apart the church's control. She, though the most "divine," still manages to believe in justice despite her high status. This depiction of the way the world was in the late 1800s-early 1900s, is both accurate and startling. The play acknowledges the three levels of society and the conflicting powers of the high class and the church. It allows our generation to see the mistreatment, physical abuse, and oppression faced by those in poverty and forces us to fight for justice alongside Michaud and Sarah for individuals like Joseph and his late kid brother Leo.

Emotional Experience

The play definitely allows for "katharsis" through its depiction of the church and social injustices. It challenges the truth and divinity that's expected of the clergy as it brings up Joseph's abuse, a very real yet uncomfortable idea. Further it brings up the notion in response to the child labor, specifically to Madeline, that we don't acknowledge who makes the goods we use as long as we enjoy them. The play makes the views acknowledge those dark parts of themselves and reveals that though they aren't good, they're normal and that everyone suffers from "social blindness." We tend to ignore or cover up things that either make us uncomfortable or cast a bad light on something in which we believe. The play acknowledges this and pushes for change through its recurring theme of justice. The happy ending proves to us humans that those bad parts of us aren't what define us, it's our actions to help others that will lead to happiness. Throughout the play, the intermixing of uncomfortable, rough patches and lighthearted jokes represent to viewers "katharsis" perfectly as it causes us to look at ourselves and acknowledge the thoughts we've had as normal, yet pushes us to change for the better in order to enjoy the play of life.

Citations
  • http://media.gettyimages.com/photos/french-actress-sarah-bernhardt-in-the-title-role-of-the-play-izeil-by-picture-id2638021?k=6&m=2638021&s=594x594&w=0&h=ZhVa2mXXFC5oN0FgHMRw1m4tgDdb5d0DbC80mPYN8Uk=
  • http://arts.ufl.edu/site/assets/files/98028/divine_cotawebsite.1840x1328p50x50.jpg

THE END

Created By
Samantha Tiffany
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