My Experience at "The Divine" By Grace Dietsch

Spatial Experience: Entering the auditorium I felt very crowded because of how many people there were (I went on the opening night of the performance). My friends and I got a seat fairly close to the front and waited for the performance to begin. Once the lights dimmed, I completely forgot how many people were around, or how large the auditorium was – I was only concentrated on the stage. I felt instantly immersed, but still didn’t know what to expect. The stage set was very pretty and high-quality, and I remember being impressed by this, because I suppose I expected it to be less than such. Later I realized how nice our seats were because during some scenes the actors would walk up and down the aisles and the actress for Sarah Bernhardt walked right in front of us. It was neat to see her costume and makeup up close and to feel like she was talking directly to us.

Photo credit: Katarina Jurczyk

Social Experience: I went with my roommate and her two friends from down the hall, eating dinner in a rush and meeting up with them to hurry to the Reitz, hoping to get there early. None of us were thrilled about seeing the play – we had lots of studying to do and we weren’t enthralled by the premise of the plot. In fact one of the girls was considering leaving at intermission, and once we found out that the play would last until well after 10 PM, we were all toying with this idea – surely we would get the gist of the performance from the first act. I am so glad that I didn’t – during intermission I noticed not many people were leaving and I felt uncomfortable with the idea of doing so, so I stayed for the second act, and ended up absolutely loving the play. I am sad to say that out of our little group of four, none of the other girls seemed to appreciate it as much as I did. Shared experiences are important to the Good Life, as they can make things more memorable and bring you the perspectives of others, but in this case, I was content with enjoying the performance all on my own, even if my companions didn’t really feel the same.

Photo credit: Katarina Jurczyk

Cultural and Intellectual Experience: This performance touched on several social, economic, and political issues that are still relevant today, and presented them with such poignancy. Issues such as sexual abuse in an ecclesiastical setting, poverty, education and lack thereof, mistreatment of women and children in the workplace, and even suicide were all either mentioned briefly or used heavily as themes to drive the plot. The central issue was classism and the clash between the upper classes and the impoverished, but such issues as labor laws and childhood trauma were just as important. These were already issues that I was passionate about and knowledgeable about before attending the performance but I had no idea that this performance would touch on them. I was pleasantly surprised by how serious and uncensored it was. Thankfully the subject matter does not really relate to anything personal in my life, as I’m glad I’ve never had to experience some of the things that occurred in the play, but I have a very strong sense of social justice which was stirred greatly by this play.

Emotional Experience: I had a strong emotional reaction to this performance, and I am not a very emotional person, so I was not prepared for how I would feel. The only theatre performances I had seen before seeing The Divine were all Broadway musicals, so I did not know what to expect from a non-musical stage production. But I am so glad that I saw it and stayed for the whole thing. I remember leaving the auditorium feeling so strangely moved and touched, like I wanted to go tell everyone to see the play. Yes, The Divine presented “socially uncomfortable, politically contentious, religiously irreverent, culturally radical” messages and scenarios – but if I’m being honest it was not the subject matter of the play itself that had the greatest effect on me. It was amazing and eye-opening and gripping, but these were topics I was already aware of and already passionate about. What stirred me the most was what it was – a production of the arts, a bunch of students in costume acting their hearts out, and a great deal of passion and talent practically radiating from the stage. I wish that we had been allowed to take pictures inside, so that I might have captured the wonderful actors for Talbot or Leo or the fan-favorite Michaud in action. I appreciated it so much that I remember thinking distinctly that I wanted to just donate all my money to the University of Florida theatre department to support these people going after their dreams and their passions, majoring in theatre instead of engineering, following their love for acting into an uncertain and unsteady future instead of making the safe, more sensible choice. This, to me, was the real ‘katharsis’ – how many people would be brave enough to actually follow their passion instead of just doing what is more acceptable and predictable? How many students, I wondered, are choosing to be doctors and engineers for the money, for the stability, for the job security, when they’d rather be acting or singing or painting or writing? The actors all seemed so happy and so proud of themselves. I genuinely plan to make it a point to see more performance at UF. I liked it so much that I feel this drive to “support the arts” and I hope that in the rest of my time here I get several opportunities to do so!

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