The Theatrical Experience Anna McBride

Reading through the program is a characteristic moment of attending the theater.

Spatial

Entering the theater, everything becomes dark. As my eyes adjust, the features of the room slowly come into focus. The seats in perfect rows waiting to be filled, the quiet shuffle of bodies and the low whispers of voices as patrons enter the theater, the low lights illuminating the stage, an empty set yet to be brought to life. The anticipation of what's to come fills my stomach. My seat-5th row-gives me an excellent view of the stage; nothing is blocked. I page through the program as the theater fills, when suddenly the lights dim and every voice in the massive room falls silent. In the short moment before the play begins I am left wondering "What's about to happen?" "What am I going to see?" Butterflies fill my stomach and then quickly disappear as the music begins and Sarah Bernhardt walks onto the stage immediately to my left. The spatial experience of the theater is one that truly shapes the night as a whole. It sets the tone for the rest of the night to follow and can immerse the viewer into a theatrical experience. Being in such a place can be invaluable to the Good Life. Experiencing the theater and everything it brings opens the eyes into a world that some may not know exists. It speaks upon issues and current events and gives watchers a place to escape to, if even for a short while.

The opportunity to dress up in something different than the everyday adds to the experience.
Taken after the play in the lobby; as everyone was exiting, you could hear discussions of the play beginning.

Social

Preparing for the theater is a vital part of the overall experience. Picking out an outfit and dressing up for the night sets the tone of the evening and makes the experience special; something different than a typical night. Before the play, I read the brief synopsis in order to understand what the play would be about and to familiarize myself with the characters. Once I got to the theater, I could hear the voices buzzing around me. "What's this going to be about?" "What is going to happen?" The same questions that were running through my head were also being echoed by the people around me. A sense of camaraderie fills the air; we are all here to see the same play, we are sharing in this experience. This aspect of the theater is important, as it may be possible to attend a play on your own, it is impossible not to be effected by the people around you. The collective excitement as the beginning draws near enhances your own and the entire crowd cheering as the play comes to an end sends chills down your spine. To share in an experience is to be connected, and to be connected with others is live a Good Life.

Much like The Divine, artwork in the lobby evokes feelings and makes you question their true meaning.

Cultural and Intellectual

The play is set in the early 1900s, a pivotal time in history. It addresses a variety of important topics, such as class differences, the clash between religion and the arts, and even child labor. It is designed to bring awareness to these issues and to their prevalence in society. Before coming to the theater, I was aware of these issues as they were previously discussed in history classes growing up. What was interesting was to see these issues discussed in a different medium: theater. To see these topics unfold in front of me was, in a way, far more powerful than the textbook lessons from history class. To put a name, a face, and an experience to an idea such as child labor makes that topic that much more real to the person watching. While the play did not change my ideas about the subjects, it did deepen my understanding of and appreciation of the importance of these issues to our history and even to modern day.

When exiting the theater, reflections on the true importance of the message begin.

Emotional

The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt allows an opportunity for katharsis by unapologetically presenting the audience with the realities of society. It forces the viewers to see the not-so-perfect history of society in order to educate them, show them, ensure that history will not be repeated. It exposes the harsh realities of child labor when Talbot's younger brother dies working in the basement of a show factory. It shows the drastic differences in class, not only between Sarah Bernhardt and the factory workers, but in the factory owner and his borderline-abused workers as well. The play brings to light these uncomfortable moments in history instead of shoving them under the rug and pretending they never existed. In this way, we can learn from history's mistakes and see what is truly important in life; not material possessions or power, but relationships and experiences, lessons learned. In the talk back after the performance, the actors mentioned the importance of the theater as a medium for voicing issues and problems in society, which is exactly what The Divine does. They acknowledged the importance of their roles in portraying the issues to the audience in order to get the message across. In this way, katharsis can truly be achieved; when we can embrace the past and learn from it, to use it to move us forward into a Good Life.

Created By
Anna McBride
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