The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt By Matthew Mellies

The SPATIAL experience—Upon entering the Constans Theatre, I was greeted by a comforting sense of familiarity. As the Constans Theatre is a more enclosed theatre area, along with little elevation between the audience and the main stage, the Constans Theatre’s structure allowed the play performed to feel extremely more authentic and personal than a grand show with huge elevation and little proportion. While I sat near the back, the compactness of the theatre further elevated my experience by making the performers clearly visible—even from the back of the auditorium where I sat—bolstering my experience. Because of this, when the lights dimmed and the play started, I was immediately enthralled by the performances I witnessed. Then, until even the talk-back at the end, where I was able to connect with the actual actors of this performance, I was entranced. As the power of a theatre venue can be to both teach and learn from, the optimal human experience can be quite high in this instance, especially with such a thought-provoking play.
The SOCIAL Experience—I attended the performance of The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt with my close friends Alex Cohn (attempting to take a selfie above), Kevin Naughton, and Lauren Ravelo. Their presence during our viewing of the play definitely improved my experience at the Constans, as social enjoyment of entertainment is often perceived as more fun and wholesome than simply enjoying a play alone. Spending time with the people I care about by seeing an enthralling theatre performance with them allowed even boring lessons from the play and the talk-back after to become simply saturated with meaning and wisdom. When pursuing the good life, friends to accompany oneself on one’s journey are often well-needed and extremely appreciated.
The CULTURAL and INTELLECTUAL experience—The performance itself definitely shed some objective light on the stagnant social mobility of the mid-twentieth century, being about the juxtaposition of poor factory workers and the higher, more noble actors and actresses of the time, consumed by fame and greed. A huge lesson I learned from the play comes in the metaphorical death of innocence that happens in the play—that all the notion of greed performs in one’s life is corrupt and fade innocence in other people away. In essence, the performance allowed my wisdom to grow by truly listening and analyzing the play for meaning, allowing the theatre performance to be an intellectual experience as well. While I do not have personal experience with the manipulation of the classes, being in such a economic melting pot like the University of Florida, the play still allowed me to empathize with the impoverished factory workers, as well as feel disdain for the ignorance of the actors in the play as well, including Sarah Bernhardt. However, this disdain blossomed into a profound understanding of the unjust nature of these times during the discussion in the talk-back after the play, proving the play and its actors to be extremely educational and knowledgeable.
The EMOTIONAL experience—Aristotle once noted that the reason why humans enjoy drama and tragedy in their entertainment is due to the emotional catharsis that they seem to provide for those viewing the performance. This play, The Divine, along with the play's talk back discussion afterward with the actors, allowed me to feel sadness (without spoiling the play) of a beloved character’s death, as well as anger at the unfairness of lack of social mobility in this time period that characterized itself in the play as well. Allowing me to not only empathize with people who have struggled more than I can probably imagine, but also to reflect on my own class and gratefulness for the luxuries that I am able to indulge in (including being able to type this response). This play, with its universal messages, allowed me to explore the low and high points of morality that ultimately encompass humanity as a whole.
Created By
Matthew Mellies

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