The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt An experience Taken by Megan Cannan with Liz Kirby

Cannan, Megan. "The Lobby." 2017. JPG file.

Spatial Experience

Cannan, Megan. "The Stage." 2017. JPG file.

The physical setting of the Constans Theatre drags the play watcher into the new world. Outside of the theatre and the lobby are ordinary, matching the rest of the interior of the Reitz Union. However, walking into the theatre is a whole new experience with it's well crafted stage mechanisms and beautiful stained glass lighting. The lighting created a cool ambience, emphasizing the gravity of the plot. When the lighting in the audience dimmed, I was excited and felt liberated from my thoughts as I began to focus on the scene.

My seat was near the back, but it gave a good overview of all the actors' movements, since they would sometimes walk through the audience. The size of the auditorium was intimate, large enough to fit a decent crowd but small enough that every seat was a good seat.

In accordance to the Good Life, the role of place is to act as an anchor. Place, as seen by writings about nature written by Thoreau and Hessman, can set one in the mindset of a quest, soothe one's thoughts, or change a perspective. In this case, the theatre created a nice setting to spend a night with friends watching a show and contributed to the play's overall impression.

Social Experience

I attended the play with Liz Kirby and Evan Houser. In preparation for the play, we all dressed in nice attire. Before the play, we made dinner which included a French leek and potato soup, which fit the cultural background of the play a bit.

Cannan, Megan. "Orange Slices." 2017. JPG file.

Going with friends enhanced the experience because as we walked from our dorm, we were able to discuss our hopes and ideas about what we were going to see. Once we were seated we talked about the set and the playbill. Then once it ended, we were able to discuss our opinions about the play. This allowed us to practice speaking our minds and expanded our perspective of the play. Overall, it was a bonding experience.

Kirby, Liz. "Entering the Theatre." 2017. JPG file.

The Cultural and Intellectual Experience

The play attacked many social issues that were relevant to its time and to an extent, relevant today. Some of the most intriguing themes included unsafe working conditions, child labor, wealth gaps, sacrifice, religion in practice, and molestation within the Catholic Church.

Talbot's family worked very hard to ensure his ability to become a priest because as his character described, during the turning point of the nineteenth and twentieth century, there was a large wealth gap and the only reliable way for a poor boy to move up in the world was to join the priesthood. His brother worked illegally in an unsafe factory in order to secure his family's pride, Talbot's priesthood, but his sacrifice ultimately killed him. The women in the factory tried to speak against the conditions and were silenced. The whole factory plot was chilling.

The Church had its own disturbing predicament, and as a Catholic I found it exceptionally interesting and disturbing. Multiple priests were haunted by sexual abuse by a higher priest, and offered material compensations for the physical and emotional wounds. The politics amongst the priests tried to keep it all undercover. Another aspect of the Church's involvement seemed to be constraining any type of passion, whether it was Talbot finding sensual pleasure or Michaud innocently pursuing theatre. Michaud was trying to find beauty in the world and his confusion seems to beg the question, can one experience the world and please God? As the Church avoided honesty with its members crimes, it undermined its authority to control Michaud which is why he moves on.

I am proud to be Catholic so it was difficult to connect these horrors with my Church. However, I recognize how it is a part of history and even within a religious community not everyone's intentions are pure. I found myself relating to the priests' struggles with following the Church's expectations, especially Michaud. He wants to be a good person but does not see how to always align with the Church. How can one claim to be practicing Catholic doctrine when society is built upon the hurt of others? For example, the factory manager criticizes the visiting priest by pointing out the irony of metals and art adorning the Church when they claim money should be given to the poor. Plus the working conditions of the people digging for and molding the metals are likely atrocious.

Before the play I was aware of these historical, and present, social issues, but watching them performed was enthralling.

Cannan, Megan. "In the seats." 2017. JPG file.

The Emotional Experience

The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt provides a "katharsis" because it forces people to think and contemplate difficult issues, reminding us we live in a privileged society.

The most stunning scene was in the factory when the brother was stuck under the floor and the rich sat in chairs above him. He pounded and pounded, but the manager kept him hidden in order to protect his image. They open the floor and he is found dead. There are gasps, sound effects, and a mix of red lights and darkness, produced in a flash. This scene unlocked a feeling of profound sadness that seemed to overshadow anything in my day that was lingering over me. It also cleaned away apathy and made me want to be cautious of any opportunity I have to save people from those situations. For example, avoiding brands that are known for inattentive business practices.

Cannan, Megan. "The Stage." 2017. JPG file.

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