My experience at "The Divine: a Play for Sarah Bernhardt" Meital Abraham

The Spacial Experience: When I first entered the auditorium, I was taken aback by how large and detailed the stage was, with the intricate columns that seemed to create immense depth on the stage. Additionally, when I sat down, my friend informed me that usually the audience section is only 1/3 of the size it was then, and that they expanded the theater for this performance. This surprised me a lot and made me wonder how my experience might have changed if the theater had been that much smaller and more intimate. I thought it was really cool that before the play even started there was some form of simulated snowfall that got my attention and seemed to make the audience quiet and intrigued. Additionally, my seat location immensely affected my experience as I was sitting in an area that at the very opening scene of the play, the actors walked by, made eye contact with us, and even shook some of our hands, which was very cool and interactive, and added another dimension to the experience.

Me before the play

The Social Experience: I attended the performance with two friends from a club that I am in: Theatre Strike Force. One of my friends is actually a stage manager for the show "The Motherfucker in the Hat" that will be premiering on campus soon, and has stage managed other shows at UF before. Given her experience, was able to give me a more in-depth explanation of the set, the characters, and how the show works behind the scenes, which was really good and helped me better understand the large processes that go into putting on a play. She was even friends with some of the actors in the show and had gotten information straight from them about their experiences and feelings about acting in the show. I thought it was cool to watch the play on a Wednesday night with what I imagine were several other busy students that had been having a stressful week. Even though I'm sure we all had schoolwork to do and deadlines to meet, it was nice to just be able to relax and enjoy the experience together, instead of being stressed.

A similar stage set-up to the one in the Constans Theatre

The Cultural and Intellectual Experience: What I understood to be the central issue of the play was the poverty and injustice of those times, which was taken advantage of by Michaud for the sake of his own gain in writing his play. Though he crafts this play in what seems like an honest effort to genuinely showcase the injustice and inequity of the times, the way he approaches writing it makes it feel as if he is profiting off of the hardships of the lower class for his own gain, rather than in an effort to express genuine sympathy and willingness to help the situation. I personally related somewhat to the subject matter as I have been told stories of the terrible working and living conditions of badly-regulated factory employment by my relatives who, when they immigrated to the US from Eastern Europe, were forced to work under such conditions as well.

Me after the play, clearly feeling excited and enlightened

The Emotional Experience: I think that a lot of people who are in places of relative privilege, like Michaud, have a tendency to unintentionally exploit the plights of those in less fortunate positions than ourselves for our own personal gain. Likewise, I think that many viewers have a cathartic experience when they relate to either the more privileged character, Michaud, or the character whose story is being unfairly used for another's benefit, Talbot. Moreover, generally in our society we tend to purposely avoid talking about things that make us uncomfortable, like injustice and inequality, because it makes us feel guilty and bad. Therefore, in focusing a play on something as provocative and contentious as poverty and poor working conditions, Michaud is shedding light on the realities of the world at that time in a way that audiences can comprehend as theater, rather than as an accusation meant to make them feel guilty. Moreover, by targeting the strictness and limitations put on performing within the Catholic church, playwright Bouchard is attacking the Church's lack of individuality and intolerance for self expression.

an alternate cover for the Playbill for the show

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