The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt Claire Mobley's Experience

The Spatial Experience:

As my roommate and I walked up to the theatre from the outside, I was shocked by the grandeur of the building. I had never seen the Reitz Union and The Constans Theatre from that particular angle before, and it looked prestigious towering over me. The sun had just fallen and the lights build the drama that awaited inside. We walked down the path, enthralled, and we actually had trouble locating the entrance. Having this temporary confusion was, strangely enough, pretty exciting because the performance was an activity outside of my dull daily routine. A few students passed us and asked, "Are you two going to the play too? We're a little lost!" I giggled, "We are too, actually!" No fear though, we realized we had to enter through the Reitz Union to get inside. Once inside the Reitz Union, we walked up to the large clear doors with the bold letters above labeling, "Constans Theatre". Here we go! The experience walking in felt very nostalgic, like I was walking into a big performance in New York City. I did not even know the theatre was in the Reitz Union before this performance. The lobby was quiet and dimly lit; a very calming feeling encompassed me. The beige/grey carpet seemed like it went on forever, building upon the grandeur of the theatre. We entered and were guided to two seats in the middle section in the middle of the row, an ideal view. The theatre itself outdid my expectations. The sea of red seats contrasted with the stark black stage felt very dramatic and old-fashioned. We sat, took in the view, and not much later the lights dimmed and it all began. I was excited for what was about to come. Attending with my roommate was interesting because we both had our own responses to the environment and sharing our individual responses was interesting. It is intriguing to compare your personal experience with another's. Doing so reiterates how we all have our own unique perspectives, which affect our overall experiences.

Me pictured right before walking up to the play!

The Social Experience

I had Chemistry class till 7:05 p.m. on the day of the play, so my walk to the play was more of a jog. I changed into a comfortable dress before class to be ready to go right once class ended. I liked changing into something a bit nicer than my usual gym clothes, having something to dress up for is always fun. I also did a small amount of research on Sarah Bernhardt, just because I was curious on what the play may be about but not too much because nobody likes a spoiler. I met up with my roommate on the way and we attended the play together. I always think about how when you're with a group of people whether it be attending a play, flying in an airplane, or watching a movie, it's such a diverse group of strangers all with different thoughts and emotions, but all watching the same thing. It's like we all share something in common for a few hours. Shared experiences are important because they allow for open discussion like the talk back at the end of the play. Every one can provide their own input and concepts can be seen in different ways through open discussion.

My roommate right before we walked up to theatre. Also, discussed my feelings about the play with her!

The Cultural and Intellectual Experience

The setting of this story is the beginning of the 20th century in Quebec City. The play was specifically impactful to me because of its various conflicts introduced (gender, castes systems,abuse, labor laws) which all pointed to the takeaway message that humans are extremely dysfunctional but we also constantly learn from these wrongdoings to find our personal fulfillment, or idea of "the good life". Coming into the play, I had completed some research on Sarah Bernhardt, learning mostly about her criticized words and actions. I did not expect this play to be more about, from what I noticed, the change in Miuchard. His loss of innocence and the shift from a static character in a routine of artificial happinesses and misunderstood difficulties to a dynamic character who stands for justice and confronts hardships face first. The acting in the performance was exceptional and really built up the internal conflict within the characters. I was extremely shook on how the end affected me because the build of emotion was so well done. Especially the moment when Johnny, the young boy, becomes a victim in the vicious system of moral challenges. His death portrayed how people fall victim to life's challenges, without any explanation. I think I also realized during the talk back how the acting was so outstanding. The actors explained how they dove into their respective characters. They stated before beginning, their professor would had them respond to questions regarding their character like what would their character's spirit animal be, favorite song, favorite color, etc. I found this such an interesting way to immerse in the role. The performance did not change my views, but instead opened my eyes to the issues people deal with today and how these issues and our responses to these issues shape the people we become. In my life, when I feel discouraged, I think I can sympathize with these characters and their strength, choosing justice and truth to find the right path.

The dramatic red seats I remembered so clearly

The Emotional Experience

The Divine shows how the journey to self actualization, although not an easy exercise, is eventually attainable, and the extreme adversity faced during the journey develops the individual's idea of fulfillment. The play critiques a variety of humanities' faults. It portrays our negatives as a species and how we often do wrong for inexplicable reasons. The play builds deep characterization as characters are forced into making complicated, grave decisions. For example, Talbot's decision to not tell the police about his abuse for the sake of his family. Even at the start of the play when Miuchard is being forced to rat out Talbot (but doesn't) to the archbishop when he was was off with Madeleine. Another moral question arises in regards to the factory owner and if he is justified in his illegal labor practices because even if he does not take part in cheap labor someone else always will. How does perspective play a part in shaping one's moral obligations? Are these morals consistently changing depending upon a time and setting?

The play bill. I am saving this to always remember my first play as a Gator!

Miuchard is a wealthy, naive boy who plans to write poetry about dramatic problems that he's never personally dealt with or even been a witness to. Insert Talbot, the poverty stricken, abused seminarian, and Miuchard life has hit a curb. Through Talbot, Miuchard learns that life is not all flowery. Miuchard loses his nativity as he was forced into decision. He is given the opportunity to continue to live in a fantastical world without actual hardship or bring justice to his friend and realize how to deal with difficult scenarios. Certain characters with similar characteristics ultimately resembling a different function are used throughout "The Divine." An obvious example would be Miuchard and Talbot who are used to represent the large gap between two castes. The wealthy seminarian unfamiliar with hardship and the poor seminarian who has dealt with and learned to overcome hardship for hope of a better future. It is within these character comparisons and difficult moral decision making that we see the Katharsis in this play, the reveal of genuine human emotion.

Photo Credits

Page 1)The Divine: A Play For Sarah Bernhardt [Black and white photo of Sarah Bernhardt in sheet with title of play across bottom]. (n.d.). Retrieved February 6, 2017, from http://www.performingarts.vt.edu/events/view/divine.

Page 4) Construction Group, F. (n.d.). University of Florida Constans Theater Air Handling Unit T2 Replacement [Photo of Seats of Constans Theatre ]. Retrieved February 06, 2017, from http://foresightcgi.com/project/university-of-t2-replacement/

Credits:

Page 1)The Divine: A Play For Sarah Bernhardt [Black and white photo of Sarah Bernhardt in sheet with title of play across bottom]. (n.d.). Retrieved February 6, 2017, from http://www.performingarts.vt.edu/events/view/divine. Page 4) Construction Group, F. (n.d.). University of Florida Constans Theater Air Handling Unit T2 Replacement [Photo of Seats of Constans Theatre ]. Retrieved February 06, 2017, from http://foresightcgi.com/project/university-of-t2-replacement/

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