The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt By: Sarah Shan

"I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being." -Oscar Wilde

Sometimes, it is important to immerse ourselves in the lives of others and the most efficient way to do that is to watch a play. Of course, as someone who has been intrigued by theatre since she was just a child, The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt exceeded my expectations. I have never had a chance to experience theatre so close up, I've only been to high school plays, and those are not well-funded. Overall, going to this play gave me a glimpse into how theatre functions and what joy it brings the audience.

Spatial Experience: I pass by the Constans Theatre very often because I live in close proximity with the Reitz Union, but I have never noticed that that was what people call the Constans Theatre. Sometimes I remember I would look inside to see people dancing and practicing, and I was always interested, but never bothered to take a look inside or figure out what the building was. Nevertheless the awe overtook me as I walked inside, the art pieces hanging in space was very captivating, I felt very at peace in the building and I know this is going to be a new experience for me. I sat on the right side because one of the staff directed me to my seat. It was close to the stage as well. At first, it felt uncomfortable because people were talking behind me and the atmosphere was unbelievably formal. However, when the lights dimmed and the audience became quiet, all the anxiety I felt was swept away because I became fully immersed in what was happening to care about my surroundings. The size of the auditorium made me feel like I was in a movie theater, which made the experience feel more formal. Place is important for the Good Life because being in person as the play took place makes one realize that because we were in the same place at the same time, the actors on stage are very close to the audience and the audience can see every mistake or move the actors make, which makes it even more respectable.

Before the Play

Social Experience: Since most of my friends took the Good Life course in the first semester, the only person who was taking Good Life this semester who was willing to go with me was my boyfriend, who is also taking Good Life this semester. I think the strangers there were inevitable, but they added to the atmosphere that was young and full of spirit. I changed into my dressy clothes and retouched my makeup for the performance because in my mind, plays are where you should bring your best self and put in a lot of effort to look extravagant even though the audience could never compare to the extravagant clothes the actors wear. Going with my boyfriend alone felt like it was a date because it was just the two of us without all of our other friends who we frequently hang out with. As of right now, he still hasn't decided whether or not he is doing the extra credit, so it was nice that he went to the play just for me. Sharing experiences is very important to me especially with my significant other because I enjoy seeing the same world and having the same perspective as him. This way, it feels there is a deeper connection between the both of us and we can discuss how we feel about the play after it ends. Thus, sharing experiences is very important in the Good Life because only then will we understand how others perceive and understand how they look at the play objectively and subjectively.

He didn't want to take a selfie.. :'(

Cultural/Intellectual Experience: The play was taken place in the early 1900's in Quebec City and the culture in Canada is somewhat similar to culture in America around that time. People enjoyed plays and extravagant things. Theatre has always been a very respected part of the American culture, as well as the Canadian/French culture as depicted in the play. The amount of admiration paid for those who exceed in theatre can be seen in the role of Sarah Bernhardt. The issues involved Sarah Bernhardt's plays asked to be banned by the Church because they are 'immoral' according to the archbishop. We can still see this happening in our culture today where women actively try to strive free from the strict mindset of the society. I did not know about any of the subject matter before attending the play. However, I think that we should be allowed to express our passion without constraint from society because each of us express our feelings in different ways, and acting is definitely one way of expressing our feelings. In my opinion, as long as we are not causing harm to the society directly, we should be allowed to do the things we enjoy without criticism and judgement. Similarity, in college, many times we are criticized and judged by society on what is perceived as successful, measured by the amount of money we earn. This constrains most people from pursuing their passions and I experience that first hand since I live in a society where if you don't make enough money then you are a failure. Since when did we start using money to measure our quality of life instead of happiness?

Fiona Reid: photo by David Cooper

Emotional Experience: I think the play posed an important issue for us to reflect on because as mentioned before I think the main topic is expressing yourself even though others may not perceive what you are doing is respectable. Sometimes we have accept criticism from others in order to strive for our passions. The theatre truly is an open stage where those who suppress their feelings to express the underlying true selves. The audience of course, in turn, examines this issue of how people are restrained from what they really aspire to do and inevitably compare themselves with the actors on stage. There always someone who resembles ourselves. The play also touches upon the socioeconomic differences between the way people are treated. We can see the difference in treatment between Michaud and Talbot; Michaud, who is from a wealthy family, almost patronizes those who are poor by jotting down the things they say, but Talbot has to deal with other difficulties and pressure from his family to become who his family wants him to be. So I think the audience observes this and can understand that we all have our differences in lives and just because someone does not have the money does not mean they do not have the intelligence or skills to become someone who is from a wealthy family.

After the play

The End

Created By
Huiting Shan
Appreciate

Credits:

David Cooper

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