A Play for Sarah Bernhardt from a student's perspective

Seeing The Divine: A Play For Sarah Bernhardt as performed by the UF School of Theater and Dance was a truly memorable visual experience. As a Good Life student, I was able to watch and discuss the play with other students– something especially valuable when reflecting on critical and controversial moments in the play. I was also privileged enough to stay for the 'Talk Back' portion of the performance, where I was able to gain a deeper understanding of the play from a performer's perspective. The professionalism and dedication that was on display truly allowed me to experience theater in a heightened sense.

The Constans Theater lobby is filled with art and unique architecture.

In order to experience the play more fully, I chose to forego attending in a group. I entered the lobby of the theater from such an entrance that the lobby I found myself in was nearly empty. Because of this, I had an opportunity to take great pictures of things that made the entrance such a unique space. Above, my favorite aspect of the room is shown. Colorful shapes are suspended by thin strands and framed by big, dark windows. Strategically placed lighting allows them to be delicately illuminated. These architectural decisions define the spacial experience of the room as peaceful and undeniably private. Soft color choices and lighting make it seem far removed from the bustling bus transfer station nearby. As I was ushered into the auditorium, I was surprised by the size. I sat very near the stage and was thus unaffected by the size of the subsequent crowd. Sitting in a dimly lit room so near the stage, the sense of having a private, individual experience was furthered and I found myself very focused on the performers. The idea of personally unique experience is crucial to my interpretation of the Good Life because I feel there is no one definition– it certainly varies by person and perspective. Space provides the environment by which to understand and interpret the world around me, which is crucial to leading my version of the Good Life.

Since I decided to attend the performance alone, I was naturally seated near a group of strangers. I quickly befriended them as we waited for the play to begin and we talked about what we expected to experience during the performance. Before I attended the performance, i completed all my schoolwork for the night and ate a good meal. Because of this, I was not distracted or stressed and was able to devote my attention to the conversations I was having. Talking to people I had never met before significantly contributed to my experience by presenting new perspectives and ideas to me. I think this is crucial to developing the skills to lead a Good Life. The ability to process and contextualize the opinions and thoughts of others, even strangers, is something that undoubtably enriches life and encourages learning.

Overhead windows offer a view of the night sky.

The actual content of the play is a topic that is extremely relevant to today's cultural atmosphere. The most important theme of the play was standing up for personal beliefs, whether through decisions or an artistic medium. For example, Michaud stands up for his beliefs by defying the Archbishop alongside Sarah Bernhardt. Another facet of this theme is that there are many sides to a story– even when things seem cut and dry, there is almost always an untold story. This is shown when even as the factory conditions are portrayed as dire and wrong, they only were able to exist because of blind consumerism, even by Michaud and Sarah Bernhardt. Critical and unbiased assessment of another person's reasoning is rarely used during heated arguments or debates, and especially in today's political atmosphere. Because of this, I found the topics extremely relevant in terms of American consumerism and politics. Overall, the performance increased my awareness of cause and effect relationships related to my opinions and how myself and others choose to act on them. It also most affected the way I view consumerism. Although there is substantial economic gain, I contribute to the way global production centers are run- for better or worse- by the ways I choose to spend.

Two figures are displayed near the entrance to the auditorium. Unique artwork such as this enhances the audience's experience.

The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt allows the audience a chance to experience catharsis by choosing to include such emotionally riveting material. Topics such as child molestation and corrupt church officials are things the drive people to be uncomfortable or surprised; the play choosing to openly include these features is a demonstration of the less favorable characteristics of people in a critical environment. This idea was addressed during the Talk Back. Christie Robinson, cast as Sarah Bernhardt in the play, said that art was one of the truest expressions of a person and should always have something to say, easy to hear or not. By displaying lies, greed, and ignorance to an audience, the play offers these things up for evaluation– as a member of the audience, I am able to assess these things, whether it is how often I use them or how they affect the people around me. Additionally, negative subject matter allows the characters to demonstrate things that unite the audience in humanity, such as sacrifice, empathy, and love. The Divine openly addresses things that are typically overlooked in daily life, thus allowing the audience to feel cleansed and to better experience true human nature in all of its forms.

Created By
Halle Marchese
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