The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt (1)


This is my story, a story in which I am both a character and a creator. My story begins the moment I stepped before Constants Theatre, waiting to watch the story of a beautiful actress: the story of Sarah Bernhardt. In a fictional setting within Quebec, Canada, The Divine follows 2 young men striving to be priests and their confrontation with the charming Sarah Bernhardt. As mentioned by the actors and actresses, The Divine shown at the University of Florida is the first time that play was shown in the United States.

Initial Shock

Even before stepping inside Constants Theatre, I had already felt an atmosphere of excitement due to the theater' simple but attractive architectural style. The bold fonts the bear the theater's name connote with simplistic love. I knew right then and there that whatever I was going to experience within the theater would be as warmly as the experience I had outside of it. Behind the glass doors of Constans Theatre, the carpeted floor and the live piano music speak of a kind of authenticity that are fit for the Divine. The placement and usage of lights within the corridors scream of minimalist elegance; each light bulb in the ceiling represent a star in the sky, a guiding star. As I made my way toward the front row of the theater, the performance stage grows to the point where it seems I was practically immerse within the play itself. For the first time in my life, I was able to experience such divinity so close up. It was that very moment where I was enchanted by both the setting of the theater and the plot that was about to unfold before me.


Prior to going to The Divine, I had met up with my two friends from high school; my initial opinion of the play reeks with nervousness. I did not feel comfortable at all going to watch a play, because I have never been to one. I thought that with my friends I would be kept accompanied from the eternal boredom I was about to experience. My mind was not ready for The Divine; in fact, I had thought that The Divine was anything but divine. Each steps each the stairs leading to the second floor of Reitz Union slowed my heart down a bit. I did not know what the play was going to be about, nor did I know that on the last step I would be enchanted by the simplistic beauty of Constans Theatre. Even if I had prepared by reading a summary of the play, I would still have been breath taken by the site of the theater and there would be no way for me to prepare for an experience I was going to receive for the first time. As soon as The Divine began, I was there alone, engrossed within the story, fully exposed to the divinity.


Set in the 1900s, The Divine revolves around two young men striving to be priests, one from a wealthy family, and one from a poor family in where his mother and brother had to work laboriously in a shoe factory in order to support his education. On the land mark of the industrial revolution, The Divine depicts the horrid involved with the working class in that time period. Young children and grown-ups alike work for many hours at factories with low wages. Departing from the country side, many men and women ventured into the unknown worlds filled with booming industries; similar to a caged pigeon, imprisonment from the fresh air of freedoms, the working class lived in cramped apartments without clean utilities. In those days, the American dream was extremely hard to accomplish since hard work at the factories often time will not pay up accordingly. Watching The Divine, I felt a touch of divinity when I reminisce about my childhood; I did not have to work at all as a young child nor did I have to support my family. Thanks to technologies of the modern world, my childhood was relative safe and shrouded from the eminent dangers associate with factory life in the 1900s. In every aspect, The Divine sharply contradicts with my life; however, the hard working little Talbot someone resembles me when it comes to my school work and extracurricular; we both work hard in order to reach our dreams.


To me, The Divine represents an experience where my old ideologies about plays where burned to the ground, and out of the burnt ground, grew a lovely landscape where crops spring from the joy of my newly founded experience. With every twist and turn in the divine, my mind traveled to dimensions different than that of the mundane student life. It was one phenomenon to read about the lives of factory workers during the Industrial Revolution, but it was a totally different phenomenon to have a first-hand and close up experience filled with emotions that textbooks can never portray in full. The pain and sorrow of the Talbot family, though sad and extremely emotional, was not at all relatable to me who has never experience pain on such scale; however, as I watch the story unfold, my eyes become more opened to the fact that the world is not as a harmonious a place as I have imagined. There is a yin and yang to every character whether flesh or ink; and in order to see those two sides, one just have to unravel the stories and their different truths and perspectives.


(1) Sarah Bernhardt, 1900, black and white photograph


Created with images by juliejordanscott - "Sarah Bernhardt, Another Woman Who Changed the World"

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