The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt

Introduction

I decided to attend the play with one of my friends also taking the Good Life. We walked there and it was fairly easy to find in the Reitz Student Union. I was hoping it would be interesting to watch; our friend attended the play during the summer and she was excited we would get to see it as well. She said it was her first real experience as a student here at UF and it was exciting attending it with all of the friends she made during the summer semester. She had gone on and on about what an interesting experience it was and that it was most likely the most interesting memory she had from taking the Good Life class.

The Spatial Experience

Walking into the Reitz Student Union, I instantly saw the Constans Theatre. It was smaller than I was expecting just seeing it from the outside. At that moment, I didn't expect much from the play, or rather the location. My friend and I took a few pictures before entering the actual theater. Having gotten there only shortly before the play, we didn't see many people outside, although there were a couple of people already taking pictures. I also realized I had walked through this part of the Reitz countless times and never really noticed the theater. When we went through the first set of doors, we started to see other student and the people to check in down the hallway. I analyzed the room and noticed the very modern style it was decorated with. The interior design of the entrance already matched the artistic, modern appearance utilized in the design of the Reitz Union. The designs were very intriguing and intricate. Hanging from the ceiling, they had colorful and vibrant pieces of artistic design. Entering the auditorium, I was surprised to see that it was much bigger than the outside had initially let on. The inside, where the play would soon be exhibited to us from, looked massive and spacious. It was my first time watching a real play that wasn't in my elementary school's tiny, cramped auditorium. Surprisingly, not many people were in the actual auditorium yet and we were placed fairly close to the stage. The way that the auditorium looked, so large and open rather than narrow like the only ones I had previously experienced. My feelings in the massive theater were feelings of comfort, especially being surrounded by so many people. All of the people around us really made me feel like I was a part of the play. Having already seen how ample the auditorium was, my expectations of the play suddenly changed. When the lights started to dim, I was almost overwhelmed by the presence and essence of drama that was created nearly instantaneously. Once the audience quieted down and the room grew completely silent, I felt the intensity of the environment and I felt like the play would prove to be engaging and a great experience to have, especially considering the fact that I had never experienced something like this before. Throughout the journey to finding the good life, we search for happiness and fulfillment in different areas of our lives, and I felt in that moment that experiencing these types of events could nurture our cultural and artistic side.

The Social Experience

It was such an amazing experience to be surrounded by so many people. It was one of those events that I like to attend with friends where there are so many other UF students that you really get to experience the school spirit that is so powerful and prominent on our campus. The fact that I was able to go with someone I already knew very well was extremely comforting and I'm glad I didn't have to attend this massive event alone. However it was also very interesting, and in some ways humbling, to be in a place that was filled with so many other students who you didn't know, yet you already had something in common. We were all there for the same reason: The Good Life class that is required of us. I feel that although we all have different views and perspectives about the potential benefits of this class, it is something that connects us and provides us with many opportunities to meet other first year students. My friend that attended the play with me was a friend from high school. In our preparation before the play, we went through what the instructions for this assignment said was required of us and made sure that we were prepared for what was going to be asked of us and what we should look out for. It prepared us to pay attention to the things being gained from this experience, such as the visual stimulation and our feelings about the things that we saw. As we entered the auditorium, we were also handed brochures describing what the play was going to be about and the characters that would be portrayed in the presentation. Attending the play with a friend gave me the opportunity to really talk about the concepts that we observed and what the overall experience was like since neither one of us had experienced something like this before. When something that impacted me would happen, such as watching the ending of the play, I was able to express the variety of emotions that I felt during the play. My description of my feelings to my friend were not even limited to just the play, but rather that I was glad to be getting the best that I could out of our class and that I was glad I could now know the experience of attending such a big event with so many of my fellow students. Shared experiences allow you to see how other people's thoughts on something that you may have perceived in a different way can shine a new light on something, allowing you to find new meaning and significance in different things.

The Cultural and Intellectual Experience

The play as a whole was very moving and was the type of event that leaves you thinking about things in a whole new light. I feel that the performance delivered by the characters and the presentation through all of the visual aspects, such as the props and costumes, really allowed the audience to get a feel for the intended tone and mood of the play. It seems that the best way to get an audience to really analyze the scenarios that are being played out for them is through a notable communication delivered through all of the theatrical aspects of the event. Even someone who has never been exposed to the type of poverty the characters experienced can feel for them and sympathize with their harsh situation. I felt that the situation the characters were put in right in front of us forced us to acknowledge the cruel reality of what many people actually experience throughout their lives. Although many of us may have been raised in a comfortable and fairly easy life compared to these people, even if we choose to avoid seeing the colder conditions people like these characters grow up in, there comes a point where we can no longer avoid seeing it. In our culture, it seems that we try to pretend that things are actually better than they are in an effort to continue being solely happy and motivated. However, ignoring these scenarios that other people often experience does not make them any less real or true, especially for those actually going through this. Although the plot takes place in a different time, we can still see the difficulty of living in the society and community. The search for the concept of justice is also very relatable, despite the difference in the time period. I did not know much about what the play was based on beforehand. The performance made me realize how times were difficult, not only in these times, but throughout all of history people have struggled with topics like the value put into money and how it leaves many people unable to achieve certain classes of power and status. The subject reminded me of my own family who has experienced a state of poverty in the past and how people can be perceived as something they aren't so easily.

The Emotional Experience

Based on my own beliefs and feelings, being happy is not just experiencing an easy life. A part of the happiest moments of my life, and the most emotional despite what kind of atmosphere it is, is the truth and reality behind these moments. In other words, I find the realest moments to be the most impacting and meaningful. These moments to me are priceless and make me feel like I am doing well on my path to the good life due to the way they make me feel like I am climbing the ladder to personal improvement. The acknowledgement of these real, though sometimes harsh, realities make me feel a sort of heavy, yet understanding way. It makes me feel human to sympathize and empathize with other people, from any culture to religion to race. I believe that the play, The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt, provides us with an opportunity for katharsis due to the realness it provides us with. It may seem like a topic that is very sensitive and brings discomfort, but it also provides us with the opportunity to connect with people and situations that we never have experienced, and most likely will never experience firsthand. It allows us to touch our deepest form of humanity: our raw emotions. While we may try to turn the other cheek to people in these types of difficult, trying situations, by watching these types of performances we "come clean" by expressing our fascination with experiencing that hardening life that we see and know exists despite our best efforts to eradicate any revelation of it in our own lives. Despite us wanting to remain in denial about these types of moments in our personal lives and others' experiences, we can gain so much appreciation and motivation from actually admitting to ourselves that these types of situations can happen to anyone and are not limited to outsiders. Touching on these darker topics, like poverty and death, we are forced to come to terms with the fact that these will arrive to us in some shape or form throughout our lives and we won't be able to ignore it when it is in our hands.

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