The Divine: A Play for Sarah BernhardtBy Tara Bagherlee, IUF1000
The Spatial Experience
The Constans Theater Lobby
Me at the Constans Theater
My spatial experience while seeing The Divine was conflicting - I felt as if the experience with the audience was not as intimate due to the arrangements of the seats, since I have seen live shows in theaters where the audience seats envelop the stage rather than facing it, which made for a more united experience while watching the show.
I am a person who enjoys live theatre - I think the Constans Theatre is beautifully constructed (inside the theatre and out, as shown in the pictures above), and when the lights dim and the stage is lit, I always get a jolt of excitement for what I am about to witness unfold on stage. Theater is an emotional experience for everyone involved (the actors and the audience) - and when that journey is about to begin, the spatial experience of a large auditorium, hushed voices, and a dimming light is one that truly lets me get in the mood to watch a show.
The role of place in the Good Life is one of subjectivity. I think it is less about the place itself and more about the feeling it omits. For some people, a place like a theatre plays a larger role in the Good Life because it may feel like a place of acceptance or like home. For other people, there are different places that cause this same effect. It's more about what you bring to a place and what experiences you have to offer in the place than the actual place itself when it comes to the role of place in the Good Life.
The Social Experience
Maddie (left), me (right)
I attended the performance with one of my close friends Maddie. To get ready for the performance, I read the brief description provided on the Common Activities page about the show to give myself some context about the play's material.
Attending the show with a friend enhanced my experience because theatre is an experience in and of itself. When an audience watches a show together, no matter if they are strangers or friends, it is a bond they all share - viewing the content and watching it transpire together instantly brings them closer in ways they never knew before. Doing all of this with a good friend of mine definitely enhanced the experience and created a new bond with a person I already shared many with.
The role of shared experiences in the Good Life is one of great importance - a lot of bonds and relationships that are formed in the pursuit of a Good Life result from shared experience. I often find that my closest friends (the people who make my life better) are people who I have gone through many shared experiences with myself. Doing something together and experiencing it together brings bonds that only those people can understand. Personally, I think having experiences to share and people to share them with has a great role in the pursuit of the Good Life.
The Cultural and Intellectual Experience
The performance covered a lot of different themes in a mere two and a half hours. Some of the more central issues addressed in the performance include the conflict between the church and theater as well as child labor laws and poor working conditions in the early 20th century.
Before attending the performance, I was somewhat aware of these subject matters, but I had never seen them "put into action" before. I took the class Theater Appreciation last semester, and part of our curriculum was focused on why theater was shunned by religion for so long. I gained a better understanding of the Church's restrictions and how they were implemented when a large focus of the plot was how Brother Casgrain wanted Sarah Bernhardt to stop performing her play of sin.
I was also aware of the Industrial Revolution's presence in the late 19th century and early 20th century and how many different nations, Canada included, struggled with working conditions while trying to further the advancement of their societies' technology. This was especially true of children who often had to work long hours in order to make even a couple of cents.
The performance definitely put my life into perspective. I often take for granted the basic rights I have been granted simply due to the century I was born in. If I had been a child born 100 years earlier, I would have been placed in the same situation as Leo, and if I wanted to pursue artistic interests, I would have been limited by the restrictions of the Roman Catholic Church. Society has progressed a fair amount in the past 100 years in the terms of working conditions and separation of church and state. (and theater)
The Emotional Experience
The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt provides us an opportunity for katharsis because theater is all about empathy. The experience of watching a live performance unfold in front of you as these actors pour all that they have into these characters makes an audience member feel like they are there with the characters; it makes them feel like they are going through the same scenarios as these characters.
Katharsis is all about "coming clean," and plays like The Divine force its viewers to come clean about themselves - about their lives and the privileges they have been granted because of those who have struggled before them.
We all find katharsis in different places - for people like Sarah Bernhardt, her katharsis is in embodying a completely new person while on stage. For people like Brother Casgrain and Michaud, they seek katharsis in the texts of religion and in the act of praying, coming clean to God for sins that may have been committed and promising to work against them.
Introductory slide photo - David Cooper / The Toronto Star (found here)