The Divine: A Play For Sarah Bernhardt My Theatrical Experience

The Spatial Experience

As I was walking inside the Constans Theatre, I noticed how compact the lobby and theatre are. The lobby was very plain and neutral: grey carpet, beige walls, and minimal decor. I feel like the minimalistic style was done purposefully, so that the theatre-goers are welcomed with the various colors of the set and costumes. It almost felt like the lobby's purpose was to cleanse our "palate" and enter a state of relaxation and openness before being confronted by complex dialogue and plot.

The entrance of the Constans Theatre. The open concept was very welcoming.

Once I sat down in the theatre, I was overwhelmed with darkness from the lighting and monotone background. As the lights went down and audience quieted, I was transported into another world. The world of the play actually. I pictured myself in Québec City, living the lifestyle of the characters. Also, due to the compact size of the theatre, the audience was able fiercely engage with story line and not feel left out due to extensive distance from the stage like in other theaters.

My seat was located on front right section of the lower level. I was so close to the stage that I could rest my arm on the stage. Because my seat was so close I felt that my experience with the play differed from the rest. The actors were so close that I almost felt as if I was part of the play. I heard everything so clearly and saw facial expressions and gestures perfectly. The role of place in the Good Life can contribute a great amount to seeking truth and individualism because if there is a peaceful and meaningful environment, it can facilitate the process of self-awareness.

The Social Experience

Despite the fact that my friends and I are not in the same Good Life class, we decided to attend the play together. We were a group of four and all sat together. Perhaps the fact that we went together made the experience a little more enjoyable than being alone because we were able to ask each other questions about scenes we did not understand and thus enhance our understanding of the underlying message of the play.

This statue that I encountered in the lobby reminded me of how society can get lost in patriotism and become blind to injustices.

Before the performance, I made sure I was well-rested because theatrical productions do tend to be quite lengthy in time. I dressed in casual and warm clothing to maximize my comfort. I feel like because I prepared myself for the play, my experience was more pleasant. In other words, I felt as if I were in the comfort of my own home. My mentality was that if I re-created the comfort of my own home, I would have a more relaxed and positive state of mind that would allow me to contemplate the work of art more thoroughly and willingly.

This relates to achieving the Good Life, because when you are surrounded by people you know there is a strong guaranteed system of support. Attending the play with my friends was very beneficial in the sense that I did not feel lonely and afraid to interact with others. I am not sure about others, but when I am surrounded by people I know I feel more confident in my actions and thoughts. Therefore, for someone who is attempting to seek the Good Life, like myself, having someone or several people to rely on can raise my self-esteem and encourage me to reflect on life more often.

The Cultural and Intellectual Experience

The performance was very eye-opening and mind-stimulating. It made me more aware of society's imperfections. I even feel that it made me more skeptical of higher authority because not everyone is completely truthful and reliable. The play occurred in the winter of 1905 in Québec City. A young optimistic and ambitious seminarian yearned to create his own play about his idol, Sarah Bernhardt. However, this young man, Michaud, was confronted with darkness as he became more aware of the daily corruption seen in society and more specifically, religion.

I did not have the slightest idea of the play was going to be about, I came in basically blind. The play presented a clash between the Catholic Church and Theatre. The church controlled everything from finances to education. Its dominance led people to avoid conflicts and confrontations with the church to prevent any doubts of God and spirituality. The play highlighted the hypocrisy of individuals within the church, social oppression/privilege, and moral and ethical obligations.

Quote from the playwright...

The performance taught me that the truth is not always pretty. Truth can be disappointing, however, knowing the truth makes humanity more aware and less naive. For instance this quote from Sarah Bernhardt, in my opinion, embodies the purpose of theatre and overall theme of the play: "Theatre is the sister of History and Philosophy, of Politics and Justice...It educates the ignorant without their realizing. It opens our minds. It touches our hearts...It seeks the truth." Although I do not know all truths, the play inspired me to reflect on current issues such as, our political climate. I cannot say I relate to the subject matter of the play, but the performance did make me want to stop and reflect more about life and ask critical questions that the media and society are afraid to answer.

The Emotional Experience

The Divine was a play that caused me to release a multitude of emotions. Those include, anger, sadness, doubt, as well as clarity. To call this play just cathartic would be an understatement. It was beyond cathartic and so eye-opening. I had never in my life ever stopped and reflected on the harsh lifestyle that the socially oppressed live with, past and present I almost felt guilty for not being more aware of life outside mine. The play opened so many doors for people to enter and understand the harsh realities of life.

After staying for the talk-back discussion with the actors, I realized that the young seminarian, Michaud, experienced catharsis himself. Michaud's innocence was shattered as he continuously discovered the dishonesty of the church and the factory owner/boss. However, this negative experience turned into a positive one because despite being exposed to the seedier sides of life, his experience with Sarah was a spiritual cleanse/detox from chicanery and deceit. This play gave the audience an opportunity to examine history, politics, religion and philosophy, an opportunity to truly understand what it means to be human. Overall, watching The Divine was a cathartic experience because it shed light on uncomfortable topics, forced us to confront injustices, and face our emotions.

I took this selfie right after the play ended inside the lobby. This picture perfectly encapsulates how I felt about the play: amazing.

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