The Divine:A Divine experience Hannah MacDonald

Attending The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt was a wonderful experience. The story was interesting and the play was well produced. There were several aspects of the play that made attending the play an enjoyable experience.

The Constans Theater was a beautiful location with interesting decor. The physical location of the theater was ideal for me; it was located within walking distance of my dorm. Upon entering the theater, I was immediately entertained by the large figures. However, once I got to my seat, the setting for the play was well done. I thought the sets were well made, and enjoyed that the beds in the seminary doubled as sewing machines in a factory. I appreciated the size of the auditorium for the production. Almost every seat was filled, however it was not crowded. When the lights dimmed and the show began, I was excited to see how the show began as a since of tranquility loomed over the audience. This was quickly broken by the intro tot he play, however I enjoyed the sudden and abrupt action the play provided. The place has a role in the Good Life because how a person feels about their surrounding influences their happiness somewhere. If the play had been in a small, crowded space, I would not have enjoyed the show as much and not found as much meaning from it, thus detracting from the good life.

Me standing beside (and posing like) one of the statues in front of the theater before the show began.

I attended the performance with my best friend and roommate. Before the play, I researched the proper attire to wear to a show. I found that a semi-casual dress would be sufficient for the occasion. I also read a brief summary of the play, and general information about Sarah Bernhardt as a person. This information was useful during the play because I learned about her eccentric personality- she slept and travelled in a coffin. Attending the show with my friend enhanced my experience because I knew her behavior during the performance was appropriate. I also sat beside a stranger who spoke to his friend during the show, and that detracted from the performance. However, after the show, my friend and I were able to discuss different aspects of the show and the parts we both liked and disliked. This added a different perspective to the interpretation of the show, which allowed me to understand the play from a different perspective. The social experience plays a large role in the good life. If I did not like the people I surround myself, I would not be a happy person. But because the people around me make me happy, and provide me with intellectual stimulation, I am satisfied with my life. Other people have the ability to bring joy or misery into someone's life, so naturally they play a large role in determining the good life.

Sarah Bernhardt sleeping in her coffin (photo from M-Giles 2017)

This play is set in the early 1900s. This time period was during the progressive era when the social injustice created by the industrial revolution reached its peak, and was beginning to be addressed. The play addressed a variety of issues ranging from the corruption, sexual abuse, and unsanitary working conditions. Before going to the play, I had read many books about the poor working conditions at the time, as well as heard about sexual abuse being covered up. This play put all of the information I had previously learned into a new light. Through the creation of an emotional connection to the main characters, I felt genuine upset and anger over the working conditions in the factories, as well as sorrow for sexual abuse. Sarah Bernhardt publicly called attention to these atrocities, but as a result was not allowed to perform. While this does not directly resemble anything in my life currently, it draws attention to the issue with poverty in America. The minimum wage is not a living wage, and many people struggle with somewhat similar conditions to those in the play.

Young children working with dangerous machinery in a sewing factory during the progressive era (photo from Gale Group 1997).

The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt provides many opportunities for catharsis. It shows many flaws in society and highlights many social issues. For example, through the death of Leo, child labor and the unhealthy working conditions are directly shown. This allows society to recognize how unfair, and unlawful, the factories were during the progressive era. Through the bribery and covering up of sexual abuse, corruption within society, and the church, is also shown. The play demonstrates these facets of society bluntly, drawing attention to these problems. Showing these problems allows society to look at the problems it shows. Today, many working conditions are unsafe, and child labor laws are not necessarily always followed. The performance gave the audience an opportunity to look into society and notice the faults.

Headline about priest sexually abusing children from 2002 (photo from Boston Globe 2002)
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Hannah MacDonald
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