On Tuesday, February 1st, I, Mitch Capps attended the Divine: a Play for Sarah Bernhardt at Constans Theatre directed by David Young. It was an emotional and societally introspective experience. The play is based around a working class family struggling with money and the Catholic church. I initially went because I had to for this class, but ended up thoroughly enjoying the masterful production. The actors were exceptional for being mostly understudies, and they sold the performance well to what I assume is a less than ideal crowd of college freshmen.
The Spatial Experience
I went to the play alone instead of with friends so I could better experience the Divine, and it made the whole endeavor that much better. When I arrived at Constans Theatre, I took my seat and prepared for what I expected to be a dull night, but the only thing that was dull was the lights. I got comfortable in my seat and when the lights went down and the actors came out, I was instantly surprised by the professionalism of the entire production. I noticed the crowd was mostly Good Life students, and I kept thinking how it must be really discouraging for the actors that most of the audience was required to be there. However, it did not even seem to cross their minds as they looked really passionate about the performance. The fact that I felt like I was in a very professional play when I was in a student union watching student actors was incredibly impressive.
The Social Experience
As stated previously, I did not go with any of my friends, but as a social person, I introduced myself to the students next to me and we discussed our Good Life classes, (before the show started of course) and talked about the readings for classes, and other school related topics. However, once the show started, I respectfully became quiet, but having talked to my fellow play-goers definitely enhanced my experience because I felt like I was more of a part of the audience. It created a feeling that we were all there together to see what the actors had to offer. As the play went on and emotions changed, we reacted as a collective, which was an interesting feeling. It was like a mutually beneficial mob mentality for emotions. Because we are all freshmen, like-minded students for the most part, we were able to feed off each other's experiences to make a play I would have usually never enjoyed much better.
The Cultural and Intellectual Experience
There's something about going to a play that just makes you feel cultured, but also quite fancy. Historically, theatre has connections to status and the upper class, so some of that connotation carries over into today. I understand why the play is a common activity, because it definitely elevates the intellectual aspect of your life. Just arriving at a student union, a place of education, and going to a play not only makes you feel like a more well rounded individual, but it actually does help you live a more balanced life. After this experience, I intend to bolster that part of my life, because realistically, in order to achieve a good, well rounded life, it is critical not to neglect the cultural and intellectual aspects, and I do not have these kinds of experiences enough. However, I found it very hard to relate to the material in the play, as I have very little relations to child labor or the early 1900's. Tyler Ellman's performance as Leo did resonate with me because he worked passionately for his family, and I share similar values. The fact that I could not relate to the plot does nothing to detract from the experience, but I could imagine that it would add something extra if I could.
The Emotional Experience
The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt allows the audience to achieve "katharsis" by forcing the members to examine an aspect of American history that is particularly uncomfortable for many, not only those in the Catholic community. As I was raised Catholic, I did have to look into the moral construct of a large part of my youth, which can be challenging. It is important to thoroughly examine the values of those that influence your values. Growing up, a priest was an esteemed influence in my eyes, and the notion that they could act so maliciously towards anyone, much less those who were under their influence as I was, came off as painful, but necessary. I understood that society grows through this process, so I was not blatantly offended as I imagine some may have been. It also helped me to grow emotionally because it is easy to forget how people used to suffer in day to day life, and how easy my life has been in comparison. It also gives an extreme example of how the working world can affect an individual emotionally. The working class is so frequently wrapped up in living one day after the next that they can work their lives away and miss a lot of the beauties in life. After this experience I will be sure to make sure I can decompress after working day to day so that I enjoy life rather than getting stuck in a habitual lifestyle that can run out the clock on life.
"The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt" Virginia Tech School for the Performing Arts, Web. 2014 http://www.performingarts.vt.edu/events/view/divine