COMMON ACTIVITY EXPERIENCE THE DIVINE: A PLAY FOR SARAH BERNHARDT

THE SPATIAL EXPERIENCE

I have walked passed the theatre multiple times, wondering what it looked like on the inside. As my friend and I approached the glass doors, we took a moment to look up at the glimmering silver letters that hovered above, spelling “Constans Theatre.” There were many students waiting on the outside, taking multiple pictures and chattering about what the play may be like. This sparked our curiosity as we waited in line, eager to go inside and get a good seat. As soon as the woman swiped my gator1 card, I stepped foot into the theater. I immediately noticed how dark and cold it was on the inside. The combination created a sense of mystery and metaphorical darkness. This was a great contrast to the outside of the theater, where it was brightly lit and warm. The size of the auditorium was equivalent to a lecture hall at Turlington. The stage was dimmed in multiple cool colors, with a set of a beautiful stained glass window and multiple beds on either side. I waited for my friend and then we descended down the stairs, sitting fairly close to the stage. We sat directly in front of a catwalk that connected to the stage, where multiple actors would walk near us. Sitting there felt as if we were part of the play, making us more engaged in the story. Right before the show began, fake snow fell from the ceiling of the stage and everyone in the theatre gradually became quiet. The silence and snow falling from the ceiling dramatized the setting, capturing my attention in full. This relationship between the setting of the theater and how I felt in the moment can be tied back to the relationship between the roles of place in the Good Life. Our environments can have a great effect on our emotions and how we perceive the world. Perception of the world is a major contributing factor of how we choose to live a good life. Either we let the environment define us, or we define the environment.

THE SOCIAL EXPERIENCE

As mentioned before, I attended the performance with a close friend, Diana. As we waited in line, we were both excited and very curious as to how the play would turn out. We shared short conversations, with those sitting next to us, about the small description of the play, and what to expect. We flipped through the pamphlet handed to us, refreshing our memory about the characters and various themes. Being at the play with Diana made my experience very enjoyable. When I looked behind us, in seats higher and further away from the stage, I noticed how there were some students who attended the play by themselves, and were not interacting with their neighbors. Having someone to talk to, before and after the play, allowed me to share and exchange thoughts that were burning on my mind from such a profound performance. In addition to exchanging thoughts, we were able to relate the characters and some of the themes back into our own lives. Shared experiences are another essential element to the path of a Good Life. Shared experiences, with friends and family, allow us to shape our humanity and have something to reflect back on. An important part of our humanity is our desire for commonality, and having shared experiences strengthens your connections you have with friends or family. Having something in common with somebody, somewhat satisfies our need to fit in or feel a sense of belonging.

THE CULTURAL AND INTELLECTUAL EXPERIENCE

The story may have taken place in the early 1900s in Quebec, but the central issue and main themes are also parallel/ relevant to understanding American Culture. Before arriving to the play I had a bit of a background of the characters, theatre in the early 1900s, work and child labor laws, and the Catholic Church in Quebec City. As the study guide mentions, the central conflict of the play may be seen as a dilemma between ethics/ morals, and choosing to rebel for what you believe in. The push and pull of ethics/ morals for each character caused them to make decisions, which ultimately revealed their hidden truths. Truth was also a major component to the performance. The theme of truth was mentioned in the study guide, but it was not until I found out how deep and dark these truths were, that opened my eyes to a new perspective. The most shocking truth, in the performance, was when Talbot had finally exposed how he was being taken advantage of by another priest. This was one of the darker aspects of the play, but he believed he did it for the greater good. He hid this truth in hopes that it would help his family (i.e. the expensive silverware) and help him become a priest. This suppressed secret had gotten him into trouble, with his anger and latter reckless behavior (in the opium house with Madeline).

I see a similar correlation to hidden truth and ideas of morals, within our own culture. For example, this past week we spoke of embodying physical beauty in terms of the good life. We took a brief look into how the media portrays almost unrealistic forms of beauty, when in reality some of these models and celebrities are photo-shopped. This truth is hidden from the public, which creates a beauty standard in society, causing some people to depend on what others have to say about beauty rather than accepting themselves for who they are. In this case, acceptance of oneself can be the more powerful truth. The truth is intimidating, but it is what will inevitably arise. Also, in relation to the central issue of ethic/morals and truths, I can relate to Talbot’s character. There are some things that you feel should not be said to certain people to protect them. After watching this play, I see truth as something that can hurt in the beginning but can advocate for a positive change. During the talk back, one the actors spoke of circumstance in relation to the theme of truth. I believe that this is another aspect that aids understanding of our culture. Everyone’s circumstances are different, but the way we endure those circumstances can either help or hinder us from the path of a Good Life. Like how Talbot ripped the signed document that Michaud created, in hopes of moving on.

THE EMOTIONAL EXPERIENCE

I left the play with such a profound state of mind and a slight feeling of inadequacy. The play was filled with dark situations, which made me question what I would do in each characters standing. The Divine, gave us a major moment for catharsis, through Leo’s death. Leo, Talbot’s brother, was a symbol of honesty and innocence. His death, was the moment I began to question why? I believe that everyone standing/sitting above the door, which Leo was trapped under, was a metaphor for how suppressing the truth can figuratively kill the honesty and innocence that lies within us. Once we begin to neglect honesty and innocence, as did the troupe and factory workers forgot about Leo, we divert on a wrongful path …veering away from the truth. Coming clean is accepting the truth for what it is rather than deny it. The path to a Good Life rests within truth.

Created By
Aliana Kellerhouse Griffin
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