I sat in the second row of the theater. This is the closest to the stage I’ve ever been in a live performance like this and it created a much more intimate feel to the play. This was especially rue during one of Sarah Bernhardt’s monologues, when I made eye contact with the actress. A contributing factor in this sense of intimacy was the size of the audience, the auditorium was relatively small and didn’t come close to being filled.
I attended the play alone, originally, I had planned to attend the play with a group of friends, but due to a scheduling conflict I had to change dates. To get ready for the performance I went back to my dorm then had dinner at the Reitz Student Union before arriving early to the Constans Theater. While waiting in line to be admitted to the theater I talked to the girl next to me, we then sat next to each other and talked about the play both during intermission and after the play. This experience allowed me to get her perspective on the play and compare it to my own, without any preconceived notions of what her personal opinion would be.
The Cultural and Intellectual Experience
The central issue addressed in the play was the class structure and labor laws of early 20th century Canada, and the world in general. Before seeing this play, I was not very well informed on this issue, however the play succeeds in showing a very emotional and persuasive argument against child labor and the culture that willfully turns a blind eye towards child exploitation and unsafe working conditions. It also made me think about how the themes in this play are still very relevant today. Consumers expect to be given quality goods at low prices, which can only be achieved by exploitative labor, and they never consider how producers keep the prices so low.
The play provides an opportunity for catharsis because it depicts events and themes that we are aware are present in our society but often chose not to think about. These themes include the exploitation of child labor, unsafe working conditions, child sexual abuse, and corruption of the church. The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt gives us a chance to explore and think about these topics and confront our feelings towards them. We automatically react with disgust towards the events in the play, but then when the factory owner talks about how the consumers are complicit in these events we realize that this is something that still goes on today. We want to have inexpensive goods, and we don’t want to think about where they came from.
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