My Experience at The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt Grace Murray

The Spatial Experience

As I left my chemistry lecture to walk to the Constans Theater I was feeling a bit sleepy because I had a long day of classes and it was getting dark outside. I didn't really know what to expect the play to be like because I had never attended one here at UF and I had also never been inside Constans Theater before. I got there pretty early and sat in the second row on the right side when you are facing the stage, next to the side doors that the performers came out from later on. Being this close to the front helped me to pay more attention and took away the temptation of using my phone during the performance. It was also nice that we had to check our backpacks because if I had been looking at my backpack, that would have been like a constant reminder of all the homework I needed to be doing! When the lights dimmed and the audience quieted I directed my attention to the stage because that's where I expected the performers to come out on. I was very surprised when a huge group of people suddenly burst out from the door right by my seat, all of them yelling for a "Ms. Burnhardt." I enjoyed the intimate size of the theater and how the performers came out into the audience a little bit because it made the experience seem more personal. I think that the role of place is important in the good life, but it isn't everything. We all have favorite places, whether it's our house, a favorite library, or lake to go and hammock by, but for me, where I am isn't nearly as important as who I am with, which is a good lead into the social experience I had when seeing this performance.

The Social Experience

I attended the performance with a group of about 6 of my close friends. Prior to going to the performance we coordinated which night we wanted to attend, that way we could all go together. Then we met at the French Fries in front of Marston Library to walk to the theater together. I always feel more confident and comfortable walking into a new place when I am with familiar people. Attending the performance with friends was nice because I was sitting next to familiar faces, people I could turn to to ask a question or share a look with when something funny happened in the play. I am not the type of person who will start up a conversation with a stranger, and I would not have enjoyed my experience at the performance had I not gone with a buddy. I think that shared experiences play a huge role in the good life because our friendships and close relationships with people are built upon these shared experiences. It was interesting to talk after the play and see all the different interpretations and opinions we had on the performance. Learning about other people's perspectives is an integral part of the good life because it broadens your perspective and challenges you.

The Cultural and Intellectual Experience

I think that this performance ultimately called us to reflect upon the basis of morality. I know a good amount of information about child labor and conflicts in the Church from this time and place, but not a ton. I don't think that I can say that the performance changed my views on the subject matter, but it definitely prompted me to consider what exactly constitutes a moral decision. My life right now does not have any ties to child labor or inappropriate relationships, but I think that everyone can relate on a broader level. I think that almost everyone, at least once in their life, is faced with a difficult decision of whether or not to speak up about something that happens for fear of society's reaction or the response of our loved ones. I think that we all make sacrifices for our loved ones, and I recently read an article that reminded me of this performance because the main idea of the article was that strength is not necessarily loud. There are different types of strength, there are people like Sarah who are confident, able to put themselves out there completely, but there are also people like Tolbert whose strength we would have never known about had he not shared it. I don't think that we can determine which type of strength is more difficult to possess or experience, but I do know that one major takeaway from this performance was that we truly do not know the hardships that the people we encounter everyday are enduring. I think this performance really exhibited how different people react to bad situations and how there isn't necessarily an ultimately "correct" reaction. Our society is very quick to pass judgments, but who are we to ultimately decide what is right and what is wrong?

The Emotional Experience

In the words of Dr. Pagán, theatre exhibits “topics that are socially uncomfortable, politically contentious, religiously irreverent, or culturally radical.” This performance undoubtedly covered topics that are socially uncomfortable, irreverent, and radical. This performance prompted the audience to confront topics head-on that are typically danced around. In the actors and their experiences, we saw their faults and their hardships and were able to relate to them. It is hard to admit that we have something in common with people who are flawed but the beautiful thing about the theatre is that the actors embrace the good and the bad in their characters, exhibiting all of their qualities so that we, as the audience, may relate to them. This play gave us the opportunity for katharsis, it gave us the opportunity to have a lightbulb moment where we connect with the characters on a deep and personal level as they explore the questionable aspects of morality through the conflict between the Church and theatre. Finding the good life isn't about being perfect. We are all flawed and we can only attain the good life when we know ourselves well enough to appreciate our strengths, come to terms with our humanity, and learn from our flaws so that we can be better every single day.

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