The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt Michael john chiste

The Spatial Experience: Being present at the Constans Theater was a very moving experience for me. Entering the auditorium for the performance allowed me to take in so much that the environment had to offer, like the sight of the crowd, the empty stage before the show, even the ushers played a role in the physical environment that surrounded me. Once you walk into the dimly-lit room, you feel a part of something. In this case, it was the production of a play. I had arrived at the play pretty early, so I was able to get a seat only a few rows back from center stage. This allowed me to take in the entirety of the play from a perfect angle! When the lights dimmed and the performance was about the begin, I was excited to finally see the play unfold. With the dimming of the lights came the cease of all other conversations, and the show was underway. The role of place in the good life is both significant and underrated. One's physical experience is pretty much what gives the individual his or her first expression of whatever is going on in a given situation. For example, a calm, sunny beach gives off the impression of a peaceful, relaxing situation; whereas the dimming of the lights in the Constans Theater set the "stage" for the audience to become focused so that they could enjoy the performance.

The Social Experience: I attended the play with one of my friends, and this enhanced my experienced because we could quietly make comments about what we thought was interesting in the production as it was progressing. To prepare for the performance that evening, we had gotten dinner, and we also looked up some general information about the play we were about to attend. This way, we had some background information about the setting and themes before the first line was even spoken. Attending a performance like this with one of my friends provided me with a much richer experience. If I was alone, I would have felt as if the experience was one for just myself, but since I attended with one of my friends, it became a shared experience for the both of us. This leads to the concept of shared experiences, and their relevance to the good life. For me, I place an emphasized value on the shared experiences that make up my good life. One's life, especially mine, is not solely made up of things that only involve myself. It is composed of the experiences and shared moments that I have with others that I hold close. For example, over Christmas break, when I went on jet skis with my friends from high school, I was not focused on my actual time on the jet ski, but rather the shared experience of being with the individuals that I had literally grown up with; the ones who have helped me become the person that I am today.

The Cultural and Intellectual Experience: Along with the physical environment and the social aspect of the performance, the play itself had tremendous cultural and intellectual value that still applies to today's society. The play had to do with a young, beautiful actress (Sarah Bernhardt) entering Quebec city to perform a play, and even though her presence is welcomed by many, including journalists and a seminarian, Michaud, larger forces, like the Catholic Church and the Archbishop are unimpressed with the actress and what she and her plays stand for. Along with this, a young man named Talbot, enters the seminary after an altercation at his previous one, and is trying to become a priest at the price of his mother and family working to the bone to give him a better life to hopefully one day help their family. Along with the brief background knowledge I attained before attending the performance, I happen to also be Catholic and understand why the Church was in opposition to the young actress. Some of their reasons were that she was too scandalous as a performer, and that her work promoted ideas like adultery and promiscuous behavior. One of the issues that the play definitely opened my eyes to was poverty. Being a Catholic, along with my set of morals, has always guided me to be conscientious of the less fortunate, but this play truly opened my eyes to some of the real experiences that are solely caused by the lack of income and wealth for a family. For example, in Talbot's life, one thing lead to another from his situation, and he ended up being taken advantage of by a priest and he wasn't going to say anything because he was able to get some quality silverware that he and his family would not have been able to afford. The fact that Talbot was planning on suppressing an event that gruesome and horrific for the happiness of his mother not only proves what an honorable man he was trying to be, but it also served as proof as to what situations can be derived simply from a family's lack of wealth. Since they were not rich, they were victim to a wealth-dominated society, where they were unable to challenge their situations without being punished, like Talbot's mother and his brother, Leo with the shoe factory owner. The play did not really pinpoint to a certain event that I have gone through in my life, but the messages presented and the situations depicted are ones that I interact with everyday, which makes this piece of art quite valuable to myself.

The Emotional Experience: This play presents "katharsis," or coming clean, in a multitude of ways. For example, after speaking with Michaud and seeing the workers and conditions at the shoe factory, Sarah Bernhardt decides that she wants to transition her talents from scandalous performances to social dramas. This represents a coming clean because Sarah truly realizes the value of her talent, and she comes to terms with the fact that she can use the theater to enlighten society on the issues that were swept under the rug at the time, like the often fatal working conditions that many women and children had to endure at the ends of wealthy owners with a lack of concern for human life. Another clear example of katharis occurs when Talbot finally comes clean about what had happened at his previous seminary. While the passed along story was that he had gotten in a fight and was causing trouble, we soon come to find that Talbot was not disobedient, but rather obedient...too obedient. In fear of his social position and the well-being of his family, Talbot lets one of the officials at his previous seminary sexually abuse him. It takes a while for Michaud to get this truth out of Talbot, but he finally lets it out. For many people, something this horrific and graphic can be something to suppress, but with the help of Michaud, he comes clean about what had actually happened in his past. Katharsis is a beautiful thing that happens in this world, and makes for a great component to a good life. Everyone fails in this life; it is part of our human nature. The question is whether or not we are able to face faults and shortcomings, or brush them aside. Actually facing and respecting these issues allows for significant personal growth - another factor for the good life.

References Cited

Shlabotnik, Joe. Emotion Road Sign. 1 March 2009. Flickr, Web. Accessed 5 February 2017.

Created By
Michael Chiste


Created with images by Joe Shlabotnik - "Emotion"

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