INTRODUCTION: Recently, I've had the pleasure of seeing Michel Marc Bouchard's play The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt performed at the beautiful Constans Theater at The University of Florida campus. The play was written by Michel Marc Bouchard, translated by Linda Gaboriau and directed by David Young.
Credit: University of Florida
THE SPATIAL EXPERIENCE: The day that I chose to attend the play was very cold and somber. The weather, in some ways, was foreshadowing the seriousness of certain topics portrayed in the play. I entered the theater through the first floor of the Reitz union. A crowd of fellow students gathered outside waiting to be allowed entrance. Shortly after I arrived, a group of individuals began to check out gator ID cards and it was time to enter the theater. I felt a mix of emotions when I entered the auditorium. The one that I could easily identify was excitement. This was my very first time seeing a live play, something that I have always wanted to do. Being able to witness these actors assume their roles so seamlessly was very fascinating. What also intrigued me was that there was no room for errors since this was performed under the watchful eye of a live audience. At first glance, the theater looked very big, spacious and almost daunting. Despite this, I chose the seat closest to the stage. That seat heightened my experience throughout the entirety of the play. I could see every expression, hear every word, and feel the wind every time the actors dashed across the stage. The proximity also heightened the distinct smell aroma of the theater. There was a faint smell of sandalwood and another unidentifiable odor. It was like the set had its own distinct smell and personality. The play did not begin as soon as we were seated and I had time to converse amongst my peers. When the light finally dimmed, the audience quieted instantaneously and in sync. I was again consumed by the feeling of excitement, ready to experience and immerse myself completely into the story that would be told that day. The role of place is very important to the good life. The ideal place can facilitate interactions among people, influence behavior and motivation among other things. An environment that is not ideal can also harm how one's life is shaped and the quality of life.
Credit: University of Florida
THE SOCIAL EXPERIENCE: When I learned about the required common activity, my best friend and I decided to attend the play on the same day. To prepare for the play, I woke up 5 hours before the time I was supposed to be there. I was so excited and I did not under any circumstances want to be late for the performance. I decided to wash my hair and choose a presentable outfit, something that I felt the most myself in. When I arrived at the theater, there were a group of my peers standing outside waiting to be allowed entrance. I used this time to find my best friend. Deciding to attend the play together was a very good choice mainly because we are both introverted individuals and just the thought of starting a conversation with strangers frightened us. While it would have been better to interact with others and see their perspectives, having her there enhance my experience. I felt comfortable in my environment and that allowed me to soak up the information that was presented to be better. If I attended the play alone, I would most likely feel out of place and isolated and that feeling would be so distracting that it would ruin my whole experience. The role of shared experiences is very important to the good life. Humans are social creatures and we've always had an impact on each other. We share a lot of experiences and because we that society has evolved to what it is now. Shared experiences are crucial to the pursuit of a good life. The experience shared with others can inspire and provide motivation to achieve life goals, empower you to make changes in your life that promote positive energy and a great quality of life.
THE CULTURAL AND INTELLECTUAL EXPERIENCE: The performance helped my develop a new way of seeing. There were many central issues addressed in the performance. One of the issues addressed was socioeconomic status. The characters within the play all came from different background, some privileged like Michaud and others poor like Talbot. While they were other seminarians, they were from opposing social classes and had different ideas about religion, art, and life. Michaud was a stereotypical rich young man. He was inexperienced about the real world and tragedies. Talbot, on the other end, is filled with anger and walks around with no distinguishable emotions on his face. In the beginning of the play, the characters did not make much of an effort to be aware and understand the other classes. But this all shifted and as the audience, we note the important of this. A social economic class had a lot of implications on the lives of individuals and better understanding this allows us to treat each other with respect and to acknowledged that not all individuals are going to share the same story. It kept the idea of individualism alive while also bringing the characters closer together. Before coming to the play I was quite aware of the topic. Coming from a low socioeconomic background I could relate to inhumane jobs and hours that Talbot's mother and brother had to work to survive. I could also relate to how those in a higher class failed to see their privilege or their ignorance towards the struggles of the lower class. The performance only heightened my belief that all classes should be fluid in the way they understand the lives of the other and the way that they show respect to those not as privileged. Another important topic touched upon was the idea of censorship.
Credit: The Economists. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Feb. 2017. <http://cdn.static-economist.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/full-width/images/print-edition/20140201_USD001_1.jpg>.
THE EMOTIONAL EXPERIENCE: Every scene in the play, in my opinion, provides us with an opportunity for katharsis and leaves us thinking afterward. One of the main scenes in the play that stuck with me was the speech given by the owner of the factory. In that speech, he criticized Sarah's female travel companion, who even after realizing the horrendous conditions the factory still chooses to purchase a pair of boots. He also condemns the church and in a way is the voice that releases all the hidden and dirty truths. By acknowledging the inhuman who conditions of his factories and the many lives lost, he comes to terms with his own demons and comes clean. In another scene, Brother Casgrain comes clean about the reason that he stresses Talbot's submission and dismissal. It was because he too endured the unspeakable brought upon him by the same man. Each character in the story must come clean eventually. That is one of the overarching messages of the play. Let the arts be a guide that brings about complete honest, closure and peace of mind.
Credit: "Soul Detox: Coming Clean." Buddy Howard. N.p., 04 Mar. 2013. Web. 06 Feb. 2017.