The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt

Spatial Experience

The spatial experience of the theater itself had an impact on my enjoyment of the play. When I first walked in I was surprised by how small the theater was. Also it was odd to me how the seats were quite level with the stage instead of being raised at a sharp incline, which would make you look down onto the stage. This set up of the theater made it for a more intimate experience. The theater was small so there was no escape from the drama of the play. It was so small that the actors were able to come out into the audience and walk through the aisles and not seem too far from the action on the stage. My seat was on the end of the row so I had many actors pass by me in the different scenes which made me feel part of the play itself. This type of theater and interaction between the audience and the performers is something I really enjoy. I am glad I got to sit on the end because it furthered my interaction. The actors as they passed by looked at the people they were passing and even occasionally reached out to them. While the play was dramatized for the enjoyment of the audience it portrayed real issues faced by people of the time. These issues of poverty and corruption of the church can still be seen today. The spatial aspects of the theater made a connection that allowed to audience to really connect the story to their own modern life. This play was not a fictional world with fictional social issues. The personal interaction due to the layout of the theater made it impossible for the audience to ignore the emotional strife of the characters and the harsh reality of what they had to say.

Social experience

I attended the play with four of my friends from my high school. We made it into a little event where we all dressed semi nice and had dinner in the Reitz together before the performance. The good part about going to the play together is that we were able to discuss it during intermission and after it was over. We expressed any confusion we had and we compared our different interpretations and feelings. It is nice to hear about how the same play can instill different thoughts and feelings even between friends who are quite similar. Shared experiences create connections between people. I personally believe that social connections between people are vital to the good life. Having friends and experiencing new things along side one another is something I put in the category of happiness and not pleasure. By yourself the play might have felt long and boring. With friends around you it makes it more pleasing because you do not feel so lonely in times of emotional stress, such as when the little brother died or when you had to watch the women in the horrible working conditions. While I believe it is important to feel all types of emotions, sometimes when someone is alone, one is more likely to get lost and carried away by intense circumstances. Seeing this play with friends made all the hard parts a little less depressing and easier to cope with. That can also be seen with the ladies in the factory. They have each other and they help one another out in times of stress. While their social status and working conditions are wretched, having one another to lean on makes it slightly more bearable.

Cultural and intellectual experience

A lot of this play touches on the drastic difference in economic status. The Talbot family is struggling financially and yet people like Sarah Bernhardt and Michaud see their situation as an entertaining story. Mrs. Talbot works long hours in a factory for very little pay. As a single mother raising six children obviously it is not enough income, so she has to ask her son Leo to help work in the factory. The main issue here is that Leo is way to young to be working especially in a factory about 100 years ago. Everyday they go into the factory, their lives are at risk. The factory owner takes advantage of their desperation for a job and pays them almost nothing, allowing himself and his business to make a decent profit. This discrepancy in wealth is something that is discussed on a regular basis even today. These types of factories may no longer be common in the US or Canada (like in the play), but have moved to third world countries. Just like the the factory owner taking advantage of their desperation, big corporations in the US outsource these low skill jobs to places over seas to increase their profit just as we saw in the play. We can sit and watch the play and think of how horrible it is to see little kids working day and night to help put food on the table, but it is important for us to remember this is something that is still happening today. It is also something we support by being loyal customers to those brands that make their goods in these sweatshops overseas. This play did not change my opinions on these issues, it only made my distress more intense.

Emotional experience

This play touches on basically everything Dr. Pagan listed. It is socially uncomfortable to watch the poor Talbot family struggle while we are the people buying the pretty boots with no concern on how they were made. It is politically conscientious because the leaders we elect decide the regulations of safety and working age which would have prevented Leo and the two little girls from dying in the factory. These leaders can also limit the amount of outsourcing companies do, or place regulations on the quality of the work environment they outsource to. It is religiously irreverent because instead of portraying the Catholic priests in a mighty and holy light, it exposes the corruption of the priests who rape little boys in the parish and use their power to get away with it. These religious figures use their status to threaten and control others, which is something that makes many people unhappy to think about. It calls to attention something that people have turned a blind eye to for centuries. It is culturally radical for exposing all the things I just explained. It takes an unpopular stance on issues that need to be discussed and fixed. Working conditions of the poor, religious corruption, and political ignorance are aspects of life that seem to never go away. They never go away due to how uncomfortable they make people. It is infuriating to me that people can not handle discussing such situations. They are issues that concern the livelihood and well being of real human beings. However, change takes effort and change takes standing up to people who have money or political status. Instead of letting those types of people intimidate us or control society, it is vital for the everyday person to stand up and say it is not OK. In their head while watching the play they can think about how upsetting it is, but it will forever be upsetting unless something is done to change it. These types of plays are a constant reminder of what society is really like. They call to attention all the wrongdoings that people pretend don't exist. These plays allow people to stop ignoring their discontent with social issues which can be quite cathartic. However, in my case it does not release any stress, it instead sends me into a spiral of thinking about all the horrible things in the world and how little the majority of the population does to change it.

Created By
Emily Jones
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