The Divine, an Experience Reflection by John Hughes

The Spacial Experience

I attended the play with several friends, and we were laughing and enjoying a lighthearted atmosphere together, but the moment we stepped into Constans theater, the mood changed. There was an intensity to the atmosphere that was not present outside. We were seated in the right side of the middle section, just a few rows from the stage itself, allowing us to have an up close and personal interaction with the actors themselves. This location allowed us to be fully immersed in the play, especially when the lights dimmed and the rest of the audience, including all the people I came in with seemed to fall away into the darkness, leaving just me and the stage. The size of the auditorium seemed inconsequential as soon as the lights were dimmed, as the only thing that mattered was the stage and the actors, which were both comfortably accommodated in the space provided. I have been in bigger auditoriums, but I certainly did not feel like I missed out of any of the allure that plays bring based on the size of Constans Theater.

The Social Experience

Although it was fun to attend "The Divine" with friends, there was very little interaction between us, except for right before the lights dimmed, and right after the curtain fell. Before the play was filled with excited speculation. We had all read the summary and several critical reviews of the play, but we were unsure as to how this performance would be delivered. Once the lights dimmed and the audience went quiet, I found that there was no one in our group that made any effort to converse with one another, partly out of respect for others and the actors, but more so we were all seemingly transfixed by the play and atmosphere of the theater. We sat in absolute silence, 8 of us side by side, for the duration of the play. After the mood was slightly different. Many of us took time to reflect on the social commentary aspect of the play, quietly discussing our personal opinions with one another. We had a group discussion about the talk-back portion of the play, as many of us found the statements given by the actors regarding "having a voice" in a social commentary to be powerful, and paralleled this to the actors of the "Hamilton" cast that had spoken out in political protest earlier this year.

The Cultural and Intellectual Experience

I felt as though "The Divine" prompted subtle reflection of several social topics of today. Issues such as religion, gender roles, social obedience and expectation were all addressed in the play. The greatest current conflict that was examined by the play was the disconnect between the wealthy elite and the poorer classes, displayed by Talbot and Michaud, two Quebec City seminarians from opposing social classes. Michaud is fascinated by Talbot's life, as he wishes to write a play to fulfill his obsession with the arts, while Talbot seems more than displeased with Michaud's actions to try and replicate a life of poverty by visiting a factory with him as well as other actions. Personally, I feel as though the relevance of this message to today cannot be understated, as income inequality continues to rise, and even political leaders of the contemporary world echo Marie Antoinette's statement "Let them eat cake", expressing an enormous disconnect with the society (although it is worth noting that Marie Antoinette never actually made this statement). Personally, I found it relieving to see such an issue portrayed so artfully, filled with humor, but also serious when it needed to be. I felt as though "The Divine" sends a positive message, without tremendous bias towards either social class.

The Emotional Experience

The Divine forces the audience into a feeling of katharsis by providing witty commentary of social issues. For instance, Sarah Bernhardt is so exuberant, so overbearing, that she represents men completely overwhelming women in the professional world, how women are almost suffocated by men in their lack of power. When we consider that the audience of this play will consist of college educated individuals who are, or will be professionals, we can consider that this play will force them to reflect on the lives of the less fortunate. "The Divine" provides a contentious social commentary but masks it with humor and comic relief, especially with regard to the status of women and the poor in the time period. I would argue that most characters are charismatic in their own regard, and cut a likable figure, therefore forcing the audience to feel empathy and compassion for characters that may represent those from opposite walks of life than themselves, further reflecting this katharsis.

NOTE: pictures 1-4 were taken by John Hughes Outside Constans theater January 25 in Gainensville, FL.

Reference for picture 5

Ouzounian, Richard. "The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt Holds Harrowing Moments but Doesn't Quite Jell: Review." Thestar.com. N.p., 25 July 2015. Web. 02 Feb. 2017.

Written Consent from Juan Mejia Kyle Rubin to be photographed

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