A "Divine" Experience Zoe Wasserlauf

The Spatial Experience

There is something special about walking into a theater for the first time. As someone who always enjoys going to theaters big and small, I was excited to walk in and absorb my surroundings. In all honesty, I was mostly excited to get out of the bad weather. I went on the day that there was a tornado watch and it was raining on my walk to the theater. Despite the gloomy day, the inside of the theater was warm and welcoming. I enjoyed seeing the glass artwork hanging from the ceiling and the large windows. I had a hard time navigating the building since I had never been there before, but I was able to find other people going to the performance too.

First time in the theater lobby

I was extremely happy with where I was sitting in the theater. I was in the front row of the second block of seats. Sitting in the front row for any theatrical performance is very important to someone of my height, but the intimate layout of the theater gave me the impression that any seat would give a good view. Throughout the play, there were times where some of the actors walked or stood right where I was sitting. It was interesting to watch what was happening right before my eyes. As the lights dimmed and the fake snow started to fall from the ceiling, I grew impatient for the play to being so that I could see a new story that I was previously unaware of.

The Social Experience

Due to schedule conflicts, I was unable to attend the performance with any of my friends taking the course this semester. I wanted to make sure that this did not affect my experience so I tried to make the most of the opportunity to meet people. By chance, I ended up sitting next to a student who also went alone. Before the play and during the intermission I got to know him and we had a lot of fun. If I didn't put myself out there, I never would've made a new friend. Sharing this experience with another person tied into the Good Life because it displays how the theater can bring people together in unexpected ways and instill happiness. On the flip side, there were also people behind me who decided to ridicule and loudly comment on the show as it was happening. This brought to my attention that while I find that the theater brings me joy, there are people who don't appreciate it and can't find the happiness that the theater can hold.

First attempt at a picture after the show

The Cultural and Intellectual Experience

The play criticized and exposed some of the darker parts of society and history. It juxtaposed the life of the wealthy to that of the poor. Michaud glamorized the life of the poor without knowing their true plights, proving how deep the separation between classes was at that time and is still seen today. Of course some things have changes as there aren't children working in factories to support their families, but I saw a lot of the problems mentioned in the play still reflected in our society now. I was aware of this side of history before seeing the play but I always like to see things from a new perspective. I am not familiar with seminarian life and I had no idea that joining the church was the only way a poor family could really get out poverty. I don't think any of my views were necessarily changed from the show, just reinforced. Like Talbot, my family wanted to send me off to a good school to get a better education than they did and to do something great with my life. I could easily identify when it was apparent that Talbot wanted to do right by his family despite all of his flaws and misdeeds.

A better picture outside the theater

The Emotional Experience

The theme of katharsis is prevalent throughout the play, mainly in the second act. A great thing about the play is that no one is truly innocent or evil, just human. Everyone is flawed and has a moment where they can come clean. The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt exposes the realities that were too controversial to talk about at the time: sexual abuse in the church, children working in factories and the resulting deaths, and the suppression of the arts by the church. Even a century after the setting takes place, it was uncomfortable for many people to watch the play and see how some conflicts still aren't resolved. During the majority of the play, the whispers of students could be almost constantly heard. However, during moments such as the reveal of the sexual abuse cases, when Brother Casgrain committed suicide, and when Leo died, the theater grew so silent that one could hear a pin drop. This shows the emotional impact that this play had on the students, including myself. I tend to get invested in anything I see or read so watching the pain of the characters stuck with me long after the play was over, as I am positive it did to many others.

The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt playbill

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