The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt By: Sydney Westman

The Spatial Experience: For me, the physical setting was a large part of the experience. When I entered the auditorium, it had an elegant, spacious aura about it that helped set the tone for the play. I was seated very close to the stage, which made me feel closer to the action, and I was able to see, in detail, the set and the costumes of the actors and actresses. I feel that this helped me to connect more to the play and experience the influence of the atmosphere to its fullest extent. When the lights dimmed, it felt as if I was transported into the world at the time that the play was set. The lights dimming allowed me to solely focus on what was occurring on the stage and block out any distractions from the audience around me. The large size of the auditorium contributed to the experience by providing a more proper and spacious feel than a larger venue would have provided. I believe that place plays a very important role in the Good Life. Where you are determines what the atmosphere is that you live in, who you are surrounded with and can even speak to your quality of life. It is my belief that if you are in a location that you love and surrounded by people that you love, you are much more likely to feel satisfied with your life than if you were in a location that you find less than ideal. I included this picture of the audience because I feel that it best encapsulates the atmosphere at the time that I viewed the play.
The Social Experience: I attended the performance with my roommate, my roommate’s friend and my roommate’s friend’s roommate. I know all of these girls very well, as we often hang out together, and we also ran into some friends that we know from our dorm. Going with friends and also seeing friends once there made the play a much more fun and pleasurable experience, as we turned it into a “Girls Night Out” type of thing. My roommate and I did our hair and makeup together, then we helped each other pick out our outfits. Going through that fun ritual before set the tone for the night and made it even more enjoyable for all of us by further enhancing our experiences. Once there, we had fun taking pictures together, finding our seats, and even just standing in line talking to each other. I believe shared experiences are very important to the Good Life, because the experiences we have with one another throughout our lives build up our character and help us to truly define who we are. Going through the same experience as others is also a way for us to feel close to one another and is often how friendships are initially created. I can definitely say I became closer with all three girls I went to the play with that night because it served as another thing that we shared and have in common.

The Cultural and Intellectual Experience: In The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt, the central issue is the battle between the world of theater and the world of the church, but it discusses many other powerful subjects such as the plight of the poor and sexual abuse. Before I saw this play, I had never heard of it and knew very little about it. After viewing it, it made me reflect on certain topics such as my own relationship with God as well as how fortunate I am compared to many others who came before me and still many others today. What I really enjoyed about the presentation of this play was that it used a real event that happened over one hundred years ago to cast new light on themes such as loss of one’s innocence and class inequality. This play made me truly realize how much we have in common with people from the past and also how issues that are relevant today were present many years ago, which speaks to the complicated nature of humanity. The theme that most spoke to me and related to me was that of sexual abuse, because I have a few close friends that have had traumatic sexual experiences so that issue was very poignant for me.

The Emotional Experience: This play definitely provided an opportunity for catharsis because it brought up a lot of subjects that are generally taboo, such as sexual abuse of young children by people in a position of power. Themes such as this often make people feel uncomfortable because of how personal the nature of the issue is, and this play offers a way for this to be dealt with more openly. This play also has an element of irony to it because the church is trying to tell an actress that she can’t perform a play with sexual themes and saying she is disrespectful when, in reality, the biggest monsters were the priests that committed the sexual abuse. In addition, this play allows us to explore topics in history that we many like to forget, such as how children used to work in sweatshops with terrible working conditions and were often injured or killed, as one of the main characters’ brothers was.

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