The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt Ana Lop

The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt

The Divine, written by Canadian playwright Michel Marc Bouchard, tells the story of two Seminarians of completely different social backgrounds whose lives meet and are changed by the arrival of Sarah Bernhardt, an acclaimed French actress that challenges their beliefs and ends up upending their whole lives.

Original Cover

The Spatial Experience

As I walked to the inside of the theatre from the Reitz Union, I found myself very pleasantly surprised by the sudden change of atmosphere. In spite of being a relatively modern theatre, for some reason it conserves a nostalgic feeling to it; something that contrasts significantly to the Reitz's futuristic architecture and environment. Sitting in the first row allowed me to understand the play to a deeper level than I would have had I sat somewhere else. This was mainly because I felt absorbed into the plot; like I was the sole spectator to something that was more than just a play, something real to an extent. The way in which I felt in this specific environment highly contributed to the overall experience, for place is what either ends up making it absolutely amazing or merely mediocre.

The Social Experience

I attended the play with some friends, which changed the mindset with which I came into the theatre. This, however, didn't impact the way I perceived the overall play. Although I was still carrying some lightheartedness (a result of good conversation) throughout the first couple of minutes of the play, this quickly gave way to a deep emotional involvement. After this initial transition, it was only me, the characters, and an extremely engaging story.

The Cultural and Intellectual Experience

Although the performance addresses some very controversial topics such as Church power/overreach and societal conservatism, the theme of child labor in the play was personally one of the most striking ones. Although I had known about the many atrocities children underwent slightly more than one hundred years ago, it had stayed in my mind as merely a fact. The play however, personified it and gave it a whole new meaning. The suffering endured has now acquired a face and a life story; and in my mind, the thousands that died are no longer numbers but kids with illusions and entire lives ahead of themselves that never were.

Manuel: the young shrimp picker, age 5. 1908. Source: http://www.historyplace.com/unitedstates/childlabor/

The Emotional Experience

Besides the obviously unacceptable attitudes toward child labor present until the early 1900s, there were many other things about the play that were the cause of tremendous introspection and catharsis. Among these were the parallels that exist with modern society, which allows us to pretty much view from a different perspective (third point-of-view) issues that still occur in an everyday basis. One of these is the way in which, like Michaud and often without realizing, we live blissful lives while ignoring many others' realities, which tarnishes our perception of the world and gives us a fake sense of happiness.

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