The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt By: Caridad DOMINGUEZ

The Spatial Experience

As I entered the theatre, I felt a sense of majesty and mystery walking in. Although I attended the afternoon Matinee, I felt like I was transformed hours forward into the night. As one of the earlier audience members to arrive, I sat at the center of the third row, closet to the front of the stage. This definitely contributed to a vision of the Good Life as I had one of the best seats in the house. More than others, I was transfixed by the action occurring on stage because the actors were right in front of me. The rest of the auditorium diminished behind me and I forgot about the actual size of the theatre. From my perspective, there were only three rows and the stage. It was as if the actors were performing for just me at times, especially when the lights dimmed and the audience quieted, the rest of the world just disappeared. The hardest parts were when the action occurred behind me and I had to turn my neck to see the quick scenes that happened behind the first few rows. Here, I was aware of the audience behind me, but otherwise the performance felt personal.

The Social Experience

It was pleasant having companions to attend the performance with. We were able to discuss our thoughts during intermission, and afterwards grabbed dinner and dissected the play together. I went with two of my good friends also enrolled in the Good Life course which allowed us to view the performance through the Good Life lens, something that is not possible with other audience members not enrolled in the class. Before attending the performance, we had lunch together in our nice outfits, preparing for the show. Once we arrived, we waited for the doors to open and took the closest seats we could find. It was certainly beneficial attending with friends because we already have common interests and viewpoints, but we still differ on a lot of beliefs so it was interesting to see their perspectives on the play versus mine. Through shared experiences, people can relate to one another and form a bond with each other, an important aspect of the Good Life.

The Cultural and Intellectual Experience

Since I was not born in North America and I had no family here during the time period represented in the performance, I cannot say that the play represents my culture. However, I can appreciate the awareness it brings of the injustices that occurred in the early 1990s in industrialized parts of the world. The issues of sex abuse in the Church, child labor, and most importantly, the strive for truth and morality are all relevant topics that many struggled with during this era. I was awed at how much information and history was able to be condensed into a two and a half hour show. I had learned about the child labor dilemma in classes, but to see it being performed brought an element of empathy and understanding with it. The sexual abuse is a topic that is not greatly discussed, so it was somewhat shocking how honest the play was portraying the situations with the Catholic Church. The performance did not change my views on these issues because it is common knowledge that they are wrong. If anything, the play enhanced just how disturbing life was in the 1990s in industrialized areas. It is comforting to know most societies have moved past that, and for those that haven't, it provides a sense of urgency to change that. I grew up Catholic and went to Catholic school, and never discussed the abuses of the Church. Thus, the play was eye-opening for myself in particular because I had been taught to stay away from the subject matter, but once it is presented in front of you, it is important to know the truth.

The Emotional Experience

The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt brings to light topics that are considered distressing and taboo for many. Although, this is what theatre represents, pushing the envelope on what is deemed correct to discuss and talk about. No one expresses this better than Sarah BernHardt herself, quoting her love of theatre stemming from the reality and nitty, gritty subjects it presents to the world. This is how performance provides katharsis for audiences. We are exposed to situations not usually examined in our everyday lives. Through theatre, we are teleported to different times, locations, perspectives; all for the sake of learning someone else's story. These stories matter. These stories have depth. This is what theatre provides, an escape to a different realm that we will hold onto long after the curtains close. Theatre brings awareness, and with awareness comes change, either a change that has already occurred or one that we have been instilled to distribute.

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Credits:

Created with images by kaykaybarrie - "Factory Theatre" • AndyRobertsPhotos - "Theatre" • Nachrichten_muc - "stage curtain curtain stage"

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