I experienced many different emotions whilst entering the theater. In my life, I have only seen one other play, the Book of Mormon. Therefore, the experience of entering a theater is still very new to me. The theater was larger then I had expected, with plenty of open seats in the back. Since I arrived at the theater a half hour early, I managed to get a very good seat in the front center. This gave me a very good central view of the play, and I was not blocked by the head of the person in front of me like I was last time. My feelings when the lights began to dim and the audience quieted was one of excitement and anticipation. Again, this is only the second play I have seen, and therefore the experience is quite new to me. As well, I have gone into this play knowing almost nothing about it, allowing me a fresh and unfiltered viewpoint of the events about to unfold. The theater wasn't filled to capacity, giving the audience a more intimate experience with each other. I believe that place plays a unique role in experiencing the good life, as it enables an individual to get to know their surroundings and the people within them and build off of it. The size of the place, as well as the amount of people can help to characterize an individual and subsequently reveal hidden truths about their character.
Because the play was only open to students enrolled in the Good Life course, I was unable to attend with my friends. Therefore, I entered the theater by myself and viewed the play surrounded by strangers. My friend came with me to the Reitz and took the picture above, outside the theater. I was upset that he was unable to come and view the play with me, as I am not prone to doing many things by myself, and I was a bit nervous to be sitting next to complete strangers the entirety of the play. There wasn't a lot that I did beforehand to get ready for the performance. I wanted to go into the play with a little knowledge as possible to heighten my experience, so I did not do much research until afterwards. I went to dinner with several of my friends before heading to the theater around 7 p.m. While I did not attend the play with my friends, (most of whom took this class last semester), my experience with still enhanced by those around me. The entirety of the theater was made up of Good Life students, most of whom where freshmen, leaving us with a sense of community and understanding, that we were all here for the same purpose, with the same questions. The role of shared experiences leaves a large impact in the Good Life, as it allows individuals to grow closer and enables us to better understand the world and hopefully allows to to understand other individuals who do not have the same experiences with a more open mind. I further enhanced by social experience when attending the Talk Back after the play. Several of the cast members, including Meyer (the manager), and several reporters came to discuss the play. Several questions including the reasoning behind choosing this play to preform, as well as the internal processes to making this play happen behind the scenes (i.e. the casting and the costuming, etc.). Being able to discuss the internal workings of the play for 20 minutes afterwards gave me a more fulfilled experience as a was able to enjoy how the play came to be, and the cast members relationship with the source material was vital to making everything come together in the end.
The Cultural and Intellectual Experience
There are many ways in which this play helped me better understand our culture. The plays revolves around two young seminarians, with drastically different backgrounds and personalities, whose lives are turned upside down with the introduction of a famous, if not controversial, theater actress, "The Divine" Sarah Bernhardt. The central conflict of this play revolves much around class inequality, specifically the issue of child factory labor, which was very prevalent in the year of 1905, following the advent of new technologies thru the industrial revolution. Another central conflict of the play is the conflict of tight constraint of region versus the theater, a place for Sarah Bernhardt to freely express her views of the world. While the exploitation of child labor is not a significant problem today, the great division of economic classes, as well as religious freedom are still very much seen in today's world. Sarah Bernhardt is very controversial due to her inability to conform to societal standards of normality among the classes, and her desire to bring to light the topic of unfair treatment within the factories. Talbot, on the other hand, is facing his own demons with child molestation and the consequences of not keeping quiet for the sake of the church. Overall, this play has given both a better understanding of the conflicts of the past, and how they have influenced the problems of the future. Even today, the lower class is struggling to feed and clothe their children, with minimum wage providing little to no support, problems which were highlighted in a play taking place well over a century ago. I have a clear and more definite understanding of the inequalities of the world, and how they originated and subsequently spread, taking root in the lives of many people today.
As mentioned before, this play has highlighted many problems of the past that still echo in society today. With this in mind, "The Divine:a play for Sarah Bernhardt" provides a perfect opportunity for "Kartharsis" or coming clean with our own humanity and the inherent faults within it. For every individual on this plant, there is a different idea of what it means to be human and to be happy. Some may believe it to be wealth and materialism while others simply prefer the company of others. "The Divine" examines what it means to be happy within the different classes, with Michaud finding joy in the theatre, while Mrs. Tablot and Leo find happiness in knowing that Talbot will give their family a higher standing in society. These perceptions of happiness were shaped around their life experiences and the manner in which they were raised. Following the death of young Leo near the end of the play, Katharsis is finally reached with both the audience and the individuals within the play. Humanity is inherently flawed, with people many concerned with their own self interest and ignorance of those considered beneath them. With the discovery of the factory workers and their situations, Madeleine, Sarah, and the rest of the theater group go through self discovery of the inequalities that the world has to offer, while those below suffer the consequences of such ignorance. They realize that many people are treated less than human and are unhappy with life, struggling to get by. Their experiences differ from their own, and therefore provide a more complete view of the world and its many problems. The play provides me with an opportunity of Katharsis as well, as I am now better able to comprehend the world's inequalities and faults, especially among those that I do not have a shared experience with. I am better able to understand that my life experience does not apply to everybody else, and putting ourselves in other people's shoes may help to lessen the social tensions and create a better future.