Theatre Zach Bragg

Divine Performance Good Life - Introduction

The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt, written by Michel Marc Bouchard, tells the story of a seminary student at the turn of the 20th century who grows up rapidly when he is forced to confront major social issues of the day. The two major issues addressed in this play have to do with sexual abuse in the priesthood and child labor. It is with the advent of Sarah Bernhardt to this student’s city that the story develops. It takes us through this student’s character development changing from a naïve and innocent individual to a force to be reckoned with in confronting these societal ills.

The actors, who did an excellent job in their character portrayals, are cast from the College of the Arts, School of Theatre and Dance at the University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.

Spatial Experience

Walking up the incline/stairs to the second floor and not being able to see around the corner wall led to the beginning of anticipation – what was around the corner? What was even more exciting was walking into the two doors to enter the theatre and not knowing what to expect. Whereas you might expect to be looking up at a screen in a movie theatre, it was amazing walking into the theatre and having my eyes drawn down towards the stage and seeing all of the seats lead down to it. Upon entering the auditorium what immediately caught my eye was the backdrop of the stained-glass window. Additionally, all seats in the auditorium were stage front so no one had bad seats and everything on stage was observable to all. It felt like something exciting was about to happen.

It was enjoyable to come around a corner and not have it too packed with people on arrival. On the night we (mom and I) attended, the auditorium wasn’t packed which contributed to a feeling of space, eliminating any feeling of claustrophobia. Although our seats were centered, they were relatively high up, however, that didn’t interfere with our hearing the actors during the performance. The actors did a good job of facing the audience throughout which made hearing their performances easier. With respect to the stage itself, it was interesting between scenes to see the actors and stage/prop people moving props and furniture on and off the stage. For example, I thought the sewing machine to bed transformation was a good and exciting use of space.

Place does make a difference in comfort level. The whole atmosphere and the actual environment contributed to an enjoyable evening and emphasizes how setting can contribute to the good life.

Social Experience

I attended the show with my mother who had come up for the weekend specifically to see the production (She enjoys theatre) and to spend the evening with one of her two kids. Her eagerness was infectious and had me looking more forward to attending than I had been. Additionally, spending time with family always brings with it a level of comfort, relaxation and acceptance. All of this then contributed to an easy, relaxing evening and in some ways a more enjoyable experience. The shared production led to conversations that included discussing and arguing about what we saw and heard that evening, making it more memorable and understandable. Shared understanding and meaning between two people can deepen an understanding of an experience and make you see the good life differently or even more clearly.

Sitting with someone and discussing/sharing your observations is always more enjoyable than sitting alone thinking thoughts and having ideas but not being able to share them.

Intellectuals at Work

The Cultural and Intellectual Experience

The show appears to take place around the turn of the 20th century and what it shows is that the social ills prevalent back then (sexually abusive priests and abused children, and child labor abuse) are still present.

Before the performance, I was very aware of child exploitation in today’s society (i.e., overseas child labor used in garment industry, and the whole heinous U.S. cover-up in the priesthood over the abusive behavior of priests towards children). This production brought to the forefront that these are not new problems but have been around for a very long time. Watching the production did not change my views in that I believe child sexual abuse to be terrible in nature and child labor to be just wrong however it did bring home that there are different ways one might react/deal with abuse: one can stand up to it and fight against these wrongs, or one can initially stand up to it and then finally accept defeat to it. One must recognize human frailty and that each individual has his own breaking point.

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