On January 22nd, I attended "The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt" performance in the Constans Theatre here at the University of Florida. Through this experience, I learned how important active engagement, honesty, and self-improvement are in attaining the good life. To understand my experience, I have broken it down to four sections: Spatial, Social, Cultural/Intellectual, and Emotional.
This is me at the Constans Theatre before the play
the Spatial experience
When I entered the theatre, I was feeling quite joyful and connected because it was the first time I had gone to a performance by myself. As a child, I had seen many performances with my family, from "The Lion King" back in my hometown to "The King and I" in New York City. However, this was something new to me, therefore I wanted to enjoy this moment and have my own connected experience with the performance. At the theatre, I sat in the back left row of seats, which was quite far from the stage. Nonetheless, I did not believe my seat position affected my overall experience because I was still able to see the complete action on stage and feel the emotions of each character through their words and movements. When the lights dimmed and the audience quieted down, I felt very excited yet calm. I had no clue what this play had in store and so I decided to treat it like a movie, quiet but engaged. The size of the auditorium was much larger than I had expected. With a large auditorium, I felt that it enhanced my experience as it allowed me to see both the stage action and the audience's reaction to the play. The role of place in the Good Life is to bring people together and give people a shared experience, regardless of whether they are friends or complete strangers. Like the play at the Constans Theatre, it brought many different students together to reflect and share this important experience and hopefully guide them to find their own "good life".
This a photo of Megan, Lorea, and I preparing to walk into the theatre.
the social experience
I attended the Good Life play with my two friends, Megan and Lorea. Before the play started, we all ate at Subways and overlooked the Good Life Performance page on Canvas to see what components we needed to keep note of during the play. When we entered the theatre, we read over the plot and the character bios in the program and gave our opinions and expectations for this play. I believe that attending the play with friends enhanced my experience because it allowed me to openly express my views about the performance, the play's message, and themes seen throughout the performance without feeling judged or ignored. It also allowed me to hear other people's perspectives on the play and its content, making it feel more like a holistic experience for me. In reference to finding the Good Life, I believe that shared experiences open individuals up to new experiences and remove this feeling of isolation and being on your own in this world. By experiencing things with people you care about, it allows you to see the true meaning of life and helps you find things that are truly valuable in life, such as family and love.
The cultural and intellectual experience
Quebec Harbor, circa 1900
"The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt" was set in Quebec City, Canada in 1905. In this play, issues such as inequality between social classes, child labor, and censorship by the church were constantly addressed throughout the plot. Before attending the performance, I had a basic understanding of the subject matter. I understood that this play was taking place in an industrial city in the early 20th-century, which meant that themes like social injustice, child labor and tension between religion and modern society were prevalent in that time period. However, I wasn't aware of the extent and level of harshness that these issues went about in real life. The performance greatly changed my views about these issues by creating visual examples of the central issues addressed in the play. The scenes of the Factory Owner threatening the workers, the death of Talbot's younger brother, Leo, at the factory and the horrifying death of worker's daughter made me realize that these events weren't uncommon back then and that such injustice still remains in today's society, like in third world countries. The subject matter does have some relation with my own life as I have personally experienced economic hardships in my life and have had to make sacrifices to lighten the blow on my family. For example, I have taken up a Federal Work Study job in order to help pay for college and reduce the cost on my family.
This is me after watching the play
The emotional experience
"The Divine: A Play For Sarah Bernhardt" provides us an opportunity to experience Katharsis by displaying to the audience the moral and personal struggles that each character faces and showing the viewers that these characters are no more different than us. This performance offered the audience an insight of their "less-than-noble qualities," such as deceit and abuse, through the characters own actions. It showed the audience that awful things do happen behind the scenes (such as the church's censorship of "unholy material" or the abuse by the wealthy upon the lower classes) and that we either choose to ignore or lie to avoid getting in trouble. However, it is through these experiences that we are able to find our true selves and to "come out clean" (Katharsis). Through their personal struggles and horrific experiences, characters like Talbot and Michaud were able to correct themselves and follow a path into becoming better people. Ultimately, this play has allowed the audience to see their own lives through these characters and hopefully have inspired them to find the "good life" through honesty and self-improvement.
Photos by Reo Kunori