The Divine: A Play For Sarah Bernhardt By: Fan Ling

As I entered the Constans Theatre, I didn't know what to expect from this play or the theater itself. I just noticed that there was a line of other students in front of the theater entrance which I thought was the line for entering the theater but in reality it was actually the line to take pictures of the theater entrance. After watching the play, I realized that when I was waiting in line it was similar to what Sarah Bernhardt was talking about challenging trends and being more rebellious, we as humans are more likely to conform which was I did do when I just got in line without asking what the line was for and just assumed it was the line for ticketing. After entering through the entrance I was just looking around and trying to take in what the theater was like. The theater was pretty small but that wasn't a bad thing it was actually a good thing since it made the performance a closer and personal experience. The play opened with Sarah Bernhardt walking across the left side of the audience section and that just made me feel as if I were part of the play because by using this technique we, the audience, were acting as if we were her fans in the play. Since I was seated in middle section of the theater I was able to have an all knowing viewpoint. The setting of the play was in Quebec City and the theatrical effects: playing winter mood music and the falling of fake snow used within the play made me feel as the cold of Quebec City and as if I was in the city too.

I knew there was a semi-formal dress code for the play and I remember that I was in my dorm flustered trying to come up with a decent and semi-formal outfit. I actually had to try to look nice for this event which was a little bit hard for me since I do not own a lot of formal styled clothing. I was able to get ready and wear something that I considered to be semi-formal but still felt a little under dressed once I saw other student's outfits. But I saw this as an obstacle that we have to overcome throughout our life and just stick to what we have and make the most of it. I attended the play with my friend Darla and it was a good experience for both me and her. We both enjoyed the play and being able to attend the play together allowed us to witness each other's reactions to each events that happened within the play. Certain moments happened within the play that we both did not expect at all and it surprised us quite a bit and it was nice to see each and laugh about each other's reactions after the play. Because I was able to go a friend we were able to share and enjoy the experience of this play together and I was able to talk and discuss about it with her afterwards. Sharing this experience with my friend demonstrated that the Good Life is one to be shared because I like to share good moments and enjoy things more when I have friends around me.

Darla and I in front of the Constans Theatre before the performance

The play took place in Quebec City of December 1905. The major issue that I noticed the most was the issue of labor laws within the play the the social riff between the rich and the poor. I was saddened by the work conditions that Mrs. Talbot had to put up with just for very minimal wage. Although the boss was very cruel but he reminded us the moral neglect on the consumer's interest. Which I have noticed each character addressed a problem within the society but there's always someone else that would counter it with some sort of truth. For example, the workers wanted the boss to be more sympathetic and be more concerned for child safety within the factory but the factory boss would counter it with the fact that the parent of the child begged him to let the child work in the factory. In a sense there is some truth to this because the factory boss didn't want to hire the child in the first place in consideration of not having to pay an extra worker and for the sake of the child's safety. The underlying central conflict within the play was between moral and ethical obligations. Each character had the struggle between their personal morals and ethics, and several were forced to make choices that sacrificed their own needs and wants for their perception of what the good life means. The choices that the each character made all had a consequence and it taught me that we have to live with our consequences due to the choice we made. In my culture it is believed that fortune and a happy life doesn't just come around but rather we have to work towards it and through our progress of working towards our achievements sacrifices need to be made and sometimes have to face the consequences of choosing one choice over the other.

The play allowed for a plethora of opportunities of katharsis. It addressed the underlying will of the Church to maintain power and their misconducts. This play brought up issues that was never expected to happen within the church especially the sexual abuse that would occur. Another issue that allowed for the audience to consider was the number of child death rates in factories. Considering the fact that the play was set in 1905, the Child Labor Laws weren't set until the early 1990s this allowed for the people during the time when the play was first performed to consider about the past and how harsh the factory conditions were like for a child. The death of Leo Talbot opened the eyes of the audience about the lack of safety regulations within factories. I felt very saddened by the death of innocent Leo who was the ultimate sacrifice within the play that allowed for Talbot leave behind his needs and wants to oblige to being a priest.

What I thought that was interesting was the way Talbot interpreted the Theatre. I always thought theatre was part of arts and never viewed in the way Talbot would "They talk to themselves, question themselves, and answer themselves back!". I thought this was an interesting point of view even if it was from a negative view point. Not only does it shed another viewpoint on the theatre but the character Sarah Bernhardt criticizes the whole country of Canada. This allowed for Michel Bouchard to put his own inputs about the problems within his country without having to publicly speak out the issue and allows for the audience to think and learn about uncomfortable topics and in a sense come clean. This is possible because theater allows us to examine our society from the safety and distance of our seats. The distance allows us to be educated of our society without having to fully experience them. Bouchard also uses the technique of a play within a play to give the performance of self-reflection and to allow reiteration of the play's main themes.

After pictures of the play

I fully enjoyed the play and not having any background knowledge beforehand allowed me to piece together the plot and enjoy the surprises within the play.

Credits:

Created with images by BenjaminHill - "Realism" • esdomingos - "stage theatre of" • notfrancois - "Snowy morning"

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