By: Maria F Maceda
The Spatial Experience: While entering the Constans Theatre from the outside entrance, for the first time, I was very pleased that it gave off an artistic ambience. The color lights on the walls, the architecture, and the sculptures more towards the end of the hall way made the theatre very welcoming. Not only, was the theatre appealing but the Reitz Union is known for having beautiful landscape in the center of the building. When going inside the theatre itself, I was excited to be there for the first time. I was told where to sit and I ended up sitting at the very front of the stage so I was able to really focus on the detail of the set design. The imitation of the glass stained windows (seen in the picture below) that were hanging in the background were very well made, it was the first thing that captured my attention. Since I was sitting on the side of the stage next to the exit doors, once the lights dimmed out, the actors came out from the doors right next to us. It made it a very exciting opening. I also loved how the beds transformed into the work stations during the show. The set was very eye-catching and I really enjoyed seeing how they transformed the stage for certain scenes.
The Social Experience: A student received me at the top of the stairs once I walked into the theatre and he told me to go all the way down towards the other student that was directing people where to sit. At first it was a bit discomforting because I had planned to sit in the middle towards the back but I ended being forced to sit at the very front of the stage, on the left side. I also planned to sit by myself since I went to the show on my own. Surprisingly, after a couple of minutes, the two girls sitting beside me were also alone, so we kept each other company before the show started. I realized that they may do this in order to make it easier for students to find a seat but it also allowed for everyone to be sitting next to each other, instead of by themselves. It made the ambient of the theatre feel like we were all "together" and there for the same purpose. It made it more comfortable for me when taking the selfie of myself outside the theatre after the show.
The Cultural and Intellectual Experience: The first half of the play was a bit confusing for me and I was not able to follow the script. Although, I started to get the overarching theme of the play right away, how poverty and power created a society that has a very high power distance. Power distance, according to Geert Hofstede, is defined as "This dimension deals with the fact that all individuals in societies are not equal – it expresses the attitude of the culture towards these inequalities amongst us." Which basically describes whether society accepts or deny's the inequality of the rich, the middle class and the poor. Of course, when talking about power and how it is used negatively, you see people in higher ranked positions treating their employees without respect. There is a couple examples of this in the script but the two main scenes where it struck me the most is when the priest tells Talbot to keep quiet about the "incident" that occurred. Towards the end of the show, we find out that the secret that he was keeping was about sexual assault and that the higher positioned priest tried to keep him quiet by bribing or scaring him. Sexual assault is a horrible crime that has been known to hold power over people throughout history. This played at the end sends a message to the public about how telling the truth and exposing the crime is the right thing to do. The second example is when the owner of the shoe factory is fighting with Talbot kid brother and he calls him out on not providing the workers with safe conditions or a comfortable environment to work in. The owner feels as if he has authority and that he is "elite", so he does not need to care for his workers. Instead he only cares about making more money and saving by laying off workers. He also proceeds by stepping on the hand of the women who was helping him fit his suit. Sadly, the poor workers don't have a choice to speak out and protesting might not be reasonable because they can't afford to loose their job. I believe this was the main theme of the play and how we live in a society that might not always be fair to everyone at all times. There was a couple more themes such as, not being able to pursue your passion or dream career, as well as, the church controlling the "state" but I believed that power and poverty was the main theme of the play. Power because when someone is in a higher ranking than someone else, they can hold things against that person, such as the priest bribing and keeping Talbot quiet. Power and poverty as one, because when someone is in a higher social class during this time period, they believed they had authority over the poor.
The Emotional Experience: I believe that The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt provide us an opportunity for katharsis, which is the greek word for "coming clean" correlates with the theme of power. As mentioned before, the priest was in a higher position than Talbot which allowed him to keep him quiet for sometime because he had power over him. But throughout the play you can tell that Talbot also had resentment over keeping quiet and not telling people the truth. Towards the end of the play, he couldn't live with it any longer and had to "come clean". The play has a underlining message that is obvious at the end, when it comes to something like sexual assault, one should not keep quiet just because someone who has power over you or scares you into not telling the truth. Talbot at the end seemed like he got loads off of him from how stressed he was about keeping that secret to himself. I will say that I disagree with this because you could tell that the victim did not want the public to know and I believe that is something that has to be respected.