Introduction: The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt is set in Quebec City in 1905. This play is, in short, about a play. There is a man who is in school to become a priest for the catholic church who desires to meet Sarah Bernhardt and has been writing a play about poverty that she has become interested in starring in. She goes out of her way to visit factories and other places where poverty is prevalent to attempt to understand the perspective of someone who is not of middle class status in order to play the role of someone who falls under that category. There is a strong sense of misunderstanding between classes throughout this play may it be from upper class to lower class or vice versa.
The Spatial Experience: Walking into the theatre I felt very comfortable. Often times when I go to plays I feel overwhelmed by the intensity of the venue and the amount of people surrounding me. In this situation I felt very at ease considering there were very few people in the audience and the venue felt very intimate. The location in which we were sitting was level with the stage and up very close which made us feel like we were actually a part of the story rather than just watching it. Some of the people in front of us shook hands with the actors when they came running out. As someone who is 5'11, I really appreciated the amount of legroom each of the seats allows for. It allowed me to maintain physical comfort throughout the whole show which helped to make my experience very positive. Location/ place definitely has a role in the good life. To fully experience happiness/ pleasure/ joy, you need to be in a place that makes you feel comfortable so that you can appreciate everything positive rather than dread the negatives. If you are in a place you enjoy or don't mind, your experience will be enhanced.
The Social Experience: I attended the performance with a close friend and a few of his friends. Going to the play with some friends was a nice experience because I could whisper to ask them questions if I was confused or needed clarification on something said in the play. This enhanced my experience as well in that I was able to share laughter or other emotions with my friend during and after the play. It is nice to go to performances with someone you know so that you can discuss the outcome afterwards. Shared experiences play a big role in finding the good life. A key component, in my opinion, of the good life is community. Having experiences is a part of life, but being able to share experiences with others allows you to reflect upon your perception of the experience as well as theirs and find commonalities and assess the values and limitations of the said experience. An account of something from one person isn't the most trustworthy source, but if more than one individual experienced the same thing, we can begin to understand the specific effect the experience will have on others who also partake.
The Cultural and Intellectual Experience: The setting of this play is 1905 in Quebec City. Although this is not the culture I personally identify with, it still drew a lot of attention to issues that are definitely brushed over within my own culture. For example, in the play there was a lot of representation of the lower class and how the children of lower class families had to break their backs and work to make unlivable wages to contribute to their families. These children were basically slaves in the work force. Today a lot of companies and stores that we purchase from and give money to actually have child slaves working for unlivable wages. Nobody ever talks about it, just like in the play, because they only care about the quality of the product and don't want to risk having to lose access to these products. Before the play, I was aware of the issues associated with poverty, but I don't think I realized how ignored these issues are in many different cultures and that it can be so bad as to kill someone. It definitely opened my eyes and has made me more aware of the products I consume and I definitely try to purchase fair trade items more often than not.
The Emotional Experience: This play definitely gave as an opportunity for katharsis in that it allows the audience to reflect on these societal issues and try and start to notice them on more of a consistent basis. This play is definitely something that would be socially uncomfortable for the time period in which it was set. Nobody talked about what had to happen in order to create those boots. Nobody talked about all of the slave labor put into producing the materials. Nobody talked about poverty but rather just dealt with it. Being poor was something to hide in public. This was a very political play in that it discussed the issues with consumerism as well as some of the issues with organized religion. If someone who wasn't poor saw this play back in an earlier time, they would potentially begin to recognize what they're doing that reflects what the upper class characters in the play are also doing. Sarah Bernhardt once said something along the lines of... "Theatre educates the ignorant". Theatre touches the souls of those who least expect to be touched which offers the opportunity for katharsis.