A Play: an Experience Angela George

Felt awkward with everyone taking pictures of themselves outside the lobby so I had to make mine a little less serious

Introduction: getting there

Arriving to the theatre was accidentally a disaster because I forgot that public parking on UF's campus is inconceivable. After driving through the Reitz lot several times and even driving to nearby lots to look for parking, and the time being 7:10, I thought I would have to miss it. But, I took a chance and went back into the Reitz lot once more and got lucky: a girl pulled out right in front of me very close to the door and I got a space (after fighting with someone who tried to steal it from me)! I was so anxious and flustered from trying to find parking (I hate being late) that I forgot my phone in the car...which, wouldn't have been a problem if a large part of the assignment wasn't to take pictures of myself before and after the play, so I had to borrow a friend's phone. Was relieved to make it there in time, and even having 15-20 minutes of waiting in my seat in anticipation for the play to begin!

A rather terrible picture of me besides an interesting sculpture while waiting in line

the spacial experience

Upon arriving to the play and finding my seat, I was already impressed to see the Constans theatre stage so fittingly decorated for a play set in the turn of the 20th century. I have been to many plays, but most were high school productions, so any theatre set that is slightly less rudimentary than those are easy to impress me. The stage was set with a beautiful (fake) stained-glass window, not unlike those in a Catholic church, with 6 beds, which I could only presume would belong to the men in the Seminary. The stage was set with a blue light, almost an aurora, which was both promising and foreboding at the same time, as seen below. My seat was a decent one, right in the center in the second section of seating, which made my location close enough for comfort, but not too close. The feeling that set over me once the audience quieted, following the dimming of the lights, was one of anticipation and excitement, as well as a stark appreciation for the unanimous feelings theatre sets upon our laps.

Kickin' up the converse in preperation for the impending play (until people were sat in front of me and I had to remove my foot).

the social experience

The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt exceeded my expectations for a low-budget production on a college campus, and by far. As previously mentioned, I am accustomed to high school plays put on by students, so even seeing a play that's even slightly more professional is very different for me. The first thing I would like to make note of is the tangible emotions and feelings put forth by each actor, each in their own unique way. Without question, my favorite character was Michaud, played by Jake Lesh: the dramatic and hopeful seminary student with severe conflicts of interest, the church and the theatre. Being so close to the actors with such intense portrayal of emotion greatly affects the play's meaning, as it just seems so much more personal and tangible than actors on a TV screen. Their voices carry throughout the theatre, and something about their vibrations make the drama so much more real and palpable. Moreover, the social aspects of attending this play were less than desirable, due to the sizeable amount of students obviously not wanting to be in attendance. I attended the play with Austin Futch, and even he was antsy and impatient for the play to finish, as he bounced his legs up and down in anticipation, to my annoyance. There were many students attending this play that did want to be there, but they were overshadowed by the snickers and snide comments made all around me. I am not necessarily a theatre-lover but I have appreciation for one of our society's oldest artforms and am not above admitting that. I did have appreciation for the people around me that did enjoy watching the play, and ones that even stayed for the actor Q&A following the show. Ultimately, the social situation I was personally placed in was relatively undesirable, but I did not let it affect my percival and appreciation of the play.

Some interesting hanging art in the Constans theatre.

the cultural and intellectual experience

The most significant question raised to me by the intensity and dramatism of this play in reference to understanding our culture as humans is definitely in the respects of the duality between doing what one loves and what one believes is right in order to attain the good life, the most significant example of which lying in Michaud. Michaud is obviously a dedicated seminary student and would like it to be his life-long career, but there is something he seems to love even more: the theatre. The Church and the Theatre: two things odds, good and evil, respectable and condemnable. Of course, Jake Lesh's incredible enthusiasm and dramatization of his character absolutely inflamed the understanding that fell over the audience when shown the severity of his love for theatre. His multiple scenes of fake deaths ("how did you like it?") were both theatrical, relatable, and comical, and exacerbated the audience's understanding of his deep love and appreciation for the theatrical arts. Moreover, the time period of this performance, set in the early 20th century, to me, depicted the ultimate importance of the church in society. As illustrated by the Quebec church's almost damnation of Sarah Bernhardt, the overwhelming influence and importance of the church in this time period was extremely significant and affected the lives and outlooks of many. In my opinion, Sarah Bernhardt's adulterated persona and blithe behavior was just her personal way of attaining the good life, which was attempted to be condemned and disallowed by the church. Prior to attending the performance, I was decently well-versed in history during this time period, but mostly with all facts and figures, uncoupled with any personal experience or emotion. Although the actors are just actors, their emotional and personable portrayal of issues such as personal struggles versus international struggles, poverty, hazardous working conditions, as well as the repercussions of a church-controlled society, were so much more tangible and had a much more lasting effect than just trivial facts. In reference to Michaud once again, his blatant inner turmoil between his love for the church and the theatre, a disaster whilst coupled together, really exemplifies the absolute control and influence the church had in most places in the world during this time.

A photo of the pamphlet received at the play (as I left my phone in the car for the duration of the performance, I didn't have to worry about it going off, but I did forget to take a picture using my friend's phone upon leaving the theatre)

the emotional experience

The Greek word "katharsis", or in English as "catharsis", is represented and authenticated in The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt by the ultimate stark dualities presented in each of the characters. Talbot's questionable behavior but insistence to become a priest, Michaud's aforementioned love for the church and the theatre alike, Sarah Bernhardt herself's obsession with human perfection as well as death: all dualities of opposites and things that should not go together. I believe these dichotomies are significant in an ultimate feeling of catharsis, unanimously in the audience, because it sends the message that even those that should encompass their own ideals to a tee do not have to. A priest that steals and fights for his and his family's survival, another priest who loves what his religion condemns most, and an actress attempting to encompass the ideals expected of her, instead of the ideals she is comprised of. Ultimately, the story presented through this play sends the subsequent message that there is no one that does not deviate from societal expectations, and there is no one that is a perfect character and does not have flaws or doubts of their own. I think this message is extremely important, as it is significant to all people of all races, ages, religions, and cultures, because it humanizes the demonized and condemns the demonization of any who do not encompass constricting societal normalcies that we all have experienced.

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Angela George

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