Thursday, Jun 13th 2024

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Being Thrown Into the Fire


By Lion Goodman, 1992 Mill Valley. CA

"I was a student (1971) in one of Samuel's first classes in Boulder. A few of the students -- one in particular (who shall go unmentioned, although his initials are Mark Gunther) -- were accusing Samuel of being an 'ego trip.' This was certainly a heinous curse during the early 70's. One could mot accused of anything worse. I was bored by the discussion, which seemed to repeat itself at least once during each class. I was waiting for more teaching, because Samuel would challenge me to move my elbow while keeping everything else still, or to move everything but the elbow, which was even more difficult."

I came out of my reverie with a start. Samuel, in his sharp, commending voice' Who will volunteer? My hand shot up, before I knew what the question was. Samuel: 'Good. Come up here.' He patted the stage next to him, where he sat, angry about accusations and the verbal waste of time. I stood up, now prepared for any exercise Sam would give me, ready to demonstrate my superior ability to follow directions, without arguing over who was in charge.

'So I am on an ego trip' Sam said to his accuser. 'Good. Then Lion Goodman will teach the class.' He looked at me, smiling. Groans from the students. I gulped, but my Adam's apple seemed to be caught mid-swallow. I looked back at Samuel, into his huge, black eyes. There was mischief there. He folded his arms his chest, sat back, and waited. I had absolutely no idea what to do. The natives were getting restless. If I didn't do something quick, there would be an armed rebellion.

'Okay, everyone stands,' I said, rising to my feet. Surprisingly, everyone stood up. 'Begin walking around, and pay attention to your feet.' They began to walk around. I looked at Samuel. He looked back, motioning 'Go On!' I went on, giving instructions which they followed, as if I were their teacher, I froze them, had them close their eyes, and fall, as slowly as possible, go to the ground. 'Take a thousand years to fall,' I said. 'Let the earth pull you down, molecule by molecule.' In slow motion, they began to collapse into heaps on the floor. Some of them looked damned uncomfortable, but I didn't know how to tell them to get straightened out. I took them on a 'trip' down their bodies, exploring their insides, riding through their arteries, walking inside their bones, exploring their inner ears...

Samuel came up to me, stood by my side, whispering in my ear, 'Have them begin to move together.' I brought them back into the room, then gave them instructions to find each other, slowly, keeping their eyes closed. I told them to make sounds, softly at first, then louder. The individuals turned into a heap of bodies, then into a swarm, then one organism, moving and throbbing.

Samuel came up to me and began whispering into my ear: 'See that one? She is avoiding touching the others. See him? How he is only gratifying himself? He is not in tune with the others around him. That one is off by himself, See that one trying to lead the sounds? He is not cooperative, he is disruptive. There is the ego trip.' One by one he pointed out what he could see by their body movements, each one speaking volumes by way of subtle clues. My eyes began to open. I could see how each person expressed themselves silently through the language of the body.

Samuel took over, thankfully, and we reconvened to discuss what had happened. Some of the students complimented me on my teaching (as if I had known what I was doing!). Others complained that I had left them too long in an uncomfortable position. I was still in a state of shock, but beamed with the positive feedback. Samuel then asked me what I had learned. I reported much of it, but the whispered revelations about my fellow students, I kept to myself.

Samuel called it 'being thrown into the fire,' but it was more like being thrown into a tub of ice water. My eyes were glued open from that day on. Never again could I look at a person and see only how they dressed, or how they looked. Each behavior yells out clues about which this person really is, what their values are their history, their family, their philosophy of life, their desires, and ultimately, their future.

This is what Samuel taught me -- the words are meaningless, the actions everything.
If we can only stay awake, and remember. If we can open our eyes, we can see. It helps to have a teacher like Samuel kicks you in the butt once in a while. Or throw you back into the fire.

Lion Goodman was a student at Le Centre du Silence from 1971-1974, and helped sponsor and produce Samuel's first public performance on the University of Colorado Campus. He also helped Samuel name his school by suggesting 'The Centre of Silence' (although Samuel will probably not remember this). Many of his photographs of Samuel's performances have appeared in books published by Le Centre du Silence.

Editor's note:
Lion is now an executive recruiter, or 'corporate headhunter,' with his own firm, The Goodman Group, based in Mill Valley, California. Although not currently active in the performing arts, he claims that he continues to use the non-verbal techniques and knowledge taught to him by Samuel Avital, much to his advantage in the very verbal world of business.

"Samuel brings awareness to the soul of people and gives the artists who work under his direction the need, dedication, and love for the world of silence and the beautiful art of movement."


- Marcel Marceau, BIP 1961

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About LCDS

LCDS is an independent school for self-discovery through the human Arts.  The school offers seminars and workshops teaching the concepts of Theater, Mime, and Movement.