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Experience of a Young Mime

by Samuel Avital

Paris, France - February 10, 1961

It was as a student in Fania Luvitch's Course of Dramatic Art that I had the experience of engaging and working with exercises of the Stanislavsky Method.

Though students had a choice, during these improvisation exercises, of either silent or spoken expression, I personally, found no "words" were necessary. One particularly striking example illustrates what I mean. In one of theses classes, we were given the following improvisation exercise: We had to develop a scene in which we outwardly expressed the feelings of greatness and smallness.

Our teacher's instruction still sounded in my ears, just as it was given to me before my improvisation: "Accept being small, accept being great…" and I ACCEPTED. The great influence of this word "Accept" has followed me in the way I follow to this day.

To develop myself toward the horizons to which I am drawn in the Dramatic Art, I also learned dance. My purpose was to have a bodily experience of the stage along with my textual studies and the course exercises and improvisations.

While performing in the Jerusalem Theatre (in Israel), a Hebrew speaking theatre, I was attracted to the beauty of the French language that would, in the future, enable me to continue my studies in France. But at the same time, I observed that the value of words had started to become less necessary to my artistic expression, and I devoted myself more to the realm of gesture and bodywork. Finally, I decided to turn completely to acting without words.

But I was only an amateur, and wanting to perfect myself in the Art of Mime, I went to Paris to study in the School of Etienne Decroux. With Etienne Decroux, we studied the ABC's of the human body; and, what is called, body grammar and diction, along with exercises that were difficult for me to perform -- because my morphology did not enable me to achieve immediate mastery of my body, but through which I now have attained a moderate and meaningful degree of accomplishment.

With his wisdom and his psychological understanding so uplifting to the student, Etienne Decroux knew how to make his disciples enter fully into this study of Mime of which he was the first teacher. Questions were beside the point in his classes because his explications were sufficient so as to include them all.

I learned that the human body, being only a living structure, must -- like a field be furrowed and sown -- be guided and worked in its theatrical expression, without servitude to the spoken word. To do this, it was necessary, first, to submit oneself to the discipline of the exercises that in the end became a source of pleasure. Second, to achieve the clarity and precision of gesture or realized movement. Third, to possess the bodily mastery that assures a confident presence on stage.

I felt the loss of my teacher after his departure for the United States in 1959, and joined the Mime class of Marcel Marceau in order to continue my studies. I only participated in a few classes in improvisation on different themes and in the performance of body exercises. During this brief period, I felt that Marceau's great personality suppressed my own, whereas with Etienne Decroux, my personality could bloom.

I then began to study with Maximilien Decroux, who especially believed in ensemble Mime. The artistic maturity and the theatrical experience of Mime that I possess today are due to the concrete, daily work of these last two years (1959-1960) with him. Maximilien's working method developed my own personality and opened me to new horizons that I believe must guide me in the way that is my future.

His teaching was given with the purpose of developing the student's personality -- if it exists, and I owe to his direction what progress that I was able to make while in his company. I had the opportunity to be a member of his Mime Company, and this involvement greatly enriched my experience.

Through these personal experiences, I arrived at the following conclusions: The discipline of Mime must be all-encompassing and with right intention. It must have an exact and immediate understanding of what needs to be expressed, and at the same time translate it through the language of gesture and bodily expression.

I will not elaborate here either on the subject of body mastery that the mime must possess before all, which gives him the possibility of developing a personal ease, style and aesthetic manner on stage, or on the subject of mastery of the mind, which enables the mime to control and direct his thought with exactness on a given theme. These two masteries provide the means for expressing and externalizing a feeling of directly transmitting thought by gesture, comprising what is called the "Act" or "Acting".

To have practiced Mime daily with love is in itself a drama. It is this drama, which has become a personal one through the course of my work, which gives me the strength to believe in a better future for Mime as an exact and self-sufficient Art.

"One is what one is and what one becomes with intentionally directed will and with implacability."

(Quoted from Souvenirs et Notes de Travail d'un Acteur [Memories and Working Notes of an Actor], by Charles Dullin, Paris: O. Lieutier, 1956, page 85.)

This article was first published in Art et Danse, Paris, France, Sept.-Oct.,1961

(Translated from French into English by Robert G. Margolis. Sunday, December 24, 2000)

"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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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.