INTERVIEW WITH SAMUEL AVITAL
(By Annette Lust, Author of: "From the Greek Mimes to Marcel Marceau")
"I had both love and hate for my masters. There is pain in learning through experience. We call that "pain" - When you transcend IT, it is no more, and you are you. I studied with Decroux, Marceau, and others in Paris, and this was an excellent-painful-pleasure time in my life. I knew I was in the process of learning something, and still am. I bend and bow to what was given to me according to my capacities to eat; and the ability of my stomach to digest, and gratefully eat with grand appetite. Thus, my style today is the result of the work done devotionally all the time."
- Why did you eventually choose mime as a form of expression rather than, for example, dramatic art which was your first theatrical activity?
Avital: To say the truth, MIME chooses me. We both choose each other. Due to Theatre-Dance activity in Israel and others places, I have found movement to be my vessel of expression. Due to different experiences in my life, while people were talking without saying the essence of IT, due to noise of our time; and seeing actors SPEAK without ACTING, I retired to the realm of silence - MIME, and trained the "instrument body" to be a symphony of being to be played.
- What is the role of mime in regular theatre? In dance?
Avital: MIME is the root, the essence of theatre. The word actor comes from the verb - "to act." Every actor who is dedicated to his work must have an elaborate training in MIME in order to be complete in total expression. It is not merely imitation and gesticulation. We all (including dancers), work with this body-instrument, and must learn the ways of each stream.
- You are both a mime and pantomime actor according to drama critics. How do you distinguish between these two terms?
Avital: Let the drama critics call me, or label me whatever they wish. The truth is one - MIME is an art form communicating the essence of life in silence with harmony of body and mind. It is an art form of becoming. That is why a Mime becomes like a butterfly while working, or any object he is touching. Man created symbols, word signs in order to communicate. If the drama critic swims in the confusion of dividing, I, the Mime artist, unites IT again. So let the drama critics play with WORDS. In my opinion, there are no mime critics. The viewer sees the experience, experiences it, and then reports on it with words and symbols to be printed. He is not a critic, he is a reporter. How on earth can you give words to an experience? The language of an experience is the experience it self. Words can help express your experience, but that is not all.
- Your use of Mime as human satire calls to mind the mime of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Do you use satire as a means of educating the spectator itself as well as an artistic means?
Avital: Using MIME as a satire, comedy or tragedy is still an important tool for communicating life experiences, our personalities, the pettiness of our kind, and the unawareness of man in the process of destroying him self. All of these are better expressed as satire. To reflect our image in silence is much more effective than doing it with words. Mime unites in it all forms of acting - satire, comedy, tragedy, etc., and points out ways to be whole and harmonious. An educational tool? Yes, it can embrace the heart of everything. Using this cosmic language as an art form can teach many truths - Ways of being with one self. As the Greeks and Romans did, we of this time, adapt this way to our environment. And as an artist, mimes reflect like a mirror to serve as a stimulus for self awakening.
- Mime seems to be a form of religion or philosophy for you. Could you elaborate on this?
Avital: When you discover what your life work is going to be you swim into it. Mime teaches me to live harmoniously. Religion is a form of being, so, Mime has become for me a form of being at peace with myself. Due also to the mystical upbringing in my childhood and my journeys in this world, mime encourages me and forces me to go deeper into myself. To express my essence in this art form to people. That reflection of me into you, you into me, is the unity of communication, and above all in silence. Filling the space with silence. With human feeling - colors of the painting. Mime is painting in space - I am the brush, the violin, the word, the form of condensation of the cell in the body form here to unite other dots in the space which is none other than me reflecting IT.
Q . Mime, for you, is also a means of personal growth for the individual. Could you elaborate on this?
Avital: Sure, that also embraces the question of growth. Mime can teach awareness, sensitivity, harmony in movement and self balance of muscle and breath, soft-flesh and hard-bone. I have introduced this training to Growth Centers in their country and actually in my school in Boulder, Colorado. Whenever I go to perform, or lead workshops in Mime, the beautiful possibilities of what Mime has to offer in this line of self-growth, self realization, are presented.
- You believe that words are a limiting factor in communication. How so?
Avital: Let me say first, I do not have anything against words. It is about the abuse that I am concerned. Speech is an energy, and it must be channeled like electricity in wires. It is limiting like any other means of communication if abused. Every art form is limited in some way or another, but in that limitation, when we expand into it, we find the unlimited.
Let me tell you a story that probably was a major catalyst in my life. You know, stories convey many doors of opening for seeing and experiencing. They elevate our level of consciousness to new heights if you allow it. My grandfather, sage and Kabbalist, used to tell me many stories. One of them was this: "When we are born, we are given a certain amount of words to USE in our lifetime, and so we have to WEIGH what, and how we are going to use them. Any words that are used are counted, and we must be careful not to finish them early in our lifetime. Otherwise, we awake one morning and find that we have finished our quota, and become mute - no more words in our bank."
So this teaches that speech is an important energy to USE and not ABUSE (as the case in our time). I grew up being careful of what I say, in order not to face the situation of having no more words at my disposal. So MIME presented itself to me, speaking less and doing more.
So I say, Words - USE them only when necessary, and in their use go to the root of it - to the essence of what you want to say, and not just blah! blah! blah! Words are just symbols of the essence to recognize and distinguish between things in order to communicate only. Take for example the word "water." It symbolizes that living-flowing-liquid gives life in the desert. If you should "water" a million times, your thirst will not be quenched until you have the essence called water. Only then, can the individual himself KNOW when they are USED or ABUSED. I love words, too.
- You are a "street mime on stage" in that you bring characters from the street to the stage, rather than characters to the spectator in the street. Could you comment on this?
Avital: Yes, I bring to the stage, (the altar), the reflection of man on the street; and also man, his life and dreams everywhere. Mimes who go on the street to reflect both are valuable according to their motive of doing IT. A theatre hall is a house. The audience comes as a guest. I serve them with a reflection of themselves. They eat in silence, laugh, cry, etc. That is a fantastic process of learning. So after eating an apple, that apple becomes me. The communication between Mime and audience is focused in one space, and not scattered in the confused street. Let me bring the confused street to show IT to an assemblage of people we call audience. Mime needs focused attention - a stillness in motion that can be given an independent space in the house of theatre.
- Could you differentiate (or compare) between your mime expression or style and that of (a) Decroux (pure abstract mime), (b) Barrault (total theatre), and (c) Marceau (continuation of the Dubreau tradition plus modern mime), not as the so-called French School but as individuals each using a very different expression. Could you also differentiate between your style and that of other well-known mimes?
Avital: Your question of comparing my work at this time in my life with my former masters is intriguing, but I will try to face it in my way. When you study with someone who knows his field, you are hungry, you eat, you are full, it's yours - it's in you, it becomes you. With the infinite experiences in life, it takes your own form, shape of your thinking.
You allow the change to happen in you. One spark absorbs the other, like two cells becoming one. This analogy of eating-learning, a separate thing becomes one, digesting, and becoming is to make clear what I say. I had both love and hate for my masters. There is pain in learning through experience.
When you transcend IT, it is no more, and you are you. I studied with Decroux, Marceau, and others in Paris, and this was an excellent-painful-pleasure time in my life. I knew I was in the process of learning something, and still am. I bent and bowed to what was given to me according to my capacity to eat, digest and "stomach" what was given to me; and I gratefully ate with grand appetite.
Thus, my style today is the result of the work done devotionally all the time. I am presenting the man, unaware of his life, in the process of becoming aware of himself. The man entrapped in the labyrinth of living, slave to symbols, away from his center, struggling to reach that center, to be whole and integrated. When in my show I present the image of people taking drugs, I reflect, and they laugh.
Then, there is the man who is learning Yoga from a book who tries to do physical exercises and has pain in his body because he is unaware or because he is following the craze of fashionable trends. There is also the man who is lost in the desert of technology, and the robot who does what he is being told without having realized his dignity of being human, or being in touch within his center....That is the image I am reflecting, because I live in it - An epoch of transition and expansion of consciousness. I mirror the soul of my Creator on stage.
When I perform, it is my time to pray, to recite the poem of creation with this body - the container. The cells are dancing within me the rhythm of the universe. I may say that I unite all styles of my teachers, blending my character and experiences in life, but, it is me that is actually doing it. After preparing a dish, you eat it. It's you. With your own flavor. And it is tasty.
The difference that can be made between Marceau and me is in the experiences in life that Marceau has and I have not, or that I have and he has not. So, we use the same medium, with another form, another word. If one writes about his love experience, it will be different from the other writer. For the same reason love is one, but, we experience it differently according to the total events of life at that moment. We are different, yet we are the same. I represent another aspect of being than Marceau, yet it is the same. Mime is the art of UNITING, by dividing in order again to unite etc., etc., etc.
- Has the American public a better appreciation for mime today than in the past?
Avital: According to my voyages here, and the audiences encountered - yes. For a few years I have been living in this physical space called America; and I am grateful to it in so many ways. Especially to the beautiful vast audiences - children and adults of this country.
I find the responsive ability here very significant in the sense of willing to see new forms, and rediscover again this beautiful old-new art form - Mime - and its infinite possibilities to teach us in a humorous way how to laugh at ourselves, learn how simple it is to be happy.
There are very few Mimes, not only in America, but in the world today. Each works according to his or her own understanding. If the audience see different aspects of this, they will come more and more to enjoy and learn. So, every Mime must be very good at what he or she is doing, not only technically, but also cosmically.
Mime is the cosmic language. It is a business of life. It never ends - it is constantly aware of the change that is happening. A total observation of the surroundings, and of yourself that makes the Mime a better instrument, or vessel to realize and to release the cosmic energy to others with love and devotion, so that we live in a harmonious world, so that we may know who we really are .
For this contributing text WMO whishes to thank LE CENTRE DU SILENCE and Samuel Avital, Director (www.indranet.com/lcds.html) Copyright protected