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Reflections

In teaching, 'to see this wonderful, exciting person emerge is very satisfying.'

August 19, 1986|PERRY C. RIDDLE

Four years after leaving the role of Lori Beth on "Happy Days," Lynda Goodfriend is a coach instead of a player in her storefront acting studio in North Hollywood. Goodfriend lives in Tarzana with her daughter , Peri.

I've been a single parent since my daughter just turned 1. That's been a real hard job. The logistics are hard, trying to find sitters. Sitters don't show up. I have a Monday night professional acting class, from 7 till 10, and, two weeks ago, the baby sitter cancels at the last minute. I've got five minutes, so I said, "Come on, kid, you're coming with me." My almost-3-year-old daughter sat through the entire class. It's the logistics, but it's also constantly trying to balance everything, balance a class, balance her needs, balance my needs.

I am almost 36 years old. I've worked since I was 16. I've been on Broadway; I was a dancer; I had my own night club act; I've written; I've taught and acted. It's very important for me to keep growing.

When I separated from my husband, I just decided that, if I have a daughter to take care of, I needed a little more stability than I would have as an actress waiting six months for a call. I needed more control over my life. I started teaching by putting an ad out to see if I'd get any response. The first month, nothing. The second month I got three kids, and I started teaching.

When I decided to get my own studio, I was committed to having my own business. Once I got this space--it was a copy print store--I had to tear things out, build the walls and the stage. All of a sudden I saw it starting to come together. It was exciting.

I had some friends in business who wanted to take some acting lessons, but they were intimidated by a professional acting class. So I started a class for them with improvisation and theater games. It all comes from my experience of seeing what works for me. My whole life I've been an incredibly shy person. I used to hide in the bathroom at parties. I could be on stage or go to auditions if I was a character. I started realizing that those skills that performers use in the spotlight are what everybody needs.

I have attorneys, and their voice gets shaky, so I give them improvisation, and they get to play-act. They get to be another character. They get over the great fear of not being liked and not being able to present themselves like they really are. I let them see themselves on video, and they change, just like that. They say, "That's not me. I look scared, I look stiff." That's what happens when you're nervous.

Teaching is the easy part. But the marketing, getting out there and promoting your business, your classes, that's totally not my field. I've never done that before. For me to go into business is so unlike me.

I get frustrated with this business because I have been busting my tushie to promote it, to learn the business. How do I promote myself? How do I do marketing? How do I do advertising? I want it so fast; I want it now. I have to allow myself more patience.

Teaching is a very powerful thing. Being able to direct and teach and mold and change people and help them get to another level and learn how to express themselves and to see this wonderful, exciting person emerge is very satisfying.

I feel that I'm using everything I've learned in 20 years in performing and in classes. I never felt that I used all that I learned in my acting career. Being on "Happy Days" was not the ultimate acting goal. "Hi, Richie" was not worth 16 years of studying Shakespeare and Tennessee Williams.

As I was growing up, I always wanted to be the best at something, as a dancer, as an actress. Now I've found something that I'm the best at.

It surprised me when my daughter started understanding concepts just after she started talking. Now she knows that, when I go to work, it's to make money so I can buy her things. I have to go to work so we can buy headbands, bracelets and M&M's, that's why I go to work. And that's the truth of it, too.

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