Psychodrama therapist Pamela Goffman adorns her office in Delray Beach with colors and heart figures that help her bring comfort to clients. Goffman is a lover of the arts and an ardent supporter and former board member of the Arts Garage. Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star
By Brian Biggane
The Arts Garage didn’t exist when Pamela Goffman moved to Delray Beach in 1998, and once it came into being in 2011 it took her another year to get involved. But once she did, becoming a member of the board of directors in 2013, she was all in.
“When I do something I really dedicate myself to it,” said Goffman, a psychodrama therapist based in Delray Beach. “And I felt I did that with Arts Garage because I just love it.”
Health concerns prompted Goffman, 60, to give up her board position this past fall, but she plans to continue her involvement.
The Arts Garage — a nonprofit organization and multidisciplinary performing arts venue dedicated to providing arts experiences to the community — is her favorite cause.
“First, because any community is enriched by the arts, and second, for the education,” she said. “The reason we raise the money we do is to serve all people, but especially kids who can’t afford it. We want it to be successful for everybody. And we succeed. Two summers ago we had two sessions of theater of summer camp that were completely funded by donations. This past summer we had three.”
She will continue to support the Arts Garage and CEO Marjorie Waldo.
“I’m a frequent audience member, give money when I can, get people to go,” she said. “And now Marjorie is bringing theater back, too. There’s several classrooms there now. It’s really great.
“I have been a lover of the performing arts my entire life, and it’s why I do psychodrama.”
Goffman also enjoys traveling with her husband, and especially loves visiting Portugal, where she has colleagues and enjoys collaborating with them professionally while she’s there. She also enjoys going to the theater, movies and swimming.
Q: Where did you grow up and go to school? How do you think that has influenced you?
A: I grew up in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and had the good fortune of going to a Quaker high school, and that informed a lot of what I do today. It made me think in a spiritual vein, and psychodrama has a very strong spiritual component.
When I went to college my family moved to Manhattan, so I spent my young adult life in Manhattan. I did my undergraduate work at Ithaca College and then got a master’s degree in social work at Fordham.
Q: What professions have you worked in? What professional accomplishments are you most proud of?
A: My first career was teaching movement to actors in New York City. And when I decided to go back to graduate school … I studied acting and directing, so I worked in the theater and did some television work, mostly in soap operas, little stuff.
Professional accomplishments start with the training institute, having trained other health professionals in this fabulous method. That’s something I’m proud of, though I don’t do much of it anymore. But I would say long-term sustainability for me is just the work I do every day with each individual client: working with couples, getting them to access their vulnerability so they can have truth between them, and also my individuals.
And I love my groups. Magic happens within psychodrama. One of the hallmarks of that is you get to reverse roles. And it’s incredible how people 50, 60, 70 years old grow up, because they get to see themselves in the role opposite of what they are. The level of insight and the shifts they make, to become responsible for who they are, is amazing.
The other thing is I give hope to people. What I tell people who come in hopeless and anxious is we have all roles available to us, but we have not been trained to take on those roles. We’re all raised in families and we’re all given a role. When we realize, oh, I could be the bad one, or the nasty one, or the leader or follower, or I could be the good one. How do I do that? It’s not easy to take on a new role, but it’s so freeing and we can expand who we are.
Q: What advice do you have for a young person seeking a career?
A: Try a lot of things. Like taking new roles. Don’t be afraid to fail, and don’t be afraid to try all kinds of things. We don’t really find out who we are for a long time. And until our dying day we need to give ourselves permission to try new things. So just don’t be afraid.
Q: How did you choose to make your home in Delray Beach?
A: When I moved to Delray 21 years ago, the reason I chose it is for what I knew of Florida — which wasn’t a lot — it was the one place I saw that had a soul. And to me the soul comes from art. There was art here. Arts Garage wasn’t here yet, but there were performing art venues, music venues, stuff like that.
They maintain the older buildings, and it didn’t feel like it was something along a highway, brand new. And it was anchored by the ocean, which to me is a very spiritual kind of feeling. So I just fell in love with Delray, and I’ve been in love with Delray ever since.
Q: What is your favorite part about living in Delray Beach?
A: Has to be the Arts Garage. When it came on the scene, I was like, “Wow, finally, this is fantastic.” They asked me when I came on the board what my interest was and I said arts education for kids, because they’ve taken it out of the schools.
Q: What book are you reading now?
A: I just finished reading American Snake Pit, written by Dan Tomasulo, a psychodramatist, and it’s both horrifying and hysterical at the same time. It’s kind of fictional autobiography, about the time he was getting his Ph.D., and it was written during the deinstitutionalization movement in the late ’60s, early ’70s. A great read.
Q: What music do you listen to you when you want to relax? When you want to be inspired?
A: When I want to relax, standards, like the Great American Songbook. And when I want to be inspired it’s usually either R&B or Motown, if I want to clean the house, or Stephen Sondheim, for pathos. He’s one of my favorite composers.
Q: Have you had mentors in your life? Individuals who have inspired your life decisions?
A: I’ve had some incredible teachers who are role models and mentors. And in my field, they’re mentors as therapists, as teachers, but also as human beings. Nina Garcia, Jackie Siroka and Dale Buchanan. Nina and Dale have published a lot, while Jackie is well-known. They’ve influenced me with their compassion, undying passion, brilliance, spontaneity and creativity. And huge hearts.
Q: If your life story were made into a movie, who would play you?
A: I asked my family and we came up with Sally Field. There’s a physical resemblance, I think, and because she expresses great joy and pathos. She’s spunky. And I think I’m spunky.
Q: Who or what makes you laugh?
A: My husband, Sam Snyder, has an adorable sense of humor. A turn of a phrase, clever wordplay, physical humor, like Tim Conway. Seinfeld. And Kevin Hart, his movies make me laugh. He’s very self-deprecating. I like that.