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Nalaga’at gives American Theater Goers a New Experience

By Natalie Schachar, 2/4/2013

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Nalaga - deaf-blind theater
¨It was received very well, and the New York audience is a great audience, said Tal, in an interview at the NYU Skirball Center for Performing Arts. ¨It transcends so many cultures, it´s about humanity and the human spirit.¨Conceived and directed by Adina Tal, ¨Not By Bread Alone¨ is a production by Nalaga´at, the world’s only deaf-blind theater ensemble. While the actors cannot see or hear though, the loud applause over the last weekend of the New York showing may have confirmed that the play successfully bridged the communicative gap between cast and audience.

The entire performance happens in the time it takes the 11-member cast to bake bread in onstage ovens, and as the aroma wafts around the audience, the show becomes a true sensory experience. The actors rely on tactile signals from one another and they produce sights and sounds for the audience in a series of lively vignettes about their memories and dreams.

¨Welcome to our darkness and silence. We invite you to share our everyday lives together,¨ says actor Itzik Hanuna at the beginning of the show.

Over the two years that the actors rehearsed for the play, the cast established functional elements that helped them to navigate their surroundings and interact with the audience. The rhythm of a drum cues a scene change, for example, even though most of the actors cannot see the instrument or hear its booming sound. The actors learned how to sense the vibrations created by the instrument, however, and the sound cues a scene change. Similarly, the warmth given off by heat lamps helps the actors find their position onstage.

As such, the storyline itself reiterates that the actors are blind and deaf, but the actors´ movements and body language during the performance can even make their disabilities easy to forget. But while every part of the show is planned meticulously, the story of the deaf-blind theater troupe itself happened more by coincidence. More than ten years ago, Tal reluctantly gave a workshop to a class of deaf-blind people, and it ended up changing her life.

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