Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Theater That Touches (from the Forward)

Check out this moving story from the Forward featuring an extraordinary theater group that we will be seeing on our TBE Israel Adventure this coming December.

Theater That Touches
By Daniel Savery

Imagine a world of darkness and silence. Now, think how it would be to live like that every day. The experience of what it’s really like — the thoughts, struggles and emotions of a deaf-blind person — is what a unique Israeli theater group is sharing via its latest production, “Not by Bread Alone”

Nalaga’at (literally, “Do touch”) is the only deaf-blind theater ensemble in the world. Housed since 2007 in a renovated shipping hangar on Jaffa’s Old Port, the Nalaga’at Center also houses Café Kapish and the restaurant Blackout. Immediately upon entering, one will notice a type of atmosphere different from that of the usual theater reception. All the waiters employed at Café Kapish are deaf; they greet customers with warm smiles, hand them menus that teach the basics of sign language — “Please,” “Thank you” and “Goodbye” — and before long, people are ordering their cappuccinos without saying a word. At Blackout, diners order and eat in complete darkness, assisted by blind waiters. This allows the customers to focus on taste, smell and touch.

Those senses are later intrinsic to the performance as the audience is taken on a tour through the lives of the 11 deaf-blind individuals onstage — all in the time span it takes to bake bread. During the performance (which is accompanied by Hebrew, Arabic and English supertitles), the wonderful smell of baking bread wafts around the theater, emanating from six ovens that form part of the set. As the show begins, the actors, all wearing chef costumes, prepare the dough and introduce themselves. Only three of the 11 can speak; the rest use interpreters. If that weren’t hard enough, the group members also have to translate among Hebrew, Arabic, Russian, English and even Eritrean in order to communicate with one another. Read More

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