Not By Bread Alone – Nalaga’at Theater

Not By Bread Alone/Photo: Liron Almog

Eleven people sit at a long table, faces concealed beneath white oval masks; they begin to knead the mound of dough placed before them, in preparation for baking bread onstage for the 500th time. They are the actors of the Nalaga’at Theater Deaf-Blind Acting Ensemble performing Not By Bread Alone, the theater’s second production, which premiered in December 2007, at the opening of the Nalaga’at Center in Jaffa Port.

When we share bread, we welcome someone into our lives. If only for a moment, we share that which is most essential, that without which we cannot survive. In sharing bread, we share something of ourselves.  In the process of making bread onstage, the actors of Nalaga’at take off their masks and share with the audience their feelings, thoughts, and dreams.

When we talk about revolution, our thoughts turn epic, yet the touch of someone’s hand can be the most revolutionary action of all. The world of the sighted and hearing is usually disconnected from that of the vision and hearing impaired, so much of contemporary culture is sight and sound dependent, that the barriers to communication can seem insurmountable, so much so that it is hard to even imagine a deaf-blind theater ensemble. Yet at Nalaga’at, Founder, President and Artistic Director Adina Tal and the entire wonderful team, working with the combined abilities and talents of all the performers, create an experience that is the essence of theatre – moving, cathartic and joyfully entertaining.

Not By Bread Alone/Photo: Liron Almog

The different stages of making bread – kneading, setting the dough aside to rise, baking – accompany stories and scenes from the lives and fantasies of the actors. There is an entire theatre factory onstage: some actors speak their own lines as well as those of others, whose words are conveyed from hand to hand in sign; the actors are also accompanied by translators who not only communicate stage cues, but also indicate the audiences’ applause by tapping on their shoulder. The performance is signed for the audience as well, and a drumbeat signals the beginning of scenes – a cue that was developed over the course of the two year long rehearsals for the play, as the actors learned to recognize the vibrations in the air. It sounds complicated, but when they are onstage, the choreography works beautifully, like an intricate pattern in a colorful woven rug. All our senses are engaged in this performance: “savoring the moment, inhaling its perfume” with Zvi Tal’s song Dancing Closely and breathing in the aroma of bread baking in the ovens onstage.

I saw the play twice in its first year, now, more than three years later, I discovered it anew. Listening to Itzik Hanuna’s Rain Story, I drink in the poetry of his words once more – “when someone touches my hand I feel the loneliness disappear.” Genia Shatsky, Shoshana Segal, Igor Osherov, Tzipora Malka, Bat Sheva Ravenseri, Yuri Oshorov, Marc Yarosky, Itzik Hanuna, Yuri Tevordovsky, Rafi Aku’a, Nurani Levy – their names and faces are familiar to me by now, this community of actors who have been working, performing and even travelling together for several years. Not By Bread Alone participated in the Lift Festival in the UK in July 2010, and will be travelling to the Uijeongbu World Music Theater Festival in South Korea from May 5 – 15, 2011. I have heard their stories, shared in their joys, sorrows and dreams, and for an evening, in the connection created between performer and audience – we have been a community of sorts, we have shared bread.

Future performances: April 10, 12, 14 & 28 at 20:30 at the Nalaga’at Center, Retsif Haaliya Hashniya, Jaffa Port. Tickets can be ordered online (in English) via the Nalaga’at Site, or call: 03-6330808.

Not By Bread Alone

Direction and Stage Production: Adina Tal
Set Design: Eithan Ronel
Set Construction: Meir Ben-Hakon, Alon Levi
Costume Design: Dafna Grossman
Props: Liron Koren
Lighting Design: Ori Robinstein
Original Music: Amnon Baaham
“Dancing Closely” Lyrics, Music and Sung by: Zvi Tal
“Italian Market” based on a Naples folk song: Zvi Tal
Yoga Coach: Sarah Tal