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Blind and Deaf Acting Company to Make American Debut at NYU

By Andrea Swalec | September 25, 2012 7:20am

MANHATTAN — The world's only professional blind and deaf acting troupe is coming to the Village from Israel for its first performance stateside.

Nalaga'at Theater will put on its first U.S. productions at NYU's Skirball Center for the Performing Arts starting in January, the center announced. The troupe's play, "Not By Bread Alone," is about memories and dreams.

Actors from the Tel Aviv-based company will bake bread onstage in a performance piece that delves into fantasy, reality and a longing for human connection during the show, which runs from Jan. 16 to Feb. 3.

"Eleven deaf-blind actors take the audience on a magical tour in the districts of their inner world: the world of darkness, silence and bread," the company's website reads. 

Director Adina Tal worked with the actors for two years to create the play and devise a system of communication among the actors and with the audience. 

The performers communicate through Hebrew sign language, mime and touch, a statement about the show said. Each performer has an interpreter who signs into their hands during the show and leads them around the stage. 

Drum beats, whose vibrations the actors can feel, are used to announce new scenes, the statement said. 

At NYU, the Hebrew speech and sign language will have English translation and subtitles. 

Tal, who founded Nalaga'at Theater in 2002, told The Guardian that blind and deaf actors have the advantage of being one-of-a-kind. 

"Because they can't see each other, they can't imitate each other," she said. "So every action they make is very personal. If you ask them to mime eating grapes, you get 11 entirely different ways of eating grapes. That wouldn't happen with seeing actors. They can't be like anyone else. Nobody has ever seen Marlon Brando or Al Pacino act. They can't copy. That's why they are great." 

Tickets for the 80-minute show run from $40 to $75 each and can be purchased online or by calling (212) 352-3101.