Nalaga’at (do touch) Cultural Center

The first professional deaf-blind theater company

A Personal Diary by Adina Tal, Founder, President, Artistic Director

“My 15 year journey founding and building the only deaf-blind theatre in the world.”

When I agreed in 1999 to conduct a drama workshop for twelve deaf-blind people I knew it was for two months. I did not know that this will be the world’s first professional deaf-blind theater company, I did not know this would change my life, and the lives of so many other people.

I loved the challenge, I loved discovering new opportunities by focusing on ability instead on disability, I loved creating a new theatrical language. I fell in love. I removed the word “impossible” from my vocabulary and so I set out on my way, and since then over fifteen years have passed.

Nalagaat Adina Tal

2002 to 2005: Establishing The Foundation

Eran Gur joins me for part of the journey and together we establish Nalaga’at (do touch) a non for profit organization, a stage for the deaf-blind.

“Adina understood the power of theater to reach those considered unreachable. And to buttress that insight with action and extraordinary perseverance.” – Elizabeth Bradley, Arts Professor, NYU New York

Our first show “Light is heard in Zig Zag” is described as “the most surprising hit of Israeli theater”. The group performs all over Israel and goes on international tour in Canada, North America and Switzerland.

2006 to 2007: The Dream for our own Home, Partners along the Way

In the wake of our success new partners from Israel and abroad join us in our journey (Swiss friends of Nalaga’at is established) and after a long search we find an old warehouse in the Jaffa port that we rent from the Armenian Church. The National Insurance Institute, the Ministry of Social Services and the Ministry of Culture decide to partner with us.

We set about renovating the space while continuing rehearsal of the new performance “Not by Bread Alone.”

We convene a staff of deaf and hearing impaired individuals to work in our “Kapish” coffee shop and blind and visually impaired individuals to work in our dark restaurant “Blackout.” We train them as waiters. In December 2007 the Nalaga’at Center opens its doors to the public.

Nalagaat Not by bread alone

2008 to 2014: Routine and Development Without One Dull Moment, Perennial Search for New Ways to Communicate

The Nalaga’at Center is transformed into a place full of life. People from all over Israel and the world are exposed to this cultural initiative.

It was important for us to provide new opportunities and for personal growth, some of the blind and the deaf wait staff get trained as actors. “Give a Sign” a theatrical sign language workshop and the children’s play “Prince Rooster”. Hearing impaired and deaf waters conduct sign language workshops while the blind and visually impaired waiters conduct ceramics workshops in the dark. Events are held in the “Kapish” coffee shop.

During these years the “Not By Bread Alone” performs in London, South Korea, New York City, Australia, Washington, Cleveland and Boston. We form a second group of blind-deaf actors and begin the long process of teaching them acting, creating a cohesive group and of giving them tools for communication.

“Adina Tal and the company have created a production that would impress under ordinary circumstances, as it is this piece is extraordinary.” – WHATSONSTAGE, Honour Bayes

At the Center we all work together, Jews, Muslims and Christians believing that we can, have and deserve to change the reality we live in.

The Nalga’at Center becomes one of the most important cultural institutions in Israel, and indeed, the first social-cultural enterprise of its kind in the world, one which can generate a great deal of its own income.

Nalaga'at's actors in Prince Rooster

Today: I have learned so much during this journey

I came to understand that there is no limit to human spirit.

I came to understand that everyone has the right to accept the obligation to contribute to society because this is the only means of becoming part of society.

I came to understand that there are no people with special needs, because we all have special needs.

I came to understand that this is the story of two revolutions: the revolution of people working at the Center who are deaf, who are blind and who are deaf-blind. And just as important, there is the revolution of all the hundreds of thousands who experienced our work and underwent a life-changing experience. Because this is not about deafness or blindness this is about being imperfect and by accepting the imperfectness in ourselves we will be able to embrace the imperfectness existing in people around us, it is the first step towards change.

In 2014 I decide to leave Nalaga’at, to move on and follow other dreams and share what I have learned with others throughout the world. Find out more about my workshops, inspirational and motivational talks “Every Wall Has A Door”.

Quotes

Adina Tal and her actors toured the world presenting a groundbreaking concept focusing on ability and not disability, and developing a unique theatrical language.