Na laga’at (please touch in English) is the name of a unique theater in Old Jaffa’s port that promotes beauty and understanding. The project sneaks beauty into dark places that society prefers to ignore, and light into the lives of those who want to make a difference – in their own faiths, and by effecting audiences with strong emotion, clarity and intrigue.
It has long been associated with unexpected artistic expression, never-before-seen audience interactions, in addition to their ‘dine in the dark’ BlackOut restaurant – which allows all guests to temporarily experience the unimaginable ways those who cannot hear or see make their way through the world, choosing to live a full life filled with fun, art, and exploration towards new understandings. Since it opened its gates in 2007, the Na Laga’at crew has been promoting the needs and aspirations of every person, in the belief that all human beings are equal and every person has the right to make his or her contribution to society, garnering recognition from the The New York Times as “a simple, universal message, powerfully conveyed from the stage.”
The ensemble includes 18 deaf-blind actors – some are completely deaf-blind, some have impaired vision or residual hearing, however all of them have personal interpreters of sign language by touch, who help and guide them during rehearsals, and also performances. Apart from the artists, the center offers employment opportunities to deaf, blind, and deaf-blind individuals, while encouraging their talents, skills, and abilities. Na Laga’at’s founders Adina Tal and Eran Gur are eager to connect different communities and sectors without distinction of religion, race, or cultural background, and thanks to their spirit and motivation, over 800,000 patrons have visited the theater since its very first show.
One of their popular shows running, Edgar, by writer-director Ofer Amram, depicts a 40-something man’s path as he slowly loses both his sight and hearing. As darkness and silence is catching up to him, he chooses to find comfort in the wings of guardian angels, who help him cope with fears, solitude, and even re-connect to his true-self – who he almost forgot – or maybe never even really knew. Starring Mordy Weis, an ex-New Yorker and first-time actor, it’s a show that takes one to a place where none of us have ever been before, at times comforting, and at other times purposefully uncomfortable. Dramatic music, revolutionary video screening, and breathtaking costumes fitted to the stage design are all top notch.
“We all came together for a visit. The rest of my family went back and I stayed,” Weis said in a recent interview, admitting humbly that he never actually acted on stage before he started working on Edgar. The tourist-turned-actor does retain some vision, though diminishing, yet, he takes three busses each day to get to the center with no help of a guide dog, or even a walking stick. Edgar is sort of his own story – and that of writer-director Amram, who confessed going out of his comfort zone to make the project happen, saying he never worked before with physically-challenged actors, yet found it truly inspiring.
Prepare to view and experience, hear and feel this performance, which allows all of us to get lost a little bit from the world as we know it, and connect to a realm where our sight, hearing, and ability to speak is not taken for granted – leaving audiences grateful and hyper-aware of their privileges. Yet, as with all luxuries, it turns out, they are not as important as we think they are; we’re simply just used to them…