Deaf-blind actors dont let their disabilities stop them

new york | Adina Tal’s troupe of deaf and blind actors can’t hear her — but that doesn’t stop the Israeli director from yelling.

“I shout,” Tal says. “I’ve been shouting for about four years, and I still think everyone will hear me.”

Luckily, Tal relies on translators who speak a combination of Israeli and Russian touch-sign language — in which letters are spelled onto a person’s palm — to communicate with the 12 members of the troupe, known as Nalaga’at.

During weekly rehearsals over the past few years, she had the actors sculpt each other’s faces to learn expressions of joy, sorrow and fear. She worked the troupe as hard as any other actors she has directed. Already, the troupe has performed 40 shows in Israel for more than 15,000 people, earning popular and critical acclaim.

Now the 51-year-old director and her actors are completing a North American tour of its show, “Light Is Heard in Zig Zag,” in Toronto, Montreal, Boston, New York and New Jersey. More information about the troupe is at

With music as their background, the actors use exaggerated facial expressions and graceful swoops of their hands to communicate in sign language and mime.

The actors’ grace and rhythm — learned by feeling the amplifications of the music — seek to engage audience members, even if they don’t immediately understand the message. Trying to fathom the challenges faced by the actors is difficult, Tal says. “Sometimes I try to close my eyes and ears, but it’s ridiculous, because it’s impossible to imagine.”

“Theater is about communication, and working with deaf-blind people, most of whom are nonverbal, whose biggest problem is communication,” was a daunting task, she says.

The deaf-blind troupe was conceived of and initiated five years ago at the Center for Deaf-Blind Persons of Israel’s Beth David Institute.

Tal thinks it’s no coincidence that the troupe is Israeli. “Sometimes in a reality that is so hard, like the reality we live in, at some point you just want to say that you are not afraid and you can make things happen. And if I choose today to stay in Israel to raise my children, I feel that I have to try to give them a better world.’