Not By Bread Alone

Not by Bread Alone.  What an experience.  Imagine acting, when you’ve never seen acting before.  That’s what kept going through my mind, as I marveled at the deaf-blind actors of the Israeli theater troop Nalanga’at.  A combination of a performance piece, vaudeville, silent film, pantomime, and of course, a Jewish wedding (complete with confetti and glitter), the experience was not quite like anything I’ve seen or heard before (all puns intended).

The courage and trust of each actor, interacting with each other (and a guide) in ways that revealed their personalities: the Romantic, the Clown, the Shy One.  They shared their dreams, so ordinary, so tender–to have a really great haircut, to eat popcorn at the movies, to get married.  Each said or signed what bread means to her or him.  One courted her beloved by playing a song from a long ago Russian memory, while he laid his head on the electric keyboard to feel the rhythm.

What brought tears to my eyes, that never quite left during the performance, was toward the beginning.  Each actor was kneading dough, then breaking and rolling the dough into balls for rolls that would bake in the ovens onstage.  But not until 10% had been given to someone less fortunate or more in need–someone hungry, an abused child, a pregnant woman, the birds.  Of course any of us in the audience would have assumed the actors themselves would have been the people in need.

But waste no pity on these people.  They express themselves.  They have a voice.  They create a vision.  My heart was captured by these sometimes awkward, sometimes childlike, sometimes full-of-grace actors who put their hearts out to touch mine.

At the end, I was one of the first to go on stage to talk with the actors, through their interpreters, while holding a hand.  Then I broke bread, hot from the oven, with another audience member, before dipping in olive oil and savoring.  The entire audience lined up to do the same.  I imagine them still working their way through the crowd, so many wanted a touch and a taste.

Even exiting had a sweetness.  Two young men, deaf and signing, with true joy thanked me for coming, asked about the bread, and wiggled their fingers above their heads when I said it was delicious.

An experience like this reminds me to be at my most open, my most kind, my most grateful for the simplest, most tender moments.  To hold a hand.  To say thank you.