How is it possible to listen music, to read, to write, to paint, to dance, to study, to use the Internet, to work, to travel, to communicate, to love, in one word — TO LIVE, if a person cannot see or hear?
Today thousands of deafblind Russian citizens are doomed to social isolation and hard limitation of opportunities to be a part of public life.
‘TOUCH-ABLES’ — is a project of socio-cultural integration and rehabilitation of people with hearing and visual impairments. It unites deaf-blind people and those, who can see and hear, in the space of culture and city. The play ‘TOUCH-ABLES’, inclusive Laboratories and workshops, the exhibition Touching Art and the documentary film "Word on the palm" became the basis of this great project. The idea to create such a performance belongs to the actor and art director of the Theatre of Nations – Evgeniy Mironov. The sketch play was shown on October 13, 2014 within a special programme of the International Festival- School of Contemporary Art Territory, the premiere took place on 19-20 of April 2015 on the Small stage of the Theatre of Nations. Masters of choreography, plastic arts and sculptures were invited during the rehearsals, and so that was when a new separate project of Laboratories appeared which now is held in various art locations of Moscow. The exhibition ‘Touching Art’ which took place in Moscow museum of Modern Art (MmoMa) in May 2015 developed the artistic and documentary ideas of the play, reflecting the world perception and everyday sensations of a deaf-blind person, as well as to being a platform for communication among deafblind people and those who can see and hear.
One of the main problems for people with simultaneous hearing and visual impairments is the problem of communication. Apparently, seeing and hearing people are too little aware of the world of the deafblind, who, in their turn, are scarcely integrated into the society of seeing and hearing people, despite the fact that they live in the same country, city or even house.
The problem of communication is a universal issue, but for deafblind people, due to physical reasons, it is maximally aggravated.
‘TOUCH-ABLES’ is not just a stage production, but it is an attempt to establish a link between two worlds, to develop a communication strategy by practical consideration. On the stage both seeing and hearing people and deaf-blind heroes overcome fears, doubts, difficulties of mutual understanding. And overcoming of seemingly simple domestic problems (but difficult for the deafblind) allows to detect delicate emotional and sensual consonance with another person.
Deafblind characters of the performance belong to different generations, different social strata and different world views. Each character has their own unique language, so, they do not speak the neutralized interpreter's language. At that, a professor can talk about everyday horror and Lyosha Technician quietly narrates about his way from home to work. Skorokhodova Olga, the first Soviet deafblind woman scientist, has a special place among the characters. ‘TOUCH-ABLES’ is special not only because it tells stories of deafblind people, but also because deafblind heroes of stories testify about themselves on their own.
In the performance ‘TOUCH-ABLES’ the characters talk about mutual overcoming of broken contacts by overcoming physical ailment and loneliness, transforming it into love through the compromise with oneself and with others.
The work on the performance began in the middle of 2014. In October the sketch play was shown as part of the International Festival- School of Contemporary Art Territory. From this work a new idea has started up - to create art Laboratories on plastic, architecture, storytelling, music — which can help deafblind people to feel the beauty of the world of art, become creators and artists themselves. Thus the project ‘TOUCH-ABLES’ appeared as a social and cultural project for the integration of deafblind people into the culture, which includes the performance, Laboratories, the documentary film of ‘Island studio’ about deafblind people and the exhibition Touching Art which opened its doors to the public on April 28 at the Museum of Modern Art.
‘TOUCH-ABLES’ became an important creative milestone both for seeing and hearing actors, who experience such social theater work for the first time, and for the deafblind, because nobody paid attention to their problems for a long time.
After the premiere at the Theatre of Nations on April, 19-20 2015 the performance had a great success on other venues - Teatrium on Serpukhovka (Moscow), Meyerhold Center and on the New Stage of Alexandrinsky Theatre (St. Petersburg). In the nearest plans - performances on stage of Stanislavsky Electrotheatre. Also, the Deafblind Support Fund Con-nection has an intention to summarize the accumulated experience and transmit it into regions, where on the basis of regional theaters such creative groups and laboratories can work and help the deafblind to speak about themselves.
Ruslan Malikov, director of ‘TOUCH-ABLES’: "This play tells that it's necessary to touch, that the world of the deafblind and those, who can see and hear, must to meet. Since childhood, a person must understand and accept that there are different people and different problems."
Ingeborga Dapkunaite, producer of ‘TOUCH-ABLES’: "I think that this play isn't so much about attracting attention to the problem, but about a dialogue, communication. Generally, this is probably the first performance in my experience, where deafblind and seeing and hearing actors are on the stage and in the audience. And I want to believe that after our play people with two sensory impairments will be able to go to the theater more often, and it will become more accessible for them."
Ekaterina Dzhagarova, scenography designer of ‘TOUCH-ABLES’: "Our task was to create on the stage a space where deafblind and seeing and hearing actors will be able to orientate themselves easily. Besides different textures and fabrics on the stage, we use flavors that are in tune with different parts of the performance. Thus, the play begins with woody scents, which are replaced by the smell of mowing, and the act is completed with flavors of blooming garden and green apples. We tried to emphasize the individuality of all characters, who are played by deafblind actors, to transmit their personality, characteristics, habits, preferences. Seeing and hearing actors have unified clothes, because they are, first of all, the voice, the conductors of the deafblind characters."
Anatoly Beliy, actor: "I joined the performance later than other participants. But now I realize that I learned something new about this life. During that time I came to be more joyful, and some of our problems which seemed to be huge became insignificant."
Dmitry Polikanov, the President of the Deaf-blind Support Fund Con-nection: "We wanted to show that the deafblind and those, who can see and hear, can demonstrate their talents on one stage — and our performance ‘TOUCH-ABLES’ was born. For us it's an important project which we want to scale up and move to the regions. The theater was found to be the most simple and accessible means of art therapy as well as a tool for telling about the problems of the deafblind. At the same time theater helps people with two sensory impairments to look at their lives, their prospects and their future in a more positive way."
Natalia Pochinok, rector of Russian State Social University: "Preparations for the performance were mainly conducted at RSSU site. Our students, who are studying sign-language interpretation for deaf and blind people, helped the deafblind and seeing and hearing actors. I think this is a unique project that allows finding new ways of communication through art therapy. This is a huge step forward both for science and education, and for integration."
Alexander Silyanov, sculptor and a deafblind actor: "Theatre helps me in my creative work a lot. I didn't know before what stage movement and stage were. But now I realize that it’s necessary in my work. On stage, an actor must try and give the audience the best of what he or she has: positive energy and emotions. The theatre goer has to be under the impression after the end of the act. Then it will make sense."
Irina Povolotskaya, poet and a deafblind actress: "In the play I'm the same as in real life. I didn't have any problems communicating with the actors of the Theater of Nations, because I have lived among seeing and hearing people since my childhood. I realized that stage is the same world, and I began to perceive it differently. I can't see, but I have arms and legs, and it means that I can touch and feel the space."
September 3, 2015 20.00 - Stanislavsky Electro Theater
The laboratories appeared as a necessity during the process of creative team preparation for the play ‘TOUCH-ABLES’ in August 2014. Neither deafblind participants nor seeing and hearing were ready for rehearsals and even simple communication. First, we carried out trainings to get acquainted, to establish a contact, to set for the worlds of each other. Participants became closer through communicative, movement and art labs and work over the play became possible. But the effect of such labs was so evident that after the work on the sketch play had been finished we realized that labs should become a constant larger project and enlarge its audience.
Labs of social and cultural integration of ‘TOUCH-ABLES’ are sights for communication, discoveries and mutual art of deafblind and people who can see and hear, but are open to different people and to people with other abilities.
Labs goal is to
unite people who conditionally have limitations in world perception and those who do not have such limitations through common art work and actions
study the process of natural integration of deafblind people into the community of seeing and hearing people