Theatrical troupe of a happy disposition

Written by Fadil Hadzic
comic playwright, director and painter

The Blind Theatre company New Life will soon be celebrating the fifth decade of its work (1996). The fact that it is the only theatrical group of blind and visually impaired people in Europe gives the anniversary a special significance.

New Life performed my plays as well, and I must admit I was attending the opening nights with great curiosity. I was interested to see the actors - who could not see their partners - move on the stage, the impression their acting made on them (which they could only hear - without seeing). I was curious to find out all about it, because I was aware of the fact actor's self-confidence and enthusiasm often depended directly on the response of the audience: whether the expression of the spectator's faces were sour or, on the contrary, they found the play interesting.

I assumed that the Company, being in a specific situation, used special accessories - by which natural difficulties, which actors with good vision have not experienced, would be overcome. The first thing that surprised me were their high spirits and happiness. Whenever I came to the dressing rooms, I found there happy people making practical jokes at their own or someone else's expense. Even when they went beyond jokes, there were no hard feelings among them.

Blind and visually impaired people, so I have drawn conclusion, live their somewhat special, happier life. When they are rehearsing, they do it as if they were playing a game; there is no, so to speak, military atmosphere - so typical of professional acting - where the director is the untouchable general and the actor are (more or less) obedient soldiers.

The Blind Theatre Company's rehearsals are very serious, although the actors do not lose their temper. First, dialogues are thoroughly drilled before rehearsing mise-en-scènes (that is, moving on stage), which is the second part of the job: when the actors concentrate on boundary marks. This is so brilliantly done that - thanks to the innate feeling of the troupe - there are no problems at all. Besides, blind people behave similarly when they walk in the streets.

This particular theatrical troupe prefers doing comedies for two reasons mostly. First, because comedies suit their good humour, and secondly, for practical reasons: the actors are guided by the spontaneous reaction of the audience.

In tragedies and plays spectators often silently watch the performance, while comic situations and dialogues are comented by a murmur of voices and laughter which, in a certain way, give a vigorous and creative drive to the actors themselves. The bond between actors and spectators reminds me of a radar connection with a plane controlled from the Earth. The troupe of blind and visually impaired actors listen to the voices of their partners on the stage and the murmuring of the audience, while by walking the direction of their movement Marked. It is done with great precision. An actor makes ten steps and exactly meets and shakes his partner's hand, or successfully finds the door - not missing it at all. Music effects are also used, and they function as a setting, and directors' instructions.

I was watching the audience during the performances. The spectators were at first curious, they actually tried to figure out the skills technique of the blind actors, but very soon they concentrated on the plot of the play.

At present, after this theatrical company has given over a thousand and five hundred performances, with numerous domestic and foreign pieces on the repertoire, one should particularly point out the mobility of the troupe. New Life reminds me of theatrical troups in the past which - ever since Molière - used to travel and visit small towns and regions showing everybody their art on the stage. The members of the Blind Theatre company New Life are proud to be amateurs - only, they are fully responsible amateurs. Famous playwrights have been selected, so that their plays would be put on the repertoire; well known directors have been chosen to guide the theatrical group, and the opening nights are never planned until a play has been rehearsed to perfection.

The troupe was awarded too, but it seems to me that their best award has been the applause of a satisfied audience. It is the main source of energy which gives the actors the strength to keep and continue their amateur acting and, perhaps tomorrow already, start working on a new play.

The meritorious veteran, the soul of the troupe, the tireless professor Lastric, said once that a blind actor is sightless, but he possesses something else - a special natural feeling by which he can predict, solve successfully and deal with everything - except colours. And it is known that even people with good vision are colour blind.

Let us wish this histrionic troupe hundreds of ever so ambitious performances. I myself, as a playwright, promised the Company actors that I would write a play, especially for them. about the situations from their lives. I hope I shall be able to fulfill my promise before the next anniversary.