Ac­tor show­cased deaf the­atre

Regina Leader-Post - - YOU - EMILY LANGER

Bernard Bragg, an ac­tor who broad­ened the bound­aries of the stage by co-found­ing Amer­ica’s Na­tional The­atre of the Deaf, a path-break­ing com­pany that pro­vided a show­case for deaf per­form­ers such as him­self and the el­e­gant beauty of sign lan­guage, died Oct. 29. He was 90.

Bragg de­scribed him­self as “prac­ti­cally born into the the­atre.” His fa­ther, like his mother, was deaf and had started an am­a­teur act­ing troupe for the hear­ing im­paired. How­ever great his love of the stage, the younger Bragg har­boured lit­tle hope for a ca­reer in act­ing un­til 1956, when he at­tended a per­for­mance by Mar­cel Marceau, the world-renowned French mime, in San Fran­cisco.

Bragg, then teach­ing at the Cal­i­for­nia School for the Deaf, was en­tranced by the power of Marceau’s art. “Af­ter I saw Marceau’s per­for­mance, I said to my­self, if he can do a two-hour show with­out say­ing a word, why can’t I?” Bragg once told a pub­li­ca­tion of Gal­laudet Univer­sity where he taught and per­formed from 1978 to 1995.

“Ev­ery ac­tor who is deaf and who steps on a stage to­day or in front of a cam­era owes a debt of grat­i­tude for the path he forged over 50 years ago,” the Os­car-win­ning ac­tress Mar­lee Matlin, who is deaf, wrote in an email.

In 1967, seek­ing to ex­pand per­form­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for the deaf, Bragg helped start the Na­tional The­atre of the Deaf in Con­necti­cut.

In short or­der, the com­pany had at­tracted wide­spread at­ten­tion with per­for­mances on Broad­way and around the world. In 1977, it re­ceived a spe­cial Tony Award.

Bernard Nathan Bragg was born in Brook­lyn on Sept. 27, 1928. So­ci­ety at the time was largely un­wel­com­ing to the deaf, of­ten as­sumed to be in­tel­lec­tu­ally dis­abled.

When he was grow­ing up, “sign lan­guage was a no-no,” he re­called years later in an es­say. “I was told to keep my hands at my sides; it was con­sid­ered shame­ful, clown­ish, to be seen sign­ing in pub­lic. To­day, peo­ple pay to see my sign.”

Bernard Bragg

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.