September 27, 1928 |
Brooklyn, New York
|Known for||Deaf Actor|
Bernard Bragg (born 1928) is a performer, writer, director, poet, and artist. Bragg has been mentioned in hundreds of New York Times articles. Bragg was a founder of The National Theater of the Deaf. According to the New York Times, Bernard Bragg has been "regarded by many as the leading professional deaf actor in the country".
Bernard Bragg was born on September 27, 1928, and grew up in Brooklyn, New York. He grew up signing, learning from his two Deaf parents. His first love was for acting in the theatre. He took after his father, Wolf Bragg, who was also an actor. Bragg attended the New York School for the Deaf in high school, and entered Gallaudet right after, graduating in 1952. He continued to perform in theatre throughout his years at Gallaudet, and even adapted and directed a play in his senior year. After his graduation, Bragg was offered a teaching position at the California School for the Deaf, Berkeley, which he readily accepted.
As he began to become more involved in professional Deaf theatre, Bragg became increasingly popular among the Deaf community. In 1956, Bragg got to meet the world famous mime Marcel Marceau after seeing one of his shows. Marceau asked Bragg to audition for him, then invited him to Paris to study miming under him. He returned from Paris with a new love for miming. After he returned to the United States, he went back to school. In 1959 he graduated with his Masters in Special Education and a Minor in Drama from San Francisco State University. As he was in school, he continued to mime and became more and more famous. He started performing at clubs, and Universities, and places all over California. He even did a 3-year stint on a television show called "The Quiet Man”. During his newfound love for miming and performing, he continued to teach at the California School for the Deaf. Eventually, Bragg's touring took him out of the United States and over to Europe. He stopped teaching for a few years and focused more on professionally performing. In 1967, Bernard met with several other performers and people involved in the theatre, and together they founded The National Theater of the Deaf in Connecticut. Bragg quit his job at the California School for the Deaf shortly thereafter.
Debut on NBC
Shortly after the founding of the NTD, NBC offered to film Bragg and a set of all deaf actors in a 1 hour program special that would serve as a part of the series "NBC Experiment in Television". Premiering on April 2, 1967, the special featured Bernard Bragg, Audree Norton, Ralph White, Howard Palmer, Gil Eastman, June Russi, Phyllis Frelich, and Lou Fant as deaf actors. Gene Lasko, Joe Layton, Arthur Penn, and Nanette Fabray were responsible for the script, musical score/choreography, stage direction, and program introduction, respectively. The special was aired nationwide and made history by being the very first televised instance of deaf actors conversing and performing in sign language rather than mime.
Prior to its airing in April, the idea for the special faced heavy criticism from The Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, which deemed the program's use of sign language as inappropriate for television.
Career as a Director
Bernard Bragg is not just a performer. He is also a director, writer, poet, and artist. His first directorial debut was in college at Gallaudet. He adapted and directed a play by John Galsworthy called Escape. He continued over the years to write and direct many more plays. Tales from a Clubroom, one of his most notable plays, was written in collaboration with Eugene Bergman; it was last performed for a live audience in 2006. In his later years when he moved back to California, Bernard began to teach at California State University Northridge. While working there, he wrote and directed several plays, including To Whom It May Concern; Laugh Properly, Please; and True Deaf. Although most of his productions premiered in the United States, some were adapted for foreign audiences in Germany and China as well.
- Bragg, Bernard. “Moments Preserved.” National Association of the Deaf, San Francisco, CA, 1966
- Bragg, Bernard and Eugene Bergman. Tales From a Clubroom. Premiered in Cincinnati, OH, 1980.
- Bragg, Bernard. That Makes Two of Us. Premiered at Gallaudet University, Washington D.C., 1982.
- Bragg, Bernard. On the Eve of Golden Wedding Anniversary. Premiered in Berlin, Germany, 1998.
- Bragg, Bernard. To Whom It May Concern. Premiered at California State University, Northridge (CSUN), Northridge, California, 1998.
- Bragg, Bernard. Laugh Properly, Please. Premiered at CSUN, Northridge, California, 1999.
- Bragg, Bernard. To Whom It May Concern [German version]. Premiered in Berlin, Germany, 1999.
- Bragg, Bernard. True Deaf. Premiered at CSUN, Northridge, California, 2000.
- Bragg, Bernard. A Journey Into the World of Visual Wonders. Premiered in Hong Kong, China, 2004.
- Evans, David S.. Life and Works of Bernard Bragg. BernardBragg.com, 2011. Web. 9 Dec 2011. <http://bernardbragg.com/>.
Deaf Life Media Kit." . MSM Productions, Ltd, 2011. Web <http://www.msmproductionsltd.com/advertising_opportunities/deaflife_media_kit/advisory_board.html>.
Art and poetry
Bernard had an interest in creating art and writing poetry. This was more something he did for himself and to be an inspiration to the Deaf community. Below is an example of one of his poems.
"The Sign Language as I Know it" Give me back my language the way I signed it when I was young. Give me back my language the way it used to be– before linguists “discovered” it and conferred a new name on it. Give me back my language the way I learned from my deaf parents, from their deaf friends, from my teachers, both deaf and hearing. Give me back my language the way I remember how the deaf storytellers role-modeled it to me. Give me back my language without any of those rules, restrictions, impositions, or fixed boundaries that the linguists established for it. Give me back my language that has a great potential for change and growth. Give me back my language which is very much part of who I am. - Bernard Bragg
Honors and Awards
- 1975 La Decoration au Merite Social International — Premiere Classe, World Federation of the Deaf
- 1977 Special Tony Award for Theatrical Excellence to the Actors of the National Theatre of the Deaf (NTD Photo with Sidenote by Michael Schwartz)
- 1986 National Hall of Fame for Persons with Disabilities
- 1988 Doctor of Humane Letters, Gallaudet University
- 1989 The John Bulwer Award, The National Center on Deafness
- 1990 The Bernard Bragg Artistic Achievement Award, Center on Deafness, Chicago
- 1997 Honorary Founder’s Award, New York School for the Deaf
- 2001 Special Lifetime Achievement Recognition Award, World Federation of the Deaf, Rome
- 2006 The Bernard Bragg Humanitarian Award, ICODA
- 2007 Recognition Award: NTD Founder, Texas Association of the Deaf
- 2008 Fred C. Schreiber Distinguished Service Award, National Association of the Deaf
Evans, David S.. Life and Works of Bernard Bragg. BernardBragg.com, 2011. Web. 9 Dec 2011