The National Theatre of the Deaf mourns the passing of the deaf world’s acclaimed star, Bernard Bragg – Actor Extraordinaire – who now belongs to history. What an enormous legacy he leaves for the Theatre Arts, the Deaf Theatre and the Deaf Community!
Bernard Nathan Bragg was a man of many talents with various roles in his lifetime – teacher, actor, sign master, storyteller, poet, lecturer, playwright, producer, director and author. In 1967 Bernard Bragg helped to found the NTD, working closely with David Hays, Founder and Artistic Director for 10 years before he moved on to other ventures. He was considered as co-founder. It is hard to visualize how the NTD could be successful without Bernard Bragg.
To quote John Basinger, a NTD board member and a former NTD actor/voice performer: “Bernard was a genius. I’ve often thought, what if Mozart had been born deaf? Bernard Bragg answers that question. It is impossible to imagine the National Theatre of the Deaf without the talent, the stature and the gift that Bernard brought to the birth, growth and maturing of this national treasure we all love so much. I feel fortunate to have worked with him, as a company member, as a voice for his solo performances, as learner and as a friend. I shall continue to hold him close to my heart.”
In 1977 after he left the NTD, Bernard Bragg became an “Ambassador” by engaging in the world tour jointly sponsored by the National Association of the Deaf, the U.S. Department of State, the Ford Foundation, and the International Theatre Institute. In this role, he presented and demonstrated the creative use of sign language within theatrical performances throughout 36 cities in 25 countries.
Among Bernard Bragg’s accomplishments, he studied with the famous French mime artist Marcel Marceau in Paris, France; was artist-in-residence with the Moscow Theatre of Mimicry and Gesture in Moscow, Russia; and taught deaf Swedish actors at the prestigious Stockholm Academy of Dramatic Arts in Stockholm, Sweden. Later on he was a visiting professor and artist-in-residence at the National Institute for the Deaf at Rochester Institute of Technology and then at Gallaudet University. He also taught at the California State University at Northridge.
Among his various awards and recognition, Bernard Bragg was among those recognized with Special Tony Award for Theatrical Excellence to the Actors and the NTD in 1977. He was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the NTD during his 85th Birthday Reception given by the NTD Board in the Rose Barn at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT in October 2013.
Through its art, the National Theatre of the Deaf has created profound social change whereby doors of opportunity began and continue to open for deaf people everywhere. The magic of it all has been that the NTD’s remarkable ability to entertain and inform at the same time. Thus, Bernard Bragg’s contribution can be seen as his extraordinaire skills to make stage presentations so artful, clear and meaningful to enable the audience members take home with them memorable and learned experience.
~ Dr. Harvey J. Corson, NTD Board Chair
Editor’s Note: B/W Bernard Bragg Photo courtesy of NAD.