Bernard Bragg has embarked on a tour of the United States, taking his new one-man show, “Theatre in the Sky,” to audiences in several cities. All proceeds are being donated to the National Association of the Deaf and World Federation of the Deaf. $25,000 has already been raised. In this way, Bragg combines his passion for storytelling and ASL performance, outreach to Deaf and hearing audiences (including mainstreamed deaf students, parents of deaf children, and ITP trainees), his advocacy of Deaf rights, and his philanthropy.
Theatre in the Sky’s” first stop was Austin on November 11, 2006, then Northridge on March 16, St. Paul, Minnesota, on April 21, Boston on April 28, Seattle on May 4, and Manhattan on May 12. Upcoming shows for this Fall are slated for Tucson, Riverside, Gallaudet University, NTID, Flagler College, Boca Raton, Philadelphia, and Kansas City—a total of 14 cities on the tour schedule.
Bragg, 78, was born into a Deaf family in Brooklyn. His passion for ASL theater was there from the start; his father had been a talented amateur actor on the Deaf-club circuit.
After graduating from Fanwood in 1947, Bragg participated enthusiastically in theatrical productions at Gallaudet College. By the time he graduated in 1952, he was a seasoned performer.
In 1956, while continuing his education at San Francisco State College and teaching at CSDB, he met Marcel Marceau, who invited him to attend his academy in Paris free of charge. Bragg did so. Back in San Francisco, he continued teaching and performing wherever he could (such as nightclub stints), and even had his own TV show, The Quiet Man, which aired on San Francisco’s PBS affiliate, KQED, from 1957 to 1963. In 1967, he became a co-founder of the National Theatre of the Deaf, and after 10 years touring with the NTD, began an international “ambassadorial” tour, performing one-man shows, conducting workshops, and giving lectures His adventures are vividly recounted in his autobiography, Lessons in Laughter (1989).
Bragg is also an author, and has taught and directed at CSUN. His playwrighting credits include Tales from a Clubroom and To Whom It May Concern.
Even though he has done some notable work for TV (the acclaimed TV-movie And Your Name is Jonah), he has always preferred the inimitable chemistry between performer and audience that’s possible only with live performances. He has received many honors, including a Lifetime Achievement medal from the WFD and an honorary doctorate of Humane Letters from Gallaudet University. Last year, he established generous theater-arts endowments for CSUN, Gallaudet, and NTID.
At left: Bragg with young Jeffrey Bravin, prepping for a scene in And Your Name is Jonah (1979). Jonah tels the story of an early-deafened boy whose hearing parents struggle to find the best placement for him. (He has already been misdiagnosed as mentally handicapped, and has failed to thrive in an oral classroom.) Bragg served as technical advisor and acting coach, and had a small but memorable role as Paul, a Deaf man who welcomes Jonah’s mother into the Deaf community.