A Celebration of Life memorial service was held on March 13, 2019 at the Gallaudet University Chapel Hall in honor of Bernard Bragg who passed away on October 29, 2018. Below is an excerpt from the program book.
Bernard N. Bragg, ’52 & H-’88, or BB as he was known, was an icon on stage and screen. He was perhaps the most instantly recognizable deaf person in the world. It can fairly be said that he blazed the path for generations of deaf people to enter the performing arts.
First and foremost a performer, BB was heavily influenced by his father, an amateur actor and theatrical manager. He was a regular in plays at the New York School for the Deaf. At Gallaudet University, he acted in several plays and directed an adapted version of John Galsworthy’s “Escape” during his senior year.
Settling into a teaching career at the California School for the Deaf at Berkeley, BB directed student productions and acted locally and nationally. In 1956, he attended a performance by the French mime Marcel Marceau in San Francisco. Enthralled, he went backstage to meet Marceau who offered to teach him mime that summer in Paris. Upon his return to the United States, Bragg took his act to playhouses and theaters all over the United States. According to the New York Times, “he delivered bravura displays in which he portrayed every animal on Noah’s ark and every instrument in an orchestra.”
In the mid-1960s, Dr. Edna Simon Levine, a renowned psychologist with a lifelong interest in deaf and hard of hearing people, recruited BB to the newly-established, federally-supported National Theatre of the Deaf. In 1967, BB left his teaching job and moved to Connecticut, where NTD was based. His appearance the same year with an ensemble cast of deaf performers on NBC’s An Experiment in Television brought the company widespread recognition, and led to national and international tours and several appearances on Broadway.
BB was an artist-in-residence with the Moscow Theatre of Mimicry and Gesture, performed in a U.S. Department of State tour of 25 countries in 1977, and trained actors in Sweden and other countries. He served as a technical adviser for “And Your Name is Jonah” and collaborated with lifelong friend Eugene C. Bergman, ’53, on the widely-acclaimed “Tales from a Clubroom.” BB also taught and conducted artistic residencies at Gallaudet University, the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at the Rochester Institute of Technology, and California State University at Northridge. He concluded his illustrious career with a world tour in 2012. One of Gallaudet’s 15 Visionary Leaders, BB was inducted into the University’s Hall of Fame in 2015. He received many other honors during his lifetime. His legacy lives on in the thousands of people whose lives he enriched, and in Deaf theatre companies throughout the world.
Dr. Genie N. Gertz, ’92
Dean, College of Arts and Sciences, Gallaudet University
Roberta J. Cordano, J.D.
President, Gallaudet University
Dr. Robert R. Davila, ’53 & H-’96
President Emeritus, Gallaudet University
Dr. Harvey J. Corson, ’64 & G-’65
Chair, Board of Directors, National Theatre of the Deaf
Marlee B. Matlin, H-’87
Alexis A. Kashar, J.D.
Chair, Board of Trustees, New York School for the Deaf
Michael A. Schwartz, J.D., LL.M., Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Law and Director, Disability Rights Clinic
Syracuse University College of Law
David “DJ” Kurs, ’98
Artistic Director, Deaf West Theatre
Ethan M. Sinnot, M.F.A.
Director, Theater and Dance Program
Department of Art, Communication and Theater
JohnMichael Taylor, Class of 2020
Gallaudet University student
Kelby N. Brick, ’94
J.D., 1997, Temple University Beasley School of Law
Director, Maryland Governor’s Office of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
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