L’Chaim! Bragg’s “Theatre in the Sky” Wows Them in Riverside!

L’Chaim is a Hebrew word often used in a toast, that means “cheers” or “to life”. That sentiment sums up a multi-city tour of “Theatre in the Sky”. Dr. Bernard Bragg, who is hailed as the father of Deaf Theatre, came to Riverside to perform two shows, September 22 and 23 at the Digital Library Auditorium on the campus of Riverside Community College. This event was the tenth stop in a 12-city tour.

Bragg, the master of theatrical action, character and emotion, took the stage and “single-handedly” entertained all generations, allowing theatergoers of all ages an opportunity to see a legend. Bragg’s show gave the audience enduring sketches, making them cry and laugh in one sitting, as he related stories of travels spanning fifty years.

Bragg has reached every corner of the world with his theatre art, and upon invitation, he studied with famed French mime Marcel Marceau. Marceau transformed silence into poetry with lithe gestures and facial expressions that left Bragg inspired. In turn, when Marcel Marceau passed away on September 22, Bragg dedicated the Sunday performance in tribute to him.

Many people could relate to his stories of every day Deaf experiences. The performance was filmed live by DawnSignPress to preserve as part of the Deaf community legacy.

The audience shared the following sentiments:

“….one great storyteller….very entertaining and enlightening!” ~Linda Bove

“Bernard Bragg’s performance was interactive, touching and beautiful. His emotion about the story of his mother’s last flight almost made me cry. He has such passion for what he does, and the audience absorbs that just by watching.” ~Jenny Brown

“…..a classic Bernard Bragg performance with wonderful insights into life and especially the Deaf experience. His one-man show proves once again why Bragg is a legend of theatre. A must see for all.” ~Joe Dannis

“What an amazing experience to see an entire lifetime of entertaining encompassed in one performance. We thank him for dedicating his life and sharing the “art of being deaf” with the world on stage!” ~Mal Grossinger

“What a fantastic opportunity it was for our ASL/Interpreting Program students to be a part of “history in the making” right here at our Riverside city campus of RCC! The event was a memorable one, and they will carry it with them throughout their lives and careers in the Deaf community!”
~Diana E. MacDougall

“Bragg performed in his inimitable and entertaining style . I was impressed by his presentation knowing that he was deeply affected by the suddenly relayed news of the death of his long time friend and mentor, Marcel Marceau who was the basis for Bragg’s long time career in show business.”
~Dr. Larry Newman

“A light-hearted mixture of comedy and drama, I feel very fortunate to witness Bragg’s tales of Marcel Marceau that made the event a touching tribute to Marceau.”
~Hetty Rothenberg

“Bernard Bragg’s act was very poignant and special because I’ve shared his personal journey dating back to the days when my belated deaf cousin Evelyn Zola (who idolized him) shared Bernard with me, and when I was a student at National Theatre of the Deaf. Superb job, Bernard, as always. . . you’re a maestro!”
~ Philip Rubin

“I admired his talent and his accomplishments from what I saw in the video interview, The Man Behind the Mask. Then, to see him in person was an added bonus. I was very moved by his sentiment – there were moments of laughter and moments that you could call bittersweet. I was entranced, to say the least. I’m grateful for the opportunity to see a real artist and legend in action. I won’t forget it.” ~ Jack Shaughnessy

Over $7,000 in ticket sales and donations was raised that go to two major Deaf organizations: The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD). This gift will help support their efforts to bring about change in education, culture, employment, health care, and social attitudes toward Deaf communities, especially in developing countries.

Those in attendance were honored to support Bragg’s noble efforts to enhance Deaf essence and a cultural knowledge of the Deaf community, while at the same time raising needed funds for NAD and WFD. Before Bragg’s performance, Richard Ray, president of California Association of the Deaf (CAD) shared a few notes on behalf of the NAD and WFD, and on Sunday, it was Dr. Roz Rosen, director of the National Office on Deafness of California State University of Northridge, past president of NAD and an honorary board member of WFD.

After each performance sponsors, volunteers and crewmembers, including friends of Dr. Bernard Bragg, were invited to a VIP reception, an event they will not soon forget. We truly are a blessed community to have so many people working together to create positive change. We are thrilled, touched and thankful, to say the least for the support of this event.

California School for the Deaf of Riverside (CSDR) was proud to be a major sponsor of this benefit. Tina Jo Breindel, chair of the CSDR Event Planning Committee, shared how the commitment behind this event was an important example of the Deaf community at its best. This benefit and its revenues were made possible by the collaborative efforts of the local sponsors: the California Association of the Deaf (CAD), Center on Deafness Inland Empire (CODIE), Gallaudet University Alumni Association (GUAA) of Riverside, Hands On VRS, Mayor’s Model Deaf Community Committee, Office of ASL/Interpreter Preparation Program at Riverside Community College (RCC), Sorenson Communications, Trader Joe’s, and the Western Interpreting Network (WIN) which provided voice interpreters.

These local efforts were in addition to the national sponsors: National Association of the Deaf, World Federation of the Deaf, DawnSignPress, Sprint and T.S.Writing Services.

To check for future tour sites and dates, go to the NAD website at www.nad.org/bragg.

Posted October 12, 2007 on http://www.nad.org/braggriverside

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