Bernard Nathan Bragg
{ "" }
Share Bernard's life story with friends and family
Send an Email
Or Copy this URL to Share
September 27, 1928 - October 29, 2018
Our beloved friend Bernard Bragg left this world peacefully in the company of loved ones on October 29, 2018. Known as "BB" to his friends and to the international deaf community, Bragg was the first professional deaf actor in the United States and is widely acknowledged as the father of Deaf Theater. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Gallaudet University, New York School for the Deaf, Deaf West Theatre or Jewish Deaf Community Center. A guestbook is posted at

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in Los Angeles Times on Oct. 30, 2018.
Memories & Condolences
Not sure what to say?
View Printed Guest Book
35 entries
October 24, 2019
Hard to believe a year has passed.. I think of my dear cousin often, and only last week reread his autobiography Lessons in Laughter ... His gift of life and love will always be with us all
Dennis Harris
March 18, 2019
As the days and weeks pass, and as you return to life's routine, may you continue to feel comforted by the love and support of family and friends.
November 8, 2018
In Memory of Bernard N. Bragg

Bernard Nathan Bragg passed away on October 29 in Los Angeles, California. Bernard, or BB as he was known, had celebrated his 90th birthday on September 27. An icon of 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.

Bernard Bragg was first and foremost a performer. Influenced by his father, an amateur actor and theatrical manager, he was a regular in plays at the New York School for the Deaf. As a Gallaudet College student, Bragg studied language and literature. He acted in several plays and directed an adapted version of Escape, by John Galsworthy, during his senior year.

Settling into a teaching career at the California School for the Deaf at Berkeley, Bragg directed student productions. He also performed in and directed shows organized by the National Association of the Deaf and the Los Angeles Club of the Deaf. His star was rising, but no one could predict what lay ahead.

In 1956, Bragg 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 Noahs ark and every instrument in an orchestra.

Bragg hosted a television show, The Quiet Man, on KQED-TV in San Francisco from 1958 to 1961. In the mid-1960s, Dr. Edna Simon Levine, a renowned psychologist with a lifelong interest in deaf and hard of hearing people, recruited Bragg to the newly-established, federally-supported National Theatre of the Deaf. In 1967, Bragg left his job at CSD Berkeley and moved to Connecticut, where NTD was based. His appearance the same year with a stellar ensemble cast of deaf performers on NBCs An Experiment in Television brought the company widespread recognition, and led to national and international tours and several appearances on Broadway.

Bragg was an artist in residence with the Moscow Theatre of Mimicry and Gesture in 1973. He performed in a U.S. Department of State tour of 25 countries in 1977, and trained actors in Sweden and other countries. In 1979, he served as technical advisor for and acted in the television movie And Your Name is Jonah, starring Sally Struthers, James Woods, and the young deaf child Jeffrey S. Bravin, who is now executive director of the American School for the Deaf in West Hartford, Connecticut. ASD, founded in 1817, was Americas first school for deaf students. In 1980, he collaborated with Dr. Eugene C. Bergman, a Gallaudet University English professor, on the play Tales from a Clubroom, which premiered at the National Association of the Deaf centennial conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.

During his career, Bragg taught and conducted artistic residencies at Gallaudet, the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at Rochester Institute of Technology, and California State University at Northridge. At each school, he was involved in theatrical productions. Some of his more notable plays were adapted for international audiences.

Braggs last public performance at Gallaudet University was in February 2012, as part of his The World is My Stage tour. The proceeds from this performance were split between the university and the National Association of the Deaf Law and Advocacy Center. In 2013, he played himself in No Ordinary Hero: The SuperDeafy Movie.

Accolades for Bernard Bragg have poured in during the last week, with hundreds of people the world over posting remembrances on social media.

Long-time friend Dr. Genie Gertz, a Gallaudet alumna and dean of the universitys College of Arts and Sciences, wrote, The mold broke when they created Bernard. He did not just leave a mark. Rather, he left footprints everywhere, and as a result created a masterpiece. May he forever continue to create masterpieces wherever he is.

Marlee Matlin won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1987 for her performance as Sarah Norman in the 1986 film Children of a Lesser God. Matlin, an honorary trustee of the Gallaudet University Board of Trustees, wrote, When I was eight years old, as a young girl who yearned to be an actress, Bernard Bragg came into my life at just the right moment to offer inspiration and motivation. That is because back then I really had no role models to look up to. Bernard eventually became my mentor and teacher. Though he was applauded by many for his brilliant skills as an actor, teacher and author, he holds a very special place in my heart as the dearest friend, and no matter what distance or circumstances separates us, his life is a legacy that will live forever with me.

David J. Kurs, another Gallaudet alumnus, is now artistic director of Deaf West Theatre in Los Angeles. Kurs wrote, There will never be another [like Bernard Bragg]. Because of him, we have Deaf theatre. He was the voice in our head, our greatest champion, mentor, and friend. We all wanted his talent, energy, passion, commitment to excellence, and enthusiasm. In the words of Candide, one of his roles, he always did the best we know by embracing the simple joys of life and the people of our community. His loss is deeply felt by the many lives across the world that he touched.

In 1977, Bragg received a Special Tony Award from the American Theatre Wing. The World Federation of the Deaf bestowed upon Bragg the WFD Special Lifetime Achievement Award during the organizations 50th anniversary celebration in 2001 in Rome, Italy. He also received WFDs International First-Class Merit Medal. He was inducted into the San Francisco State University Hall of Fame in 2013 and the Gallaudet University Hall of Fame in 2015. In 2014, the National Association of the Deaf presented him with its Legacy Breakthrough Award. The New York School for the Deaf in White Plains named its auditorium and theater in his honor in 2016.

Bernard Nathan Bragg was born on September 27, 1928 in Brooklyn, New York, to Wolf and Jennie Stoloff Bragg. He graduated from New York School for the Deaf in 1947, and earned his bachelors degree in English at Gallaudet in 1952 and a masters degree in special education at San Francisco State University in 1959. In 1988, Gallaudet awarded him the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.

Bragg wrote three books: Tales from a Clubroom (Gallaudet University Press, 1981) with Dr. Eugene C. Bergman, 53; Lessons in Laughter: The Autobiography of a Deaf Actor (Gallaudet University Press, 1989), as signed to Dr. Bergman; and Meeting Halfway in American Sign Language: A Common Ground for Effective Communication Among Deaf and Hearing People (Deaf Life Press, 1994) with Jack R. Olson.

A noted philanthropist, Bragg gave generously to causes in which believed passionately, including the National Association of the Deaf, the World Federation of the Deaf, and his alma mater, Gallaudet University.

Such is Braggs stature that he was honored by news obituaries in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Playbill. He was featured on NBCs Sunday Today With Willie Giest on November 4.

Bernard Bragg left no immediate survivors. A shiva, or memorial open house, was held on October 31 at the home of longtime friends Sharon Ann Dror and Kenneth S. Rothschild in Burbank, California. Celebrations of his life are being planned on both coasts during 2019. Contributions in his memory may be made to The Bernard Bragg, '52 & H-'88, Performing Arts Chair Fund at Gallaudet University, Deaf West Theatre, or the Jewish Deaf Community Center.

On a personal level, my parents, Waldo T. Cordano and Jean Kelsch Cordano, both attended Gallaudet while Bernard was there. My sisters and I grew up with stories about him and his theatrical accomplishments.

Let us remember Bernard Bragg, his outgoing personality, his vast repertoire of talents, his prolific body of work, and his generosity to all humankind. Let us thank him for opening the doors of stage, television, and film to countless deaf and hard of hearing people. Finally, let us thank him for showing the world what deaf people can achieve. His memory will endure forever, on Kendall Green, the universitys historic campus, and throughout the nation and the world.


Roberta J. Cordano, President
Gallaudet University
Washington, D.C.
Roberta J. Cordano
November 8, 2018
Howard A. Rosenblum
November 7, 2018
In Memoriam: Bernard Bragg

The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) shares deep sadness with the passing of world renowned actor Bernard Bragg on Monday, October 29, 2018. Bernard was a unique and creative individual known throughout the world for his many talents as an artist, director, performer, poet, and writer. The Board and staff of the NAD extend our gratitude for his many contributions on behalf of our organization and the world.

The curtains came up for Bernard as he was born to deaf parents in Brooklyn on September 27, 1928, more than 90 years ago. He attended the New York School for the Deaf (Fanwood), and went on to study theater at Gallaudet. He acted in numerous plays at Gallaudet and even directed a play prior to graduation in 1952. From there, he taught at the California School for the Deaf in Berkeley for fifteen years, as well as staging and directing student drama productions at the school. During this time he also staged performances for NAD conferences!

This was only the beginning as he went on to thrill countless audiences in many countries with his enthralling and entertaining performances for decades. He helped found the National Theater of the Deaf (NTD) and was instrumental in bringing it onto television for the first ever broadcast of deaf performance. His accomplishments are legendary: he has studied with the famous French mime artist Marcel Marceau in Paris; performed in Moscow with a Russian theater group; and trained Swedish actors at the prestigious Stockholm Academy of Dramatic Arts. After he left the NTD in 1977, the NAD along with the U.S. State Department, the Ford Foundation, and the International Theater Institute jointly sponsored his world tour during which demonstrated the creative use of sign language within theatrical performances throughout 36 cities in 25 countries. Then he was a visiting professor and artist-in-residence at NTID and Gallaudet University, and also taught at CSUN. In 2007, he continued his work with a one-man show, Theater in the Sky, which had a nationwide tour across fourteen cities and its proceeds of $55,000 benefited both the NAD and the WFD.

The World Federation of the Deaf honored him with two of its highest awards: International First-Class Merit medal and Lifetime Achievement Award. In 1977, Bernard received a Special Tony Award for Theatrical Excellence. In 2014, the NAD bestowed him with the Legacy Breakthrough Award during the NAD Gala in the historic Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles, California, for all the trailblazing and advocacy he has done on behalf of all deaf actors and the entire community.

As a pioneering talented performer who has captivated the worlds attention, Bernard Bragg contributed so much to elevating recognition of sign language as a legitimate art form, said Melissa Draganac-Hawk, NAD President. The NAD mourns the passing of a giant, and is grateful to him for his tremendous legacy.
Howard Rosenblum
November 3, 2018
My dearest Bernard,
Thank you for giving me so much of your wisdom and friendship and love throughout our 45 years together. You have taught me so much about life, more than anyone I have ever known. You will forever have a place in my heart for as long as I live. And thank you for caring about my whole family...they all love and miss you.
With love and gratitude,
November 2, 2018
Bernard performing for Deaf Children attending an Arts Festival where he was a performing arts judge for 25 years! He changed the lives of so many!

Dearest Bernard Bragg. I learned today of your passing. Although I am sad to hear this news I can't help but remember all the wonderful times we have shared and the lessons I learned from you. There are too many to mention here, but I think it is accurate to say you have changed many people's lives both Deaf, Hard of Hearing and Hearing. I think my favorite memory of you was the time you and I worked together on a song for Liz Tannebaum's wedding. You were so thrilled that I as a singer would be following your lead rather than your following the musician! It was a proud moment for both of us to work together and achieve so much! I will always remember all of our talks together, but particularly our last lunch together in LA not too many years ago. I will miss you dear friend, and I will remember what you taught me about perfection and working together to achieve great things. See you on the other side!
November 1, 2018
A Tribute from NTD

The National Theatre of the Deaf mourns the passing of the deaf worlds 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 Braggs 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 ONeill 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 NTDs remarkable ability to entertain and inform at the same time. Thus, Bernard Braggs 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
October 31, 2018
Harvey J. Corson
November 1, 2018
What a wonderful man, role model, and godfather. Love you BB, I'm glad you were part of my life.
Lucas Scanlon
November 1, 2018
Lucas Scanlon
November 1, 2018
I am glad that I met Bernard Bragg in person and we chatted together. He told me he was first Professor deaf Actor and Deaf Theater. I told him I have always look up to him and I am first Deaf who taught ASL music at The New School University and show my students his movie. He was surprised that taught ASL music at The New School and asked me you sing with signing? I said yes but my voice sound like sheep. He laughed. Just want to say Those we hold closest to his hearts never truly leave us. He live on in the kindness he have shared and the heart. He brought into our lives My condolences. xoxoxo
Jeffrey Mooney
November 1, 2018
BB, you will be greatly missed, but you will live on in the hearts of the many, many people you inspired. Including mine.

I wish I had had more time to spend with you while you were here. See you in the next life, old friend. \,,/, <3
Jamie Scanlon
October 31, 2018
With heartfelt sympathy. Please accept my deepest condolences. May you continue to cherish his precious memories together. May you find comfort in the God of all comfort to offer you comfort and the strength to endure the difficult times ahead.
October 31, 2018
Rest In Peace, Bernard. Knowing that death can't be avoided but your amazing legacy will always be remembered world wide and your love of live and humanity will not be dismissive from our memory.

Tim & Jeanne Scanlon
Santa Fe, NM
October 31, 2018
I knew BB years ago at CSD-B (the California School for the Deaf - Berkeley) where he was a science teacher and I was a dormitory counselor working my way through graduate school. This was early in the days of the RID (Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf) when many relied on friends to "volunteer" to interpret which I did. Little did I know that he would become the international respected icon and revered leader he is today. So glad we've remained friends and colleagues over this span of time. He was sooo beloved by so many. RIP BB. Tom
Thomas Bull
October 31, 2018
It makes sense that BB is listed here, as his legacy is great. He will be missed, but more importantly, he will be remembered.
Lisa Dennett
October 31, 2018
I wish I had met Bernard Bragg in person years ago. I know he will be missed by so many people especially in the Deaf community. He is greatly respected by many, loved by many and many will follow in his footsteps.
Kate Hale
October 31, 2018
I am so sorry for your great loss. May the God who "binds up the broken hearted" and "comforts all who mourn" sustain your family during this challenging time. (Isaiah 61:1, 2) With heartfelt sympathy
October 31, 2018
Bernard Bragg touched so many lives. He was larger than life, full of love and optimism. Never will we see the likes of such a giant, and the world is a dimmer and smaller place because of his passing. Requiescet in pace.
Michael Schwartz
October 31, 2018
I am honored and blessed to have met Bernard when he came to visit World Federation of the Deaf office, Helsinki, Finland in 2012 for an interview. My deepest condolences.
Phillipa Sandholm
October 30, 2018
Bernard Bragg came for several summers to Boys Town to teach drama at the Summer Institute for Gifted Deaf Youth. He helped them produce performances they were proud of. Although he was a professional and expected the students to be as well, it was an experience they didn't forget. We have lost a national treasure.
Malinda Eccarius
October 30, 2018
To Bernard Bragg - I thank you and glad met you at Gallaudet University. Rest in peace.
October 30, 2018
To Bernard Bragg
I did watch your excellent performance show and I was glad met you in person and we did had a great chats at Deaf Artist Festival in Brooklyn, Michigan also my condolence goes to him and his families, and friends.
Ken Mahoney
October 30, 2018
Rest In Peace Bernard Bragg ... What a sad day as the Deaf world has lost a beautiful soul. There will be no one like BB. BB will be missed by all that knew him. Condolences to the family and friends. Godspeed BB.
Ginger Philley
October 30, 2018
Bernard's paternal grandmother and my maternal grandfather were siblings. I was humbled to know that my cousin was so respected, talented and beloved by countless people across the globe.
His loss will be felt by all who ever met him.
May his soul be in peace..
You will not be forgotten... only remembered with feelings of love...
Dennis Harris
Dennis Harris
October 30, 2018
Dear Bernard, You lived a full and good life as an exceptional human.

Lucas Bragg
October 30, 2018
You have a big heart to everyone. Let's free and into beautiful into the heaven. Xo
Barry Barton
October 30, 2018
I met him and Marlee Matlin, too at the theatre a few years ago. R.I.P
I was student at CSDB.
Michael Andrews
October 30, 2018
I had the pleasure of working with BB many times in my work with the National Theatre of the Deaf and the Worldwide Deaf Theatre conferences. Bernard was an amazing actor, director, mime, poet and visual vernacular master. Our conversations brought light to my work as an interpreter and performer. His insight and wisdom has changed me forever.

Thanks, BB for all the light that you shared with this world and for the global impact that your work has had on the Deaf community. Fly high my friend. May you rest in peace.
A Dreamer
October 30, 2018
I had the pleasure of meeting him way back in the '90's during one of the Jr. NAD Conferences. He was such a nice guy and a very good mime/actor and poet. He will be sorely missed. He left a great legacy to the world.
Patty Tadak
October 30, 2018
Thank you, BB, for adding joy to our lives, color to our world and a star to guide other aspiring actors, both Deaf and hearing.
Kevin Williams
October 30, 2018
I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Bragg when he came to Rochester and was a guest in my boss's house. Truly a legendary figure and Deaf Theater pioneer. We will carry forward his legacy.
Linda Levitan
October 30, 2018
My deepest condolences to the family and friends of Bernard Nathan Bragg. May you have comfort and hope, John 6:40 during this most difficult time. D. Hamilton
D Hamilton
October 30, 2018
WFD Administrative Secretary Phillipa Sandholm with Bernard, Helsinki, Finland 2012
Phillipa Sandholm
October 30, 2018
Precious moments
Marita S. Barber
Invite others to add memories
Share to let others add their own memories and condolences