Acclaimed actor Bernard Bragg, a founder of the National Theater of the Deaf (NTD), has laid the foundation for an endowment at California State University, Northridge (CSUN) to support the exploration of the arts in the deaf community.

Bragg will bequeath a portion of his estate, upon his demise, to the Department of Deaf Studies in CSUN’s Michael D. Eisner College of Education for the creation of the Bernard Bragg Deaf Theatre, Signed Arts and Deaf Cinema Endowment. The gift, currently valued at about $200,000, will provide opportunities for faculty and students to study, participate in and contribute to the success of deaf theatre, signed arts and deaf cinema in the United States and internationally.

Bragg, a longtime instructor at CSUN, has taught American Sign Language/deaf theatre courses and has directed plays at the university, including “To Whom It May Concern,” “Laugh Properly, Please,” and “Truly Deaf.”

He said he decided to make the bequest to the university because “I wish to see deaf people in theatre and film around the world continue to upgrade the quality of their works. By exposing their work to others as well as being exposed to others’ work, theatre people and filmmakers of the deaf world are thus able to see where they stand and how they can improve their theatres and films.”

“That is not to say that the deaf theatres and films in these countries aim to bring about social change," he says. "Presenting deaf theatre and film as an art form is their primary intent, although it may secondarily play a critical part in helping enhance the image of deaf people. Through their dedication, deaf theatre and film groups around the world have made significant and impressive contributions not only to their own deaf communities but also to the general cultural life of the societies in which they live.”

Bragg, 77, is internationally recognized as a leader in the deaf entertainment community.

He has been awarded an honorary doctorate in humane letters from Gallaudet University in recognition of his extraordinary service to deaf people of the world in theater, education and communication. The World Federation of the Deaf has honored him with a special lifetime achievement award in recognition of his pioneering efforts and notable accomplishments in theater, culture and signed arts, noting his “artistry and eloquence on the stage and leadership behind the scenes has shown the world the magnificence of drama, storytelling and poetry reading through the beauty of American Sign Language and has inspired multitudes of people.”

CSUN is one of only three institutions in the nation that offers a comprehensive undergraduate program in the area of deaf studies. It is designed to provide appropriate exposure and preparation for persons interested in professional careers as sign language interpreters, sign language instructors, counselors, government specialists, audiologists, speech pathologists, program administrators, community service personnel, and many other deaf-related vocations.

[SOURCE: California State University, Northridge]