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March 27, 2003

Keynote speaker mimes his way to the top

From: Ball State Daily News, IN - Mar 27, 2003

Deaf Awareness week showcases deaf performer

by Jay Kenworthy, Chief Reporter
March 27, 2003

Words first penned by Robert Frost in 1920 were reiterated Wednesday night by Bernard Bragg, the keynote speaker for Deaf Awareness Week.

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference." In the mid-1950s, Bragg said came to a fork in the road of life.

A teacher in California, Bragg had a decision to make after watching French mime Marcel Marceau perform in San Diego.

"I could have gone home," Bragg signed while a speaker interpreted, "or I could have gone backstage." Bragg went backstage and communicated to Marceau that he was impressed with his courage, asked Bragg to show him what he could do. Bragg then performed two skits he created: "The Italian Painter " and "The Conductor." "The Italian Painter " is about an artist who was frustrated with a work of art he was creating, he said.

The painter was on the verge of giving up until he came up with the solution: Put his paint palette on the easel and call that his art. "The Conductor" is about an unfortunate man who broke his left arm.

When his right arm got tired, he decided to conduct his orchestra with his eyebrows. Bragg signed that Marceau was impressed with the skits. That became apparent when Marceau invited Bragg to study mime in Paris for free. From there, Bragg's career blossomed. After studying mime, Bragg had his own television show called "The Quiet Man."

Bragg, who has been deaf since birth, never said a word on the show. Later, Bragg played an instruNational Theater of the Deaf.

His message that people should take the path less traveled reached an audience of almost 70 people Wednesday, but he focused his message on two audience members in particular.

Colin and Casey, two deaf children of elementary-school age, attended with their father. Bragg told of the paths he took, then encouraged the children.

"Next, it'll be your decision," Bragg signed. "The future is going to be interesting."

Bragg signed that he has seen major changes in the treatment of deaf people. He told stories of hardships and ignorance toward the deaf lifestyle.

Bragg signed that, when he was 13, one of his teachers made fun of the way the deaf students laughed. One day, that teacher decided to teach the students how to laugh the "right" way.

After the teacher felt he had done a good job, he said, "Good. Now hearing people will never guess that you are deaf."

He also said that things such as e-mail, pagers and TTY (phone systems that verbalize typing) have made life without hearing much easier, but those aren't the most significant changes for the hearing impaired.

"The most important thing is the attitudes toward us deaf people," Bragg said.Marceau

© 2003 The Ball State Daily News