Campus Events and Activities
Lessons in Laughter: The Life and Times of Bernard Bragg
October 30, 2014 - 4:30pm - April 10, 2015 - 5:00pm
The world was his stage for deaf performer, playwright and director Bernard Bragg.
He dazzled audiences as the co-founder of the world renowned National Theater of the Deaf, performed in Moscow with a Russian theater group, studied with famous French mime artist Marcel Marceau in Paris, and was a visiting professor and artist-in-residence at Gallaudet University and the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at Rochester Institute of Technology.
More importantly, the 86-year-old Bragg who lives in Los Angeles was a lifetime friend to his mentor, Robert F. Panara, poet and pioneer of deaf studies at NTID who died last July at the age of 94.
Two students from RIT, Jean Pietrowski and Allison Thompson, became enamored with Bragg’s legacy—and with help from RIT Archive Collections—curated a memento-filled exhibition, “Lessons in Laughter: The Life and Times of Bernard Bragg,” at the RIT Museum space on the third floor of The Wallace Center. The show runs through April 10 and opens with a reception from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 30—with guest speaker Aaron Kelstone, program director of NTID Performing Arts.
Pietrowski, who hails from Cottonwood Falls, Kan., and Thompson, from Champaign, Ill., are students in the museum studies program at RIT’s College of Liberal Arts and have worked internships in the RIT Archive Collections.
Together they created a 10-by-3-foot installation timeline of Bragg’s autobiographical achievements—from his days at New York School for the Deaf to his directorial debut in college at Gallaudet; his TV show, The Quiet Man, which aired in San Francisco from 1957 to 1963; his Broadway performances, world tours and being heralded by The New York Timesas “the leading professional deaf actor in the country.” Included in the exhibition are 50 historic pieces from the RIT Archive Collections that include photos, Broadway Playbills, letters, news clippings and travel notes.
“Going through Bernard’s collection, I just fell in love with him,” said third-year student Pietrowski. “I think it’s kind of hard not to—the man has been so many places, had so many experiences. He’s been all around the world and bridged gaps between many countries.
“Watching him sign is like a small religious experience; the way he moves is so expressive you can’t help but be entranced. He has done amazing things for the world, and I only hope he will continue to inspire coming generations to do the same.”
For Thompson, who will graduate next May with minor degrees in visual culture and American Sign Language and deaf cultural studies, Bragg’s journey was personally motivating.
“As a hard-of-hearing individual who is equally passionate about the arts and education, Bernard Bragg is a huge inspiration to me,” said Thompson. “Undeterred by adversity, he has helped light the way for deaf individuals around the world to follow their dreams through his performances and teachings. I am thrilled for the first exhibition I have co-curated to be one that honors his legacy.”
In 2006, the internationally acclaimed Bragg established a generous theater-arts commitment of $100,000 to NTID to establish the Bernard Bragg Deaf Theatre, Signed Arts, and Deaf Cinema Endowment Fund. The fund helps support scholarships, training, workshops and lectures related to deaf theater and cinema for deaf and hard-of-hearing students interested in the performing arts.
Thou Art... Will Give...
November 21, 2014 - 3:00pm - January 21, 2015 - 4:00pm
Eastern State Penitentiary (1829-1971) in Philadelphia, Pa.—once the most famous and expensive prison in the world—stands today in ruin, a haunting world of crumbling cellblocks and empty guard towers.
During his 362 visits to the site, Eric T. Kunsman, a lecturer in NTID's Visual Communications Studies Department and adjunct professor in RIT's School of Photographic Arts and Sciences, photographed America’s first penitentiary in a revealing essay featuring 100 large format photographs on display in an exhibition spanning 11 years of work. “Thou Art . . . Will Give . . .” will be showcased from Nov. 21 through Jan. 21, in Dyer Arts Center at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf.
An opening talk with Kunsman will be held at 3 p.m. Friday, Nov. 21, followed by a reception from 4-8 p.m. A second discussion will be held at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 10. All events are free and open to the public.
According to Kunsman, the prison architecture designed by John Haviland was based on the state’s Quaker penal code instituted by William Penn, where each man or woman had to have a separate cell because isolation would give them time to ponder their mistakes and make peace with God. Famous inmates included two notorious criminals—bank robber Willy Sutton and gangster Al Capone.
“The whole idea of the word penitentiary comes from the word penance,” explained Kunsman. “I became intrigued with Eastern State Penitentiary after reviewing Warden’s logbooks from the 1820s and 1830s at the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia’s Independence Hall. Reproductions of these pages will be on display during the exhibition as they are the basis for the body of work.
“Although the prison emphasized principles of reform more than punishment, many of those jailed for long periods of time died or went insane. In my photos, you can see pictures of the warden’s corridor, a theater stage, solitary cells with single glass skylights representing the ‘Eye of God,’ and the small doorways, which forced prisoners to bow in penitence when leaving or entering their cell.”
The Dyer Arts Center, located at 52 Lomb Memorial Drive, is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and by request. For more information, go to email@example.com or call 585-475-6406.
Soledad O'Brien to Keynote King's Legacy Event
January 29, 2015 - 4:00pm
Former CNN Correspondent Soledad O'Brien will speak at RIT on Jan. 29 as part of the Expressions of King's Legacy event.
February 22, 2015 - 10:30pm
Save the dates: February 19-22, 2015 for RIT's annual FreezeFest celebration of all things winter!
May 2, 2015 - 10:00am - 5:00pm
Imagine RIT will take place from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Saturday, May 2 rain or shine on the RIT campus. More information can be found at www.rit.edu/imagine.