Finding her identity
Deanne Bray said she has never in her life been sad that she has hearing loss. Still, dealing with people who feel sorry for her because she is deaf has been a challenge. Bray credited her parents for taking her to deaf events and exposing her to Deaf culture as a child, so she was able to find her identity at a young age.
Since she has never had hearing, Bray explained that she has never felt like an outsider. The fact that she is able to speak verbally as well as communicate through American Sign Language poses a constant dichotomy for her. People with hearing loss question whether she embraces Deaf culture, and people with hearing question why others who are deaf do not speak as well as Bray. She resolves the conflict for herself by recognizing, "I have the worst in both worlds, but I do have the best in both, as well."
Appreciating people's differences
Bray tries to constantly remind and teach the writers, crew and cast what it is like to work with someone who is deaf. "I am hoping and encouraging that other deaf and hard of hearing characters will be in the show every now and then, so the hearing viewers will understand there are different kinds of deaf individuals," she said. Some read lips, some speak verbally and some do neither and only sign ASL, but Bray emphasized that people who are deaf have different backgrounds.
She may be acting in Sue Thomas's story, but according to Bray, the dramatic show depicts many areas where she feels she can relate to Sue. "This series focuses more on what the deaf individual CAN do, rather than cannot do," she said. "I am a proud member of the Deaf community. I am learning every day from the character and the real Sue Thomas how to reach out and open my heart more to the hearing community."
Growing as an actress
Most of Bray's growth in acting with Deaf West Theatre has been through American Sign Language. Four years ago, the artistic director there encouraged her to audition for a role where she could use spoken English. Bray hired a voice coach to help her say her lines fluently and to find areas where to breathe and how to deliver her lines emotionally through her voice. "I gained confidence after doing the role with Phyllis Frelich as my mother in 'Road to Revolution,'" Bray said. "Doing this broadened my abilities in what I can do in my acting career."
In the new PAX series, "Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye," Bray appreciates that her character, the FBI's first female special investigative assistant who was deaf, Sue Thomas, embraces both hearing and Deaf cultures. She explained, "Sue Thomas is a deaf individual who is a good advocate for herself and knows her needs and yet can work in a hearing environment." Bray continued: "She is a person who lives her life to the fullest. She is like a big sister to me, and I find her a phenomenal human being."