South Bay News

Blind actor shines in local theater company

Monday, July 05, 2010

A star is emerging in the South Bay Theater. His talent as a performer is crystal clear, but the potential obstacle he's overcome is what may truly set him apart from the pack.

"Hello Dolly" marks just one of a dozen stage productions Brandon Biggs has performed in.

Like any other actor, he's got lines to learn and characters to delve into, but there's something else that sets apart this 18-year-old.

"I don't come out on stage with my cane so you can't usually tell," Brandon said.

Most in the audience can't pick out the Mountain View teen as the blind actor.

"It's a great feeling where you're out performing with everybody," Brandon said.

Instead of using sight to guide him on stage, Brandon uses auditory cues and touch.

"When we're in lines or whatever, you know, you've got to like touch the person and make sure you're not like "this close" to them," he said.

It also takes some very keen memorizing to move skillfully about the stage.

"I memorize the stage and where all the props and the set pieces are and so when I come out on stage, everything better be where it's supposed to be, or it doesn't turn out very pretty," Brandon said.

Brandon's dedication to the arts as an actor, singer and dancer has in part excelled because of natural talent, but also from a supportive upbringing.

"We never let his blindness get in the way of anything. If he wants to experience something, then we let him. We've never held him back saying, 'No you can't do that because you're blind,'" Brandon's mom Sonja Biggs said.

Sonja says it was a shock when the family first learned Brandon had a rare eye disease called Leber's congenital amaurosis, a condition gradually leading him to total blindness. It compelled her to become a certified teacher for the visually impaired.

"You just wonder, 'How are people going to respond to him, accept him? Is he going to be able to have a job? Is he going to grow up being just like everyone else?'" Sonja said.

Indeed Brandon is living life without letting his blindness hold him back. At 18, he's moved into his own apartment; he's studying at Foothill College and pursuing his passion for the arts.

"Just do what you want to do -- 'Reach for the Stars' is our family's motto," he said.

His inspiring efforts have now won him the national 2010 "Yes I Can" award for his achievements as a blind performer. The 'Council for Exceptional Children' honored 27 students with disabilities for excelling in categories from the arts and academics to community service.

Brandon is rehearsing the role of the bishop for an upcoming production of Les Miserables.

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