Etcetera - 07/16/10

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Former Dixie resident Brandon Biggs made the news again, enthused former vocal teacher Audrey Renaud of Dixie.

ABC7 KGO-TV in San Francisco, Calif., featured a story on him that reports, "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."

Most people can't tell that Brandon, 18, is blind, because he leaves his cane offstage. He's currently singing and dancing in "Hello Dolly," one of a dozen stage productions in which he's performed.

The Mountain View, Calif., teen learns his lines and delves into his characters like the other actors.

"It's a great feeling where you're out performing with everybody," the singer-dancer told ABC7.

He uses auditory cues and touch to navigate on stage.

"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.

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

"We never let his blindness get in the way of anything," his mother Sonja Biggs said. "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.'"

Sonja told ABC7 that "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."

As a result, she 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.

Brandon is attacking life full tilt. He's moved into his own apartment; is 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.

He won the national 2010 "Yes I Can" award for achievements as a blind performer from the Council for Exceptional Children. He is now rehearsing the role of the bishop for an upcoming production of "Les Miserables." He is also the son of Atom Biggs.

Audrey said working with Brandon, who has amazing memorization skills, was a wonderful teaching and learning experience.

Sonja homeschooled him and he also attended Waitsburg Middle School and Walla Walla High School. He can be seen on YouTube.com at Yes I Can! Awards Part 12.

Contact Annie Charnley Eveland at annieeveland@wwub.com or 526-8313.

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