KnowTheGlow was delighted to speak with Bruce Horak, an adult RB survivor and an accomplished artist and entertainer who has refused to let anything get in his way! Despite having only 9% of vision in his remaining eye, Bruce has worked in theater for over twenty-five years, lived out of a backpack for ten years, painted more than 670 portraits, and acted in everything from Shakespeare in the Park to Star Trek. Bruce serves as a true inspiration and reminder to us all to maintain a positive and ambitious outlook on life, regardless of the obstacles life throws your way.
At eighteen months of age, Bruce was diagnosed with bilateral retinoblastoma, cancer of the eye. This resulted in one of his eyes being enucleated and the other undergoing radiation, leaving him legally blind and with very limited vision. What Bruce and his family did not know at the time was that Bruce’s father most likely also had retinoblastoma as a child, but was never told by his parents that he had this diagnosis. Unbeknownst to his father, there was a one in four chance that he would pass it on to his children. Bruce, the youngest of four children and the only child to acquire retinoblastoma, proved those odds to be true.
Many hardships come with visual impairment. Bruce has demonstrated his extraordinary strength by not only overcoming self-doubt and insecurity, but also by finding a way to turn his life’s journey with cancer into a positive message for others facing similar physical and psychological challenges. In the theatrical performances and characters created by Bruce, he has found a way to use his unique perspective as a means of creatively connecting with his audience on a deeper level.
When Bruce was asked to change the name of the initial “evil clown” character he had created, he landed on the name “Cancer.” In his one man stage show “This is Cancer,” Bruce begins by introducing the main character, “Cancer has been an omnipresent element in my life since I was 18 months old.” This experience resonated with Bruce’s audience members, many of whom had also been affected by cancer. By personifying Cancer as a villainous, selfish, arrogant clown who attacks everyone he fixates upon, the audience members were able to face a source of destruction and suffering that had influenced many of them. Bruce’s choice to intertwine his personal struggle with cancer and visual impairment to his acting career is a common theme in all of Bruce’s work. Bruce has never allowed his disability to limit him. In fact, he has embraced it in every aspect of his career, and this is what has made his theater resonate and his artwork so emotionally impactful.
As a professional artist, Bruce has painted 670 portraits ‘how he sees.’ Because of the radiation Bruce underwent on his remaining eye, he sees a halo around the subjects of his paintings and reflecting that in paint gives each portrait subject a unique colorful aura. Portraying his disability visually allows him to connect with others despite his differences in a truly admirable and inspiring way.
In addition to all of these endeavors, Bruce most recently and perhaps most notably, became Star Trek’s first blind actor. Bruce played the beloved character Hemmer on Strange New Worlds, and according to Bruce, his journey on Star Trek is not over.
Bruce has many other exciting upcoming projects, including his improv show “Undiscovered Shakespeare” that tells the love story of two audience members, a “Goblins and MacBeth show,” and a tour of his show “Assassinating Thomson.” Additionally, Bruce plans on visiting his many family members in Canada, and continuing to support and inspire others with visual impairment to help turn their differences into opportunities for growth, connection, and hope.Thank you, Bruce, for exemplifying perseverance and strength in the face of adversity, and for serving as an inspiration to not just the visually empaired, but all of us! For more information on Bruce, to follow his work, view his art or even to request a portrait please visit his website, http://www.brucehorak.com/. And in the words of Star Wars’ Shiv Palpatine, “We will watch your career with great interest!”