The Early Days of Dr. Moreno's Career in New York

Civic Repertory Theatre; Impromptu Theatre; Carnegie Hall Studio Workshop

By Gilbert Laurence

March 2005 Oceanside, California (88 years old)

I first met Dr. Moreno when I was an apprentice at the Civic Repertory Theatre in NYC. in 1931. Although his offer to work with the Theatre was rejected, apprentices were able to work with Dr. Moreno. I was the only one who accepted the opportunity and joined his group which met weekly in a Carnegie Hall studio. The culmination of the studio workshop was a Sunday nighty performance of the Impromptu Theatre at the Guild Theatre in April of 1931

The Civic Repertory Theatre was organized by Eva LeGalliene in the middle 20's after she had archived acclaim for several Broadway performances. Her goal was to bring classical theater to the masses at minimal costs. The theater was a large one in Greenwich Village but you can find detailed accounts on the WEB. Part of her program was aimed at training talented young actors (between 18-25). I was half-way through a school for precocious students and only 13 1/2 when I auditioned privately for Miss LeGalliene in a small room. Despite forgetting my lines halfway thru Hamlet's "Speech to the Players" I was accepted for the group. Unfortunately, the Depression was taking its toll and we received no compensation of any kind. The Theatre was financed by contributions from LeGalliene's wealthy supporters but it was a struggle to keep it going. It was hard for me to attend daily classes plus performing in several productions as a supernumerary. I really don't know why Moreno was turned down, altho he was not very prepossessing with his almost comic accent, bulging eyes, and seedy clothes, but she did give those of us who wished to work with him permission to do so.

I was the only one who joined Moreno's group which met regularly in a studio at the back of Carnegie Hall. Moreno had some wealthy sponsors who paid the expenses and sometimes held fund-raises affairs at their luxurious homes. I remember one woman who lived in a house on Sutton Place with living room ceiling which had been painted by John Barrymore when he had lived there. Again there was no money for those of us who performed the "impromptu" sketches taken from the daily newspapers. Dr. Moreno would speak to us individually, explain what our character was and how we were to interact with the other characters. When he was finished he would leave the small stage and we would proceed. Sometimes the result would be a dramatic illumination of the synopses the Dr. had given us; other times the sketch would be short and lacking in any dynamic contact. But at no time was a psychiatric interpretation presented by Moreno. Some of the actors were professionals and it was decided to present a Sunday evening demonstration of what was billed as the "Impromptu Theatre". The theater used was the "Guild Theatre", then operated by "The Theatre Guild". Being one of the cast I don't remember who were in the audience.

Only one newspaper critic attended. His review was short and acerbic. I don't remember being involved with group more than a year.In 1932 I became involved with several other boys in instigating psychic phenomena and we met every Saturday night for several years.If you are interested a detailed account is available on the Internet under "Montague Ullman / Dr. Bindelof". 1.

After the year I spent working with Dr. Moreno I didn't see him again until I spent a weekend in Beacon, N. N. entertaining at a summer camp. I think the year was 1936. I new Moreno had a house-sanitorium in the vicinity and stopped by to see. When I was greeted at the door by one of the staff. While I waited I could see a young woman in the living room obsessively pushing a carpet sweeper in one spot. When Moreno arrived he was obviously surprised to see me, and did not invite me in. He told me he was busy and that was the extent of my visit.

When I next saw him in New York it was in the late "Fifties" and I was living in Ca. I had read occasionally about the strides he had made with Psychodrama, especially during the war, when the US Army used the technique to treat victims of battle fatigue. I phoned first, made an appointment and went to see him in large quarters, including a small theatre on Park Ave. and 40th Sts. When the receptionist called him, he came out immediately and embraced me, calling me "Larry-Farry" which had been his nickname for me. He took me on a tour of his premises which were quite large and impressive. The tour ended on the stage of the theatre which seated about 50 people of both sexes. He introduced me, mentioning our association so many years before, ending with an invitation to participate in the current session, when I declined, he insisted and I acquiesced. I don't remember the details of the session but it was well-received. I left with a warm invitation to return whenever I was back in NY. Altho I made many trips to NY it was never convenient to visit him again.

1. Montague Ullman / Dr. Bindelof

Psybernet Moreno Page