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Edward Morehouse (1924 – 2021)

He was a longtime acting teacher at HB Studio of whom I had a negative opinion, but that recently softened after watching an interview with him.

Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Edward Morehouse.

Darryl Reilly

Darryl Reilly, Critic

I have written profiles of William Hickey, Anne Jackson and Aaron Frankel, teachers who made an impact on me in the course of studying acting at HB Studio in the 1980’s. These three sunny individuals had distinsguished careers in the theater and nurtured and encouraged their students with élan. I audited many of the faculty’s classes and studied with some other fine teachers.

Edward Moorhouse had been teaching at the school since 1957, when I encountered him as a substitute for Mr. Hickey who was off filming a movie. I found Mr. Morehouse to be a caricature of an imperious acting teacher and he would have been perfect casting to play such a character. I had no intention of noting his death on May 14, 2021, at the age 96. However, my opinion of him softened after recently watching a video interview with him. The link to it is included at he end of this article.

“STOP! STOP!” Bellowed Morehouse who was then in his 60’s, when I witnessed his eruption. A young man and a young woman were performing a scene taking place in a kitchen. “If you’re washing dishes, wouldn’t there be WATER!” Such yelling at students by a teacher in a classroom was a new event for many of us.

The actors had set up the prop sink and the young woman handled dishes. Being in their early 20’s and with little acting class experience, it hadn’t dawned on them to lift up the detachable plastic sink, take it out to the restroom in the hallway, fill it up with water and bring it back for their scene. Couldn’t Morehouse have let them finish the scene and then suggested next time having water would make the scene more effective? That was not his style.

Bespectacled, wearing a tweed blazer and radiating superiority, the owlish Morehouse was a stark contrast to the benevolant rumpled William Hickey whom the class was used to. Also memorable was when in a hushed tone Morehouse launching into a semi-homoerotic reverie about encountering Gary Cooper in the early 1950’s near Tiffany’s on 57th Street and Fifth Avenue and following him for a few blocks to the St. Regis hotel. I was not enticed to study with him.

In 2019, I was at the HB Studio theater for a program commemorating Uta Hagen’s centennial. Into the lobby, an ancient man in a wheelchair was brought in. I stared and recognized him as Edward Morehouse from his glasses. He stared back at me as if he was thinking, “Do I know him?”

Herbert Berghof and Uta.Hagen in the 1950’s.

The HB Studio Facebook page thread about his death was filled with former students’ testimonials of his greatness. There was mention of a video of him on YouTube, it’s a revelation.

Recorded in his Manhattan apartment when he was 90, it’s a lovely 57-minute recitation of his life produced by one of his past students. Morehouse served in the U.S. Army during W.W.II, came to New York City in 1947 to be actor, studied extensively and took odd jobs to survive. The allure, glamor and excitement of that era is wonderfully recounted by him in his rich voice and august presence.

He auditioned for Kiss Me Kate and Cole Porter whimsically befriended him for a time. He began studying at HB Studio in 1952 and developed close relationships with its founders, Herbert Berghof and Ms. Hagen. Undoubtedly traumatic was losing out on a big break of repeating his workshop performance as Lucky in Waiting for Godot, when it was produced on Broadway in 1956. He has Off-Broadway credits in the 1950’s, his filmography consists just of a small role in 1965’s The Pawnbroker and a television appearance in The Naked City. He would go on to direct many Off-Off-Broadway plays.

“This barroom Benzedrine business” muses Morehouse in the interview and declares that along the way he gave up trying to be an actor and devoted himself to teaching. He also delivers a moving account of the dawn of AIDS. In 2015, former students of his set up a GoFundMe page for him that raised over $20,000. By then, he was unable to teach and had only Social Security to live on. Soon after, he moved to the Actors Fund Home located in Englewood, New Jersey, where he died.

Edward Morehouse’s long ago abrasive behavior was awful, but I now have respect and appreciation of him as a human being.There was more to him than that tirade.

The HB Studio weekly email newsletter which announced the news of Morehouse’s death, also noted the death of Charles Grodin at the age of 86. Mr. Grodin studied there from 1956 to 1959 with Uta Hagen. In interviews, Grodin would often hilariously reminisce of his clashes with her over her views on acting exercises and technique. As he became successful, he regularly donated money to HB Studio, attended many functions and made peace with Hagen.

Charles Grodin.

https://www.gofundme.com/f/isep4w?utm_campaign=p_cp_url&utm_medium=os&utm_source=customer

Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Darryl Reilly
About Darryl Reilly (802 Articles)
A native New Yorker, Darryl Reilly graduated from NYU with a BFA in Cinema Studies. For the Broadway League, (formerly The League of American Theatres and Producers) he developed, and for five years conducted their Broadway Open House Tours, which took visitors through The Theatre District and into several Broadway theaters. He contributed to Broadway Musicals Show by Show: Sixth Edition (Applause Books). Since 2013, he has reviewed theater, cabaret, and concerts for Theaterscene.net.

14 Comments on Edward Morehouse (1924 – 2021)

  1. Avatar Eleanor Lunn // May 28, 2021 at 11:00 am // Reply

    I took a class with Mr. Morehouse in the 1980’s. The young students in the class were deeply offended by his brusque critiques of their efforts. Being a native New Yorker, I took his ways in stride and thought the whiners were too thin skinned to make it in the real world!

  2. I took Edward Morehouse’s class in the early 1990s. He was frank and honest to the degree that feelings weren’t an issue. He could be terribly harsh and wonderfully praising if you moved him in that direction. One thing you always knew was that he made you a better actor, and for me also a better person. When you look at someone as a teacher, you can hardly imagine anyone with more passion than he had about teaching, about cultivating and shaping and honing new talent. They were teachers who are so wonderful and there are those who are not great at teaching but you just want to listen to their stories, stories that take you to places you would never have so much as a peek at, but for them. Both of these people existed and Edward Morehouse. I feel blessed to have been his student. He is certainly one of G-d’s more interesting creations. May you make the next world more interesting as you have done with this one you just left.

  3. Avatar Nancy Muldoon // July 13, 2021 at 5:03 pm // Reply

    Darryl, thank you for the article about Mr.Morehouse. I was also one of his students in the 1980’s. I remember the objective exercises he gave us and I believe there were 10 of them and he told the class very few of us would successfully get past number five. He was right of course. He could be caustic but also charming and witty. I always remember him saying to the class, ” What do you want for yourself?” He made an indelible mark at H.B Studio. I am grateful for the experience.

  4. Avatar Bill Garrity // September 4, 2021 at 3:06 am // Reply

    I was a student of Ed Morehouse’s from about 1989 to 1991. I don’t have the words to adequately express how great a teacher he was, how he could read your mind and pull things out of you that you didn’t even know were there. I’ve missed Ed since 1991 and will continue to miss him.

  5. I studied with Ed in 1962 for about a year. He was a great teacher. I learned a lot. I study with other teachers at the school. When I audition for Uta Hagin’s class with Mary Boland the scene went well. Utah said who was your teacher. I said Edward Morehouse. She said he taught you everything. I said yes. She complimented him and called him a great teacher.

    Never got a chance to share that compliment with Mr. Morehouse but I always appreciate his teaching which had a great influence on my life. I used it mostly in broadcasting. Tony Alexi.

  6. I don’t like your article at all. Edward Morehouse was a tough-loving teacher who not only schooled actors in their craft but helped them understand how criticism was inspiration through which to grow. Uta was unnecessarily cruel at times, often favoring students who took her lcass for decades (and donated heavily to the school). She could be awful. I studied with Ed and then Uta and I returned to Ed. When I appeared in a small role on Broadway he was there on opening night. Those of us who took seriously his ccritiques (which I agree lent themselves to some comic parody—I created a character based on him for a comedy troupe) and let them motivate us to get a signature “good for you” next time around, getting over our own sensitive egos and deliverying what was necessary for the character in the scene in the play enjoyed a kind of elation that didn’t happen to students who were with coddling teachers who didnt want to get under students’ skins. With Ed you had to grow a pair and fast and when you won an accolade from him at the end of your scene you knew you deserved it.

    • I am touched by and appreciate your comment. Edward Morehouse was one of the great unheralded acting teachers. The New York Times and the New York City theater press did not see fit to commemorate him. In my humble way I sought to do so. That was spurred on by that long ago memory of him yelling at two young students while substituting for William Hickey. We were not used to that. After his death, I could comprehend he was more than that incident.

  7. What a treat. Thanks for leaving this trail to Morehouse. Part of the tapestry of great artists on whom The American Theatre is built.

  8. I was 21 when I made my sojourn through NYC for a couple of years. I audited many classes, and decided I wanted to learn from him because of the brutal honesty I witnessed. I signed up for his classes and was changed forever. I didn’t have the emotional maturity at such a young age, and I did struggle, but loved every minute, and appreciated the life lessons he gave me. The brutal love was about getting me out of my analytical brain – he was trying to give me the greatest gift: Being present with my emotions. After more than 30 years, I still think of him, and I still apply many of the lessons he taught about how to live! I could clearly see in the classes that I audited early in my research, that the other teachers were not honest about the bad choices their students were making, and so the students never moved beyond the academic analytical delivery I am guessing. It was so wonderful to see the video and how great he still looked at 90! He lived out the promises he gave us. He lived a life that fed his soul, and this was his challenge for us. I am so grateful for just a few dollars, I had access to a great teacher. I loved when he yelled at the Saturday morning class once, “I only make $2.00 per student per class, so when you come to class, come prepared, please do not waste my fucking time!”. “This is not therapy!” Rest in peace Mr. Morehouse.

  9. Thank you. I had tried to contact him a few yrs ago. They had asked for donations….I see dear Ed has gone on. I studied with him for 2 years and felt I had grown. I don’t really remember so much gruffness. I enjoyed his classes and expected honest criticism. My best years the seventies. I had just lost my husband and had 2 children worked in the post office and tried my to get back to my true love …the theatre…. RIP dear Ed…you created a wonderful Masterpiece of Life…

  10. So beautifully stated, he did create a Masterpiece of Life! He had me read biographies and one day he asked me if I had been to the Opera. I said no, and he said, “You need to go to the Opera, because those experiences will be written on your face” – he said this as he emoted with a large hand gesture. The amazing twist of fate is this gift he gave me, of his Masterpiece of Life is that it gave me more courage to take risks in life. Strangely, I ended up attending University a few years later, and majored in Zoology, and Anthropology, of all things. I was never a scientific person, but the lessons he taught me parlayed their way into areas of my life where I learned how to take risks. I was not a science person, but the arts, his lessons gave me that courage to jump in, and I graduated, and found myself protecting old growth forests by surveying endangered species. It was Ed who gave me those wings to make a difference. I miss him and if there is an after life, I look forward to greeting him with a big smile.

  11. Avatar Michael Giorgio // December 28, 2021 at 12:11 pm // Reply

    I first studied with Ed as a raw, untrained 17 yr old in his acting for teens class. If you have read of the criticisms of from people who studied with him, you know that he was not long for wasting time with children. Laziness and immaturity were the powder to light his ire on fire. A friend of mine was about to do a scene from Ah Wilderness where he and Muriel are alone together. A 17 yr. old girl asked,”are they going to kiss?” Ed spun around with a look of complete disgust and contempt and hissed, “THAT is the most immature question I have ever heard and that kind of bullshit does not belong in here in class!” He continued hissing, “what aaaarrree you (in the affected manner of speech which sounded like a combination of Noel Coward and Italian), a child??”

    I will admit it was generally observed that he was kinder to the boys than the girls. But… If he saw ability or at least the drive to work hard, he was inspirational. I’ve studied with several teachers since then, some of whom taught me a lot, but my foundation, my passion, and my inspiration for the love – and RESPECT – for acting came from Ed. I hear him in the my ear to this day with quotes like, “ok. Good start, but…. Try a new one next week”; “This is great career but a shitty business” or the one that was far less common but you know was earned when he said it, “Any criticism I have at this point would be purely directorial. Good work. Good for you.”

    He could be teh bitchiest of old cantankerous queens, your dad, your mom, your best friend, or that tyrant of a teacher who called out your bs. He was a perfect mix of tough and nurturing. You could suck as long as you gave it your all. When you were really beginning “to cook” as he’s say, he’d either be laughing loudly or leaning in laser focused on what you were doing as if being up there himself. He gave me my mantra: “every role you do are just different recipes of you.”

    When I found out he was master teacher of the year long program, I thought “it’s about time.”

    Thank you Ed for arming me with the tools way back then that I still use to this day. Good for you, Ed. Your work and mentorship lives on in me and thousands of others who had the audacity to brave your class.

  12. Avatar Marisel Estévez // June 9, 2022 at 1:16 am // Reply

    I was a student of Mr. Edward Moorehouse. His technique is unforgettable! Yes, he was tough…and hurtful; but he taught you to “feel” Acting. He made you look into a mirror, metaphorically, and find yourself in the realm of all those exercises. You learned Honesty, from the psychological aspect of the Craft itself. May his experiences and work here on Earth, be rewarded in the Celestial spheres. May his talent, love and devotion to Acting be held and cherished within us, who studied with him. May he rest in peace.

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