Phoebe Brand Carnovsky, Actress of The Group Theatre, Dead at 96

Obituaries   Phoebe Brand Carnovsky, Actress of The Group Theatre, Dead at 96
Phoebe Brand Carnovsky, one of the original acting company members of The Group Theatre in the 1930s, died July 3 at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center in Manhattan, The New York Times reported.

Mrs. Carnovsky, whose professional name was Phoebe Brand, 96, was the widow of actor Morris Carnovsky, who was also one of the early members in the Group, a groundbreaking American company devoted to naturalistic acting and plays of social relevance.

Group co-founder Harold Clurman called her a "youngster" in his book, "The Fervent Years." Before her tenure with the Group she had performed in Theatre Guild stagings and Gilbert and Sulllivan shows. The Group lasted only a decade, 1931-40.

The Syracuse, NY, native went to high school in Stamford, CT, and attended Clare Tree Major's School of Theatre, for which she made her stage debut: A children's theatre production of The Golden Apple.

Among the plays that she would graduate to were the original productions of Clifford Odets' Awake and Sing! and Golden Boy, plus House of Connelly, Men in White and Johnny Johnson, all for the Group during the Depression.

Mrs. Carnovsky's Broadway credits also included playing a standby to Lillian Roth in the 1962 musical, I Can Get It for You Wholesale. In a rare film appearance, she appeared as the aged Nanny in Louis Malle's "Vanya on 42nd Street," in which a group of actors perform Chekhov's Uncle Vanya on the stage of the then-dilapidated New Amsterdam Theatre. The film was based on the real meetings of New York actors who performed for themselves as exercise.

The actress was also a respected teacher who taught as early as 1939 in Erwin Piscator's Dramatic Workshop in 1939. She also taught in Hollywood's The Actor's Laboratory (1942-50), The Master Institute in New York, The American Shakespeare Festival in Connecticut and elsewhere. She was reportedly still teaching up to the last days of her life.

The Times reported that she began teaching in earnest after 1952, when she and her husband were identified as communists and blacklisted.

Morris Carnovsky died in 1992. Survivors include her son, Stephen Carnovsky, of Los Angeles, and niece Katy Brand Dilkes of Cortland, NY, whom she raised, according to The Times.

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