January 15, 2004 by

Uta Hagen

1 comment

Categories: Actors, Education, Writers/Editors

uhagen.jpgUta Hagen’s life was acting.
As a child, Hagen immigrated from Germany to the United States. She studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London and the University of Wisconsin before moving to New York City to hone her craft on stage.
Hagen made her professional debut as Ophelia in the 1937 production of “Hamlet” in Dennis, Mass. Within a year, she was starring on Broadway as Nina in “The Seagull.” That summer she appeared opposite José Ferrer in “The Latitude of Love.” They wed and appeared in numerous plays together, including “Key Largo” and “Othello.”
After she divorced Ferrer, Hagen married actor/director Herbert Berghof. They founded the Herbert Berghof Studio, a prestigious performing arts training school in New York City, where she taught for more than half a century. Some of her most famous students include Matthew Broderick, Christine Lahti, Jason Robards, Sigourney Weaver, Whoopi Goldberg, Jack Lemmon, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. Her 1991 book, “A Challenge for the Actor,” is required reading for drama students all over America.
Although she was dedicated to teaching aspiring actors, Hagen still obeyed the siren song of the stage. She played Blanche Du Bois with the national company of “A Streetcar Named Desire” in 1948, then took Jessica Tandy’s place in the role on Broadway, opposite Marlon Brando. In 1950, she played the title role in “The Country Girl,” a performance that won Hagen her first Tony Award for best actress.
Her brutal performance as Martha in the original production of Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” stunned audiences on Broadway and on the West End stage in London. The play won five Tony Awards, including best acting honors for Hagen and her co-star, Arthur Hill. Hagen was honored with a third Tony in 1999 for lifetime achievement. She also received the 2002 National Medal of the Arts and was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame.
The legendary actress died on Jan. 14. Cause of death was not released. She was 84.
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One Response to Uta Hagen

  1. Cole Spivey

    The Challenge for the Actor was the first book I intensley studied at Texas Wesleyan in Fort Worth. My professor had met Uta Hagen in a seminar when he was younger. We studied her book to the que those two first hard semesters 1993-94. I did several scenes based upon her inner objects, belief and her respect for acting and becoming the role. In honor I performed, and went home at nights reading her book until I fell asleep. I studied every word and had to do a detial outline of the book for my Professor Kenn Stilson. He loved her work and taught as if she was a great, like Stella Adler, or Lee Strasberg or even Stanislavski himself. The scenes I did that first year at Wesleyan: Red Cross by Sam Shepard, Rumors by Neil Simon, Orphans (Treat), Luv, Romantic Comedy, Menechmi (Peniculus), Album (boo) The Man Who Came To Dinner (I played Banjo at Mainstreet Rep in Mansfield TX)I did Luv and Banjo’s role at the same time. The following year I re-read The Challenge of the Actor. That summer I played Luke in a Passion Play and Arlechino in the Three Cuckolds at Hip Pocket. Johnny Simons and his two daughters: Lake and Lorca knew Uta Hagen. Lorca Simons performed with her in Collective Stories. Lorca said she was a great actress to work with. Aslo, when we did Waiting for Godot (I played Lucky) she actually read the reviews when Lorca’s mother Diane Simons gave it to her by hand and in person. I told my professor that first year at TWU, “I would like to meet this chick.” He thought it was funny that I refered to Uta Hagen as a chick. But it was real. That following year 1994 Fall, I was cast as Stanely Kowalski in Streetcar Named Desire. I won an Irene Ryan Award for ACTF-I thank my Professor Kenn Stilson and Uta Hagen for their teachings.
    I later had a breakdown and had to go through therepy for OCD disorder. Later, in 1999, seven years of struggle I graduated from University of North Texas and left to Hollywood. I worked with Diane Salinger and auditioned for the Actors Studio Drama School at the New School of Social Research. I honor Uta Hagen for her wise and gifted teachings. I still use inner objects and used her techniques before getting accepted to the Actors Studio. We always debated at Wesleyan if Uta was a System or Method teacher. Most agreed she practiced both. She honored Stanislavski the most. I compare her to the greatness of Stella Adler and the Wisdom of Ellen Burstyn, another great teacher I had a chance to be taught from a workshop at the Actors Studio. Thank you Uta Hagen for all your help. And I hope you are happy in heaven. I wish I got to meet that chick, but I got to read her, which in some cases is just as good. Her writing was so real to life, and personal I felt I had met her. Perhaps I will see her someday, but I won’t call her a chick, unless she wants me to.
    Love yall,
    From Texas

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