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Uta Hagen was born 100 years ago today

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UTA (OO-tuh)

Uta Hagen: German born American actress and drama teacher
Common clues:
Actress Hagen, Tony winner Hagen; Hagen of Broadway; Hagen of “Reversal of Fortune”; Hagen of stage and screen; Hagen of “Key Largo”
Crossword puzzle frequency: 4 times a year
Frequency in English language: 41140 / 86800
Video:
Uta Hagen's Acting Class


We must overcome the notion that we must be regular...it robs you of the chance to be extraordinary and leads you to the mediocre ~ Uta Hagen


Uta Thyra Hagen (12 June 1919 – 14 January 2004) was a German-born American actress and drama teacher. She originated the role of Martha in the 1963 Broadway premiere of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee (who called her "a profoundly truthful actress"). Hagen was on the Hollywood blacklist, in part because of her association with Paul Robeson, and this curtailed film opportunities, focusing her to perform in New York theaters. She won the Tony Award three times. She later became a highly influential acting teacher at New York's Herbert Berghof Studio and authored best-selling acting texts, Respect for Acting, with Haskel Frankel, and A Challenge for the Actor. She was elected to the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 1981.


Hagen with Paul Robeson in the 1943-1945 Theatre Guild production of Othello


Born in Göttingen, Germany, Hagen and her family emigrated to the United States in 1924, when her father received a position at Cornell University. She was raised in Madison, Wisconsin. She appeared in productions of the University of Wisconsin High School and in summer stock productions of the Wisconsin Players. She studied acting briefly at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 1936. After spending one semester at the University of Wisconsin, where her father was the head of the department of art history, she left for New York City in 1937. Her first professional role was as Ophelia opposite Eva Le Gallienne in the title role of Hamlet in Dennis, Massachusetts in 1937.


Hagen was cast, early on, as Ophelia by the actress-manager Eva LeGallienne. From there, Hagen went on to play the leading ingenue role of Nina in a Broadway production of Anton Chekhov's The Seagull which featured Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne. It was 1938; Hagen was just 18. This experience left an indelible mark on the young actress, as she later reflected, "My next job was Nina in The Seagull, [her Broadway bow] with the Lunts, on Broadway. That sounds incredible, too. They were an enormous influence on my life." She admired "their passion for the theatre, and their discipline. It was a 24-hour-a-day affair, and I never forgot it—never!" The New York Times' critic Brooks Atkinson hailed her Nina as "grace and aspiration incarnate".


She would go on to play George Bernard Shaw's Saint Joan (1951) on Broadway, and Desdemona in a production which toured and played Broadway, featuring Paul Robeson as Shakespeare's Othello and her then-husband Jose Ferrer as Iago. She took over the role of Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire for the national tour, which was directed not by Elia Kazan who had directed the Broadway production but by Harold Clurman. Hagen had had a revelatory experience when she first worked with Clurman in 1947. In Respect for Acting, she credited her discoveries with Clurman as the springboard for what she would later explore with her husband Herbert Berghof: "how to find a true technique of acting, how to make a character flow through me". She played Blanche (on the road and on Broadway) opposite at least four different Stanley Kowalskis, including Anthony Quinn and Marlon Brando. Through interviews with her and contemporary criticism, the report is that Hagen's Blanche refocused the audience's sympathies with Blanche rather than with Stanley (where the Brando/Kazan production had leaned). Primarily noted for stage roles, Hagen won her first Tony Award in 1951 for her performance as the self-sacrificing wife Georgie in Clifford Odets' The Country Girl. She won again in 1963 for originating the role of the "I-wear-the-pants-in-this-family-because-somebody's-got-to" Martha in Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. (An original cast recording was made of this show.) In 1981 she was elected to the American Theatre Hall of Fame and in 1999 received a "Special Lifetime Achievement Tony Award".


Hagen was an influential acting teacher who taught, among others, Matthew Broderick, Christine Lahti, Jason Robards, Sigourney Weaver, Liza Minnelli, Whoopi Goldberg, Jack Lemmon, Charles Nelson Reilly, Manu Tupou, Debbie Allen and Al Pacino. She was a voice coach to Judy Garland, teaching a German accent, for the picture Judgment at Nuremberg. Garland's performance earned her an Academy Award nomination.



This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "uta_hagen".