Uta Hagen


Biography of 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.

Born in Göttingen, Germany, the daughter of Thyra A. (née Leisner) and Oskar Frank Leonard Hagen, Hagen and her family emigrated to the United States in 1924, which was 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.

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