Intro to Uta Hagen

Uta Hagen was a multi award winning actress, a highly influential acting teacher and author of two best selling acting textbooks Respect for Acting and A Challenge for the Actor.

Before Uta Hagen was a highly respected teacher, she was a highly respected and decorated actor.

She received both the Tony and Drama Critics Awards for her performances in Odets’s The Country Girl and Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.

Albee described her as “a profoundly truthful actress”.

In later years she earned an Obie for “setting a theatrical bonfire” (New York Times) in Mrs. Klein. She was elected to the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 1981. In 1999 she was awarded a special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement and in 2002 was awarded the National Medal of the Arts.

Uta Hagen taught master classes at the Herbert Berghof Studio in New York from 1947 until her death in 2004.

Uta Hagen (left) as Desdemona in Othello

What is the Uta Hagen Technique?

Uta Hagen developed an acting technique that built on the Stanislavsky System which encouraged actors to behave truthfully in imaginary circumstances.

She was inspired and driven by her own need to rehearse and develop her acting craft in a real physical and behavioural way but that also allowed her to work on her own without having to be in a rehearsal room or classroom.

The result was a series of world renowned acting exercises known as The Uta Hagen Technique.

I came on the idea of working by myself at home to devise corrective exercises for all of the problems I was having by exploring personal behavior under a variety of circumstances. In order to lay down guidelines and give a form to the exercises, I decided first to define and then to re-create two seemingly routine minutes of life when alone at home, two minutes spent in the execution of a simple task in pursuit of normal objective.

Uta Hagen

A Challenge for the Actor

Why use the Uta Hagen technique?

Uta Hagen’s technique is a favourite among actors (and wannabe actors) for a number of reasons: –

  • It is a step by step, practical approach that is easily understood with exercises being tackled in bite sized chunks that build on each other.
  • The technique is self – sufficient so you can rehearse on your own, at home, in your office, in the park, at the beach or wherever.
  • Quantifiable, measurable results as you move through the exercises and begin to layer them on top of each other.
  • Her approach stresses the habits of self-assessment and reflection which are essential for all actors. You will never again be “bored” waiting for a bus/train/friend.
  • Practical, useful and immediately applicable for actors at any phase in their career.
  • Provides a way for you to keep continuity in your work, a way to get or stay “acting fit” whether you are actively employed as an actor right now or not.
  • Offers a methodical and deep way to prepare for any role, keeping it alive and fluid and open, be that for an audition, in advance of formal rehearsals for a theatre project or indeed in advance of a film/tv shoot where typically there is little or no rehearsal at all and the actor needs to arrive “ready to go”.
  • Given the current circumstances that humanity in general and the acting community in particular is experiencing, with so much work cancelled and interrupted, Uta Hagen’s exercises provide an oasis of grounded and embodied physical solo practice that you can do anytime anywhere.

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