Hagen, Uta

Actress, teacher, writer

Uta Hagen was born in Gottingen, Germany on June 12, 1919. Her father was an art historian, who purportedly named her after a 13th century statue he was in a cathedral in Nuremberg. Her mother was an opera singer. When Hagen was seven, her family moved to Madison, Wisconsin, where her father headed the department of art history at the University of Wisconsin. Hagen herself briefly studied at the University of Wisconsin before leaving to pursue an acting career.

In 1937, Hagen requested an interview for a production of Hamlet Eva Le Gallienne was producing in Dennis, Massachusetts. Although Le Gallienne was reluctant to interview the teenager, she agreed to an audition and ultimately cast Hagen as Ophelia. She joined Le Gallienne’s theater company before auditioning for the part of Nina in Alfred Lunt and Jane Fontannes’s Broadway production of Ibsen’s The Seagull.

Over the course of seven decades, Hagen appeared in plays by Shakespeare, Chekhov, Ibsen, Shaw, Albee,, and Williams, working closely with other women in theatre, including Le Gallienne and Margaret Webster. She starred in Webster’s 1942 production of Othello, with Paul Robeson in the title role and husband Jose Ferrer as Iago. Although she occasionally appeared in film and television, theatre was her home.</iframe></p>

Uta Hagen in Othello

Over the course of seven decades, Hagen appeared in plays by Shakespeare, Chekhov, Ibsen, Shaw, Albee,, and Williams, working closely with other women in theatre, including Le Gallienne and Margaret Webster. She starred in Webster’s 1942 production of Othello, with Paul Robeson in the title role and husband Jose Ferrer as Iago. Although she occasionally appeared in film and television, theatre was her home.

Unable to find work after being blacklisted in 1950, like others who were blacklisted (Stella Adler and Ray Lev in particular), Hagen turned to teaching. She founded and ran the Herbert Berghof Studio with husband Herbert Berghof and was a renowned acting teacher and author of several books on acting, including Respect for Acting and A Challenge for the Actor. Perhaps her greatest impact on theatre lay in her commitment to teaching and mentoring generations of actors, including Gene Wilder, Rober DeNiro, Faye Dunaway, and Whoopi Goldberg,

In 1938, Hagen married Jose Ferrer. The couple had one daughter, Leticia. She married actor Herbert Berghof in 1951.[Mel Gussow, “Uta Hagen, Tony-Winning Broadway Star and Teacher of Actors, Dies,” New York Times, January 15, 2004, A31.

Hagen died in New York City on January 14, 2004.