“It’s not about losing yourself in the role. It’s about finding yourself in the role.”
Uta Hagen (June 12, 1919 – January 4, 2004) was a successful theater actress and acting teacher. She was the first actress to play Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf on Broadway, a performance that earned her a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play. She earned three over the course of her career, including one for her performance in Clifford Odet’s The Country Girl and a Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1999.
Hagen was also a highly influential acting teacher. She taught the craft of acting at the famous HB (Herbert Berghof) Studio in New York City. She also authored best-selling acting books like A Challenge for the Actor and Respect for Acting. Her influence on the craft can be seen in actors such as Matthew Broadrick, Al Pacino, Sigourney Weaver and Whoopi Goldberg.
“In 1947, I worked in a play under the direction of Harold Clurman. He opened a new world in the professional theatre for me. He took away my ‘tricks’. He imposed no line readings, no gestures, no positions on the actors. At first, I floundered badly because for many years I had become accustomed to using specific outer directions as the material from which to construct the mask for my character, the mask behind which I would hide throughout the performance. Mr. Clurman refused to accept a mask. He demanded ME in the role. My love of acting was slowly reawakened as I began to deal with a strange new technique of evolving in the character. I was not allowed to begin with, or concern myself at any time with, a preconceived form. I was assured that a form would result from the work we were doing.”