“It’s not about losing yourself in the role. It’s about finding yourself in the role.”
Hagen went on to explain:
“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.”
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 Broderick, Al Pacino, Sigourney Weaver and Whoopi Goldberg.