Uta Hagen

Actor, Acting teacher
A celebrated Broadway actress who is also noted as perhaps one of the most respected acting teachers in the USA, Uta Hagen has been an outspoken critic of both the Stanislavsky 'Method' as practiced (but not of the ... Read more »
Born: 06/11/1919 in Germany


Actor (12)

Oz 1997 - 2003 (TV Show)


King of the Hill 1998 - 1999 (Tv Show)


Jack Lemmon: America's Everyman 1996 - 1997 (TV Show)


The 50th Annual Tony Awards 1995 - 1996 (TV Show)


Reversal of Fortune 1990 (Movie)

Maria Schrallhammer (Actor)

Seasonal Differences 1987 - 1988 (TV Show)


The Boys From Brazil 1978 (Movie)

Frieda Maloney (Actor)

The Other 1971 (Movie)

Ada (Actor)

A Doctor's Story (TV Show)


Paul Robeson: Here I Stand (TV Show)



A celebrated Broadway actress who is also noted as perhaps one of the most respected acting teachers in the USA, Uta Hagen has been an outspoken critic of both the Stanislavsky 'Method' as practiced (but not of the Russian master himself) and of formalism in acting. Born in Germany, but raised from childhood in Madison, WI, Hagen made her professional acting debut in 1937 playing Ophelia opposite Eva Le Gallienne in the latter's ground-breaking New York production of "Hamlet". That same year, she made her Broadway debut as Nina in a Broadway production of Chekhov's "The Seagull" starring Alfred Lunt and Lynne Fontanne, both of whom would have a profound influence on her acting style. She went on to star opposite her then-husband Jose Ferrer and Paul Muni in "Key Largo" (1939-40) and was the subject of controversy playing Desdemona to Paul Robeson's "Othello" (with Ferrer as Iago). When the show toured, some less liberal audience members were not accepting of a black actor and white actress having physical contact on stage. Hagen was actually contemplating abandoning the craft until she was cast by Harold Clurman in "The Whole World Over" in 1947. Clurman, one of the founders of The Group Theatre, introduced Hagen to Stanislavsky and what she would term "truthfulness on stage" as well as to Herbert Berghof, who asked her first to join his HB Studios as an acting teacher and then, several years later, to be his wife.

While building her reputation as a legendary acting teacher, Hagen also continued a thriving stage career, touring as Blanche DuBois in "A Streetcar Named Desire" opposite Anthony Quinn. In 1950, she received her first Tony Award creating the role of long-suffering George Elgin in Clifford Odets' "The Country Girl". Throughout the 50s and into the early 60s, Hagen continued to build on her reputation, often appearing in classics like Shaw's "Saint Joan" (1952), "A Month in the Country", with Michael Redgrave, and "The Good Woman of Setzuan" (both 1956). In 1962, she was tapped to create the role of Martha to Arthur Hill's George in Edward Albee's blistering "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?", earning a second Tony Award. More recently, she triumphed in a revival of Shaw's "Mrs. Warren's Profession" (1985) and in the title role of psychotherapist "Mrs. Klein" (1996-97). She returned Off-Broadway in 1998 as a celebrated writer who takes a student under her wing in "Collected Stories" (1998).

The actress has maintained that she was 'greylisted' from film and TV work, partly over her association with Robeson. Hagen has also claimed that the few roles she did accept were "for the money". Just over 60, she made her film debut as the sane grandmother of good and evil twins in the haunting "The Other" (1972). Six years later, she appeared alongside Laurence Olivier and Gregory Peck in "The Boys From Brazil" (1978), portraying the woman who arranged for the adoption of Hitler clones. It was over a decade before she returned to films as the loyal maid to Sunny von Bulow in Barbet Schroeder's "Reversal of Fortune" (1990). Her small screen roles have included a brief turn as a hotel guest who gets robbed on the ABC daytime drama "One Life to Live" (which netted her a Daytime Emmy nomination), a woman who has problems with the display of religious symbols in a public park in "Seasonal Differences", a 1987 "ABC Afterschool Special" (which garnered her a second Daytime Emmy nod), an outspoken Holocaust survivor in the first two episodes of the NBC drama series "Tattinger's" (1988) and a woman who resists the attempts of her children to put force her to a retirement residence in "The Home", a segment of the 1991 PBS special "The Sunset Gang".

As her Broadway triumphs were not taped and live merely in the memories of those who witnessed them, Hagen earned a second audience as an author. Her first book, "Respect for Acting" (1973), became a widely-selling how to text book on acting. In 1991, reflecting her revised concepts of acting techniques. she rewrote the book and published the new version as "A Challenge for the Actor". Hagen has also fashioned a cookbook, "Love For Cooking" (1976) and penned a memoir, "Sources" (1983). While she occasionally travels to hold master classes or lecture, she primarily devotes herself to running and teaching at the HB Studios in NYC, where classes generally cost less than $10.


Otto Frank Leonard Hagen


Herbert Berghof Actor

met in 1947 married from January 25, 1957 until his death in 1990 Founder of HB Studios in NYC born in 1909

Jose Ferrer Actor

Married on December 8, 1938 divorced in June 1948 had one daughter together

Leticia Ferrer

born in 1940 father, Jose Ferrer

Thyra Hagen


Holger Hagen


Paul Robeson Actor

had brief relationship when they appeared together in "Othello"


Royal Academy of Dramatic Art

London , England
enrolled at age 16; dropped out after four months



Acted opposite David Hyde Pierce in the L.A. production of "Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks"


Sufferd a minor stroke which caused the delay in the Broadway production of "Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks"


Starred in the Off-Broadway play "Collected Stories"


Published revised concept of acting in "A Challenge for the Actor"


Starred in PBS drama special "The Sunset Gang"


Had featured role of Maria, Sunny von Bulow's maid, in "Reversal of Fortune"


Appeared in the first two episodes of the NBC drama "Tattinger's"


Co-starred in "Seasonal Differences", an "ABC Afterschool Special" about the reprecussions of the removal of a Nativity scene from public property; earned Daytime Emmy nomination


Had small role as a hotel guest who is robbed in the ABC daytime drama "One Life to Live"; earned Daytime Emmy nomination


TV-movie debut in "A Doctor's Story" (NBC)


Appeared in one-woman show "Charlotte"; later toured with production


Co-starred in film "The Boys From Brazil"


Published book "Respect for Acting"


Feature film debut, "The Other"


Was featured in the TV production "The World of Carl Sandburg"


Had Broadway triumph as Martha in Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf"; received second Tony Award


Created role of Georgie Elgin in the Broadway production of Clifford Odets' "The Country Girl"; received first Tony Award


Toured as Blanche in "A Streetcar Named Desire" opposite Anthony Quinn; eventually played role on Broadway


Joined faculty of The HB Studios, founded by Herbert Berghof


Appeared in the Broadway production of "The Whole World Over" directed by Harold Clurman


Reprised Desdemona opposite Robeson and Ferrer on Broadway; toured in the role in 1944-1945


First played Desdemona opposite Paul Robeson's "Othello" in Cambridge, MA; husband Jose Ferrer cast as Iago


Made professional debut as Ophelia opposite Le Gallienne's "Hamlet" in Dennis, MA


At age 17, wrote letter to Eva Le Gallienne asking to join her theatrical company (date approximate)


Broadway debut in "The Seagull"


Moved with family to USA

Returned to New York stage starring in the title role of "Mrs. Klein"; toured with the production

Raised in Madison, WI

Bonus Trivia


Hagen has received honorary doctorates from Smith College, DePaul University and Wooster College.


In 1981, Hagen was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame.


Among the many luminaries who have studied with Hagen are Jack Lemmon, Christine Lahti, Whoopi Goldberg, Jeff Bridges, Jill Clayburgh, Kate Reid, Hal Holbrook, Pat Hingle, Tom Berenger, Liza Minnelli, F Murray Abraham, Mercedes Ruehl and Ron Silver.


"I try to teach actors to bring a human being onstage, not actors." --Uta Hagen to People, February 5, 1996.


"We're continuously corrupted because we want to have middle-class lives. Well, that's not the life of an artist. If you want a comfortable living, go work at Macy's; don't look at the theater." --Uta Hagen in Backstage West, July 10, 1997.


"The reason I wrote the second book ... [was] I hadn't really opened the first book since I wrote it, and some people were doing really junky stuff in class, and I said, 'What the hell--why don't you read my book?' And they said, 'We took it right from your book!' So I picked it up and I looked at it and said, 'Oh, my God!' And then I realized and thought, I've got to rework this. So my reason for 'A Challenge For the Actor' is simply to revise my first book." --Hagen in Backstage West, July 10, 1997.


On her first marriage to Jose Ferrer, Hagen told People (February 5, 1996): "We were children, That's my excuse for what a rotten mother I was. I was selfish with my career and expected too much from her."


"I know my mother loves me and I love her, but she's probably one of those people who should not have had children. Or should have had them later in life. Her students are her children, I don't mean this disrespectfully, but there were times I felt she loved her students more than me. ... My mother truly had a difficult time being a single parent. But I'll care about her until the day I leave this world. I am truly grateful when I look back and see the people I got to know and the things I got to do." --Hagen's daughter Letty Ferrer to Daily News, April 28, 1996.