Follow by Email

Monday, August 29, 2011

For actors: Athletes on visualization

Martina Navratilova

Click on the link above, it brings together multiple aspects of visualization and its use with athletes. 

Like athletes, actors have to deal with the desire to: 

do more creative, detailed work, 
do more competitive work (in order to book jobs), 
the desire to unleash our creativity, 
the need to address fear and anxiety, 
the pressure placed upon us and upon our performance-in auditions and on set/ stage.  

Research the technique of visualization as it is used by athletes (and many others), and you will find that the effectiveness stems from taking the time, creating with detail, having a goal--and your belief! 

If you choose to use visualization, you will find that you can create a way of working that feels right for you, your instrument and whatever you are working on. Visualization involves breathing, the imagination, and letting go of the pressure placed on you (by agent/manager/ parent/ spouse) long enough to bring your creativity and joy to the forefront of your work--allowing you to come that much closer to your potential.


Shakti Gawain on Creative Visualization

Her book was first published in 1978, 6 years before visualization techniques were used in sports. Her work was used by acting teacher Sandra Seacat by the early eighties. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Quotes: Actors on acting...

"No body 'becomes' a character. You can't act unless you are what you are, and you are who you are."

Marlon Brando

“To be an actor is to play any part, large or small, that truly believes he has something to say.”

                                Montgomery Clift

“Investigate.”        Paul Newman

“Being an actor takes time. I had been in movies, I’d played leads in movies, and I was still down at unemployment, waiting in line for my check. It wasn’t until Godfather 2 that I could make a living acting.”  

                                        Robert DeNiro

“What does the camera capture when it looks at me? I’ll leave that for others to assess. But staring back at the lens from within myself, I feel so much of what I’ve otherwise kept hidden and filtered. The things I don’t like about myself, the things I do like about myself, the things I’m not but I’d like to be, the things I am but don’t want others to know about—they’re all there, percolating inside.  Courage and cowardice, strength and weakness, fear and joy, love and hate—that’s what makes up the actor, So that’s available to the camera.”

                                  Sidney Poitier

“It’s important not to indicate. People don’t try to show their feelings, they try to hide them.”

                                        Robert DeNiro

“One of the reasons people sell out so quickly is because even the talented think they’re frauds. It’s a culture that doesn’t encourage people to believe in the work they do. You’re told to second guess yourself all the time. That’s where I think a little hostility and arrogance can save you.”

                                        Sean Penn

“Laugh at yourself, but don’t ever aim your doubt at yourself. Be bold. When you embark for strange places, don’t leave any of yourself safely on the shore. Have the nerve to go into unexplored territory.”

                                        Alan Alda

“Listening is everything. Listening is the whole deal, that’s what I think. And I mean that in terms of before you work, after you work, in between work with your friends, your mother. It’s everything. And it’s where you learn everything.”

                                        Meryl Streep

“My work is my social life. Being with other actors is my idea of fun. Acting has always been my sandbox and it’s where I’m happiest.”

                                        Christopher Walken

“I was doing a scene in class and Peggy Feury stopped the scene. I started telling her I was having a problem, she said, “No! You’re problem is not your problem. HIS (your character’s) problem is your problem!”

                                        Sean Penn

“In the second act, I entered, suffering from a whopper hangover. Harold Clurman (dir.) told me, “You have the biggest hangover in the world.”  Of course, he was talking to a guy who doesn’t drink.  I racked my brain for something to use and finally decided to make it visual for myself. When I started to analyze a hangover, the main thing I could grab onto was the fear of movement. I thought, “I don’t want to move any part of my body, no matter how tiny.”  When I came out, I moved as little as possible. I visualized a basket on top of my head containing two dozen eggs. I crossed to the table, sat down, and delivered my line: “Coffee. Black…very black.”

                                        Karl Malden

“I think it’s better for people to pursue their objectives now…”

                                        John Malkovich in rehearsal

“People say I make strange choices, but they’re not strange for me. I’m fascinated by human behavior, by what’s underneath the surface, by the worlds inside people.”

                                        Johnny Depp

“But the ultimate execution of it is almost ninety-five percent will. All the work before that is you laying the groundwork, asking the questions, understanding what you need to do, understanding what you need to look at, finding the logic to whatever needs to happen, all the character work, all the emotional through line. Once you get there, it’s will. “

                                        Philip Seymour Hoffman

“When you play a role, you don’t see yourself doing it at first, but then you get things from yourself that you ordinarily wouldn’t get.”

                                        Robert DeNiro

"People have an idea of me which is not the reality. On set I’m an actor like every other actor. Most times, for every part I play, I can think of other actors who would be better. I worry from the moment I take a job. I worry about how I'm going to do it, if I can do it. I try to work out what I have to do on set and how I do that.

"I get extremely anxious. I panic. I can't get it. It happens every time, and I get myself into this state, and then I walk on set and the director says, 'Roll', and all of a sudden all of it disappears and it's all happening, and I relax and I'm doing what I do and I'm not even thinking about it. And I relax up until the moment they yell 'Cut'."

Jack Nicholson

"If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. It's the hard that makes it great."

Tom Hanks

‘I think there’s a myth that Actors are all extroverts and I don’t think that that’s true, I think that’s there’s something that happens in that five seconds before you walk on stage, I don’t know what it is, where you enter a different zone and that zone doesn’t always translate into everyday life’

~Cate Blanchett

"One of the reasons people sell out so quickly is because even the talented think they're frauds. It's a culture that doesn't encourage people to believe in the work they do. You're told to second guess yourself all the time...

That's where I think a little hostility and arrogance can save you."

Sean Penn

"Listening is everything. Listening is the whole deal. That's what I think."

Meryl Streep

"Being with other actors is my idea of fun.
Acting has always been my sandbox and it's where I'm happiest."

"I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited, imagination encircles the world..."

Albert Einstein


"How you experience the world is who you are."
Wynton Marsalis

"Where you find great training has to do with your connection with a teacher. But what is imperative is that you train. Studying not only improves your craft, but also teaches you pride and respect for the work. It helps you see your place in a long, beautiful line of people who have followed this profession before you."

                                               Tim Guinee, Actor--the Good Wife

"Where you find challenge is where you approach development."
Harold Clurman

“Laugh at yourself, but don’t ever aim your doubt at yourself. Be bold. When you embark for strange places, don’t leave any of yourself safely on the shore. Have the nerve to go into unexplored territory.”

                                        Alan Alda

"I think dancing is a primal urge coming to life at the first moment we need to express joy."
           James Cagney

"The hardest thing for an actor is to tell the truth, to simply tell the truth. And, of course, truth is relatable only to one's experience. But if you can take what's happening in the play and equate it with your own life, to speak it in the way you understand it in your soul and not try to figure out what anyone else thinks about it, that's it. Because one's vision of something is different from anyone else's in the world and the trick is to find it yourself."

Christopher Walken 

On the initial driving force that took him into acting:

"I didn't think I was particularly good at it, but I wanted to be, I had a strong WILL to be good at it. And it was my need to know,  my need to draw my pictures on the cave walls about what my fears were, what my needs were. Somewhere in there. I was in a cave and I needed to draw some pictures on the wall about what my journey was, and that drive, that need, led me to acting. I wasn't good at it, but I had a deep, intense desire to be good at it, and all my failings didn't stop me. I had that will to learn that kept me going through all my effort, through all of my struggle."

harvey keitel 

 “The very first time I saw myself on-screen, I almost died."

Annabella Sciorra

 "I remember the first time I saw myself on screen, in Heat and Dust, I just hated everything I was doing, I just hated myself,' Scacchi says, putting her hands to her neck in a strangling gesture. 'I kept sneaking out at the Baftas to dry-retch in the loo. And when the lights came up I ran out, down the stairs and on to Piccadilly and hid in a doorway gasping. But, over the years, seeing the rushes on screen, I started to swallow that… allergy to myself.'"

Greta Scacchi

“When I saw myself on screen for the first time, I was horrified. I had a bad wig and they took the words from a scene I shot with Jane and put them in my mouth in a different scene. I thought, I’ve made a terrible mistake, no more movies. I hate this business”.

Meryl Streep


There is a certain combination of anarchy and discipline in the way I work.

It`s true: I spent lunchtime in a grave during the filming of Bloody Mama. When you`re younger, you feel that`s what you need to do to help you stay in character. When you get older, you become more confident and less intense about it -- and you can achieve the same effect. You might even be able to achieve more if you take your mind off it, because you`re relaxed. That`s the key to it all. When you`re relaxed and confident, you get good stuff.

Don`t talk it away, do it!

Movies are hard work. The public doesn`t see that. The critics don`t see it. But they`re a lot of work. A lot of work. When I`m directing a great dramatic scene, part of me is saying, `Thank God I don`t have to do that.` Because I know how fucking hard it is to act. It`s the middle of the night. It`s freezing. You gotta do this scene. You gotta get it up to get to that point. And yet, as a director, you`ve got to get the actors to that point. It`s hard either way.

The characters that I play are real. They are real so they have as much right to be portrayed as any other characters.


“We start to realize that there are anodynes in life that help us through the day. I don't care if it's a walk in the park, a look out the window, a good bubble bath - whatever. Even a meal you like, or a friend you want to call. That helps us solve all this stuff in our head.”

I`m constantly striving to break through to something new. You try to maintain a neutral approach to your work, and not be too hard on yourself

The challenge? It`s always a challenge of a sort. It`s a challenge to get up and go and leave your family and go out there in all different parts of the world and do a picture and try to make it come alive . . . You`re still challenged for that. I mean, it`s the same story. It`s just not changed. It seems to be the same thing it always was. It`s this effort. If you get excited about a thing then things are generally a little easier. If you get enthusiastic and you want to do something and you feel you are into something then things start to come. But usually to find the enthusiasm and the appetite, that`s the challenge.

I think you start to prepare the minute you read something.

My favorite thing to do is not act - it's that simple.

There is no re-inventing the wheel.

What happens is things come to you - director, script - and if you respond to it, it's because it's tapping into some part of what's inside you, and different roles tap into different parts.

The minute that you're not learning I believe you're dead. Jack Nicholson

At the end, the realization is that she had to get to a place in her life where she could drop her guard and make peace with the fact that whether she had a small amount of time, that she had to kind of live it completely through, instead of living by the rules. Charlize Theron

I played Othello, but I didn't sit around thinking how Laurence Olivier did it when he played it. That wouldn't do me any good. Denzel Washington

I say luck is when an opportunity comes along and you're prepared for it. Denzel Washington

If I am a cup maker, I'm interested in making the best cup I possibly can. My effort goes into that cup, not what people think about it. Denzel Washington

The time to worrying about flying is when you're on the ground. When you're up in the air, it's too late. No point in worrying about it then. Denzel Washington

I can't just say the words. I love each person I play; I have to be that person. I have to do him true. Richard Pryor

I know that if I wasn't scared, something's wrong, because the thrill is what's scary. Richard Pryor

Actors are responsible to the people we play. Philip Seymour Hoffman

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Books for Actors

Act One, Moss Hart

Charlie Chaplin, My Autobiography

The Fervent Years  Harold Clurman

Angela Lansbury Balancing Act

Patricia Neal, As I Am

Peter O Toole, Loitering with Intent

Richard harris, Actor by Accident'

My Side, the Autobiography of Ruth Gordon

Include me out, Farley Granger

My Life in Art, Original Russian edition translated, Stanislavski

Scorsese A Journey, by Mary Pat Kelly

Eli Wallach The Good The Bad and Me

Motel Chronicles  Sam Shepard

Letters of Sam Shepard and Joseph Chaikin

Karl malden When Do I Start?

Timebends by Arthur Miller

Josh: My Up and Down, In and Out Life by Joshua Logan

Movie Stars, Real People and Me by Joshua Logan

 creators on creating 

the art of dramatic writing by lajos negri 

stop acting start living 
bernard hiller 

actors encyclopedia of casting directors

Robert Duvall Talks for an hour with students at Principia college

Uta Hagen: Quote + Class Video

"It became clear that I must learn to enlarge the conception I had of myself, to gain a truer understanding of who I really am, if I wanted to be truly available for the many parts I hoped to bring to life.

"Since my self perception was so lopsided with admirable qualities, it became obvious why I was unable to find true identification with the roles I played. I had to be honest with my self in order to recognize the arrogance, ruthlessness, deceit, envy, and selfishness of which I was capable under certain circumstances. I could no longer refuse to examine any stupidities, neurotic impulses, fears and ambiguities--in other words, the negative as well as the positive qualities that exist in me, as well as other human beings.

Whenever I criticize students who feel compelled to indicate [instead of really doing]a character's actions, who comment [to judge it while you do it] on the actions, rather than really executing them because they've been unable to justify [to find the reason why you do it]them, I invariably get the same answers I used to make: "But I'm not like that."  "But I would never do that."   "I'm not shy."   "I'm not bossy."  "I'm never silly."  

Then when I ask them to remember a high school prom at which their slip was showing or when they spilled something on their gown or when they had a pimple on their nose, they look down at the floor, sometimes even blushing, and they are shy.  I remind them that when they confront a colleague about their right to the rehearsal space they are bossy and that when they make cooing sounds and talk baby talk to their pets they are silly. When I am with a scientist or even an electrician I am stupid, even though my cliche self image tells me I am brilliant. If a bigoted doorman spouts racist opinions, I pull rank; I behave like a snob, even though I think of myself as the original liberal humanist. I believe I'm incapable of cowardice, yet the sight of a mouse sends me into hysterics. It soon becomes clear that basic components of the characters we will play are somewhere within ourselves.

Self discovery never ceases. I made another breakthrough when I realized that whenever I behaved badly, usually when frustrated in the fulfillment of my wishes, I had given myself consciously or subconsciously--a justification for my actions. I was always in the right. Guilt, or the recognition of cruelty, insensitivity or manipulation almost always comes after the fact. This learning process doesn't necessarily make you a wiser or better behaved person--just a better actor.

Creativity depends on maintaining innocence and a never-ending curiosity about the human condition.

 Uta Hagen

Walking and Talking, by Uta Hagen

"On occasion, I’m certain you have found yourself sitting comfortably in a scene, relaxing into the cushions of the sofa…you were occupied and involved with another character in the play, unaware of your body in any sense except that you believed you were there. Then you rose and stood for awhile as the conversation continued. 

Suddenly, the very act of standing became awkward. You became aware of your hands, your legs and feet tensed up, you lost a sense of character and place—and you became an exposed actor onstage, not a human being in a room. Then you protected yourself, attempting to regain composure by assuming a stance—a stage pose. 

You had no inner justification or reason for the rise. However, if the rise from the sofa had been connected with the need in the given circumstances (let us say that you rise to get a drink for your friend, to make him feel welcome—then you would have an involving and simple task.) THE REASON FOR WALKING IS DESTINATION. There is a way to avoid mechanical, tense and general stage wandering. 

In life, each moment of true wandering has destination, is focused on a relevant object that we deal with in order to further our objective. Suppose you are at home alone, and waiting for a telephone call or a visit from a friend bringing news of a job. You may be impelled to walk to the window to see if he’s in sight, and then you may cross to the telephone and consider calling him. You may reject the idea and take it out on the phone and give it a little push. You cross to the liquor cabinet and actually pick up a glass which you then quickly replace because you don’t want to drink the alcohol so early in the day. The expected friend has commented about your untidiness, so you cross to the chair and clean a grease spot or crumbs in the upholstery.  You cross to a wall mirror and check your hair. Meanwhile your mind races from one inner object to the other—those that are directly connected with your friend, the possibilities of the job, what might stand in its way. 

In life, your wanderings may seem to lead you to irrelevant objects.  On stage, where every second counts, the objects should be selected and dealt with to reveal something new about the character or the circumstances, or both. The objects you contact must be substantiated by the logic of the play. 

Of course, the total animation of the body is brought about by a correct incorporation of surrounding circumstances, weather, time, character needs, relationship to the people and things that surround me, and my immediate needs."

Uta Hagen, Respect for Acting
copyright 1973   This quote used for educational purposes only.

Uta Hagen Class:

"It takes talent. TALENT is defined in the dictionary as "the natural endowment of a person with special or creative aptitudes." In an actor, I believe, these endowments consist of high sensitivity and responsiveness to sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell, of exceptional sensitivity to others, of being easily moved by beauty and pain, and of having a soaring imagination without losing control of reality. Once one is blessed with these endowments, it takes an UNSHAKEABLE DESIRE TO BE AN ACTOR together with a NEED TO EXPRESS what one has sensed and felt in the concrete terms of the characters with whom one will identify on the stage. The need to express should not be confused with a kind of vanity or a kind of "Look at me, here I am!" egotism, which is so prevalent in the theater. Nor should sensitivity be confused with neuroses or their personal display.

Theoretically, the actor ought to be more sound in mind and body than other people, since he learns to understand the psychological problems of human beings when putting his own passions, his loves, fears, and rages to work in the service of the characters he plays. He will learn to face himself, to hide nothing from himself--and to do so takes an INSATIABLE CURIOSITY ABOUT THE HUMAN CONDITION. 

It takes a SOUND BODY, as well developed and cared for as that of an athlete. It takes a TRAINED VOICE, as flexible as that of a singer, and FINE STANDARD SPEECH which must be developed for use in all the dramatic literature that makes greater demands on him than the regional speech with which he began his life. 

When a God given or genetically inherited talent exists, the would-be actor must face the fact that it is of little use without the TENACITY AND DISCIPLINE it takes to make something of the talent.

To be more than an adequate or serviceable actor, it takes a BROAD EDUCATION in the liberal arts. If this has not been provided for, remember that once you can read, you can educate yourself in the understanding of human beings and the social conditions under which man has struggled throughout history by reading not just dramatic literature, but also masters of the novel and the endless biographies that substantiate faith in the realities of the past. Your feet can take you to museums, galleries, libraries, theaters, concerts, and dance performances. Your need for enlightenment will increase as you realize the ways in which these sources stimulate your own creative drives."

 by Uta Hagen

Bonus interview: This is a portion of an interview from 1995 when Uta discussed the difference between her books Respect for Acting and A Challenge for the Actor.


Correction Appended
Uta Hagen, the formidable and wide-ranging stage actress who electrified audiences with her Tony Award-winning performance as the ferocious, tart-tongued Martha in the original Broadway production of Edward Albee's ''Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?'' in 1962, died yesterday at her home in Manhattan, her daughter, Leticia Ferrer, said. She was 84.
Over seven decades, Ms. Hagen acted in Shakespeare, Chekhov and Shaw, as well as in plays by Mr. Albee and Tennessee Williams. With her husband Herbert Berghof (who died in 1990), she ran the HB Studios in Manhattan and was celebrated not only as an actress but also as a teacher of acting and author of books on the subject. She continued to teach after a stroke and until several months before her death. Occasionally she appeared in films and on television, but principally her life was onstage, and it was there that she was able to incarnate the widest diversity of characters.
Ms. Hagen made her professional debut in 1937 playing Ophelia to Eva Le Gallienne's Hamlet, and was acclaimed for her Nina (in ''The Seagull''), Desdemona (opposite Paul Robeson's Othello), Shaw's St. Joan, Blanche DuBois in ''A Streetcar Named Desire'' and as the title character in ''The Country Girl'' by Clifford Odets. Mr. Albee's Martha became her signature role.
It was a long journey from Ophelia to Martha, but one that she traveled with an unmatchable authority and an intuitive sense of character. Whether she was playing a saint or a termagant, she anchored each role with a firm base in reality. Despite her onstage strength, she said she always considered herself ''a vulnerable actress.'' Once asked what qualities an actress needed to play Martha, Ms. Hagen said, ''Intelligence, voluptuousness and hypersensitivity,'' and then added, ''wit'' -- all of which she had in abundance.
Continue reading the main story

''I should add,'' he said, ''she was a great anti-hypocrite, and a superb cook -- not a bad friend to have.''
In 1999, she called her whole goal as an actress ''the spontaneity that comes without planning.'' Whenever possible, she uncovered the drama behind the comedy -- or the comedy behind the drama. As she said, ''Somebody with wit and a sense of humor sees the most tragic event without the sentimentality, sees in any life experience something ludicrous -- which is probably why Chekhov is my favorite.''
She believed a performance should change in the course of the run, depending on the identity of the other actors, the audience response and the actress's mood and temperament. She played Blanche opposite Marlon Brando, Anthony Quinn (her favorite), Ralph Meeker, Richard Kiley and Jack Palance. ''If you go on with another actor and your performance doesn't change, you're a bad actor.''
In contrast to many other actors, she loved long runs: ''After a couple of months,'' she said, ''it really starts to get in my bones.'' On keeping a part alive, she called Laurette Taylor her guide. She saw her play Amanda in ''The Glass Menagerie'' 10 times, saying, ''Ten different exciting performances -- to me, that is the magic of the theater.''
Uta Hagen was born in Göttingen, Germany, on June 12, 1919. Her father named her after a 13th-century statue he saw in a Nuremburg cathedral. When Uta was 7, the family moved to Madison, Wis., where her father was head of the department of art history at the University of Wisconsin (her mother was an opera singer). From the age of 6, when she saw Elisabeth Bergner play Shaw's ''St. Joan'' in Berlin, she wanted to be an actress. She studied briefly at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, and at the University of Wisconsin, and left college -- and left home -- to pursue an acting career.
In 1937, Le Gallienne was preparing to play Hamlet in a production in Dennis, Mass., and was having difficulty finding an Ophelia. Ms. Hagen sent a letter requesting an audition. As Le Gallienne recalled in her autobiography, her impulse was to refuse, but something in the letter encouraged her to invite the young actress to audition.
''She was very young -- only just 17 -- a tall, rather gawky creature, by no means pretty, but with a face that one remembered,'' Le Gallienne wrote, adding she had ''the shy ungainly grace of a young colt.'' For her audition, Ms. Hagen acted the end of the trial scene from ''St. Joan,'' ''quite badly,'' Le Gallienne said, ''and yet I sensed in her an inner truth that very occasionally filtered through in a word or a look.'' She told her to go and think about the role and return in an hour.
''The improvement was startling,'' Le Gallienne said, ''The truth that had glimmered so faintly in the first reading now blazed up strongly, and the overall effect was strangely moving.'' She cast her.
In the dress rehearsal, she said, ''the sacred fire struck, and the child Uta was transported to a region which I well knew she would not set foot in again for many years to come.'' And so, just 18, Ms. Hagen made her professional debut as Ophelia, an Ophelia that was several inches taller than Hamlet.
She then joined Le Gallienne's theater company, which was preparing a production of ''The Seagull.'' The director was playing the role of Nina, with Ms. Hagen as her understudy. That production never came to fruition, but soon Ms. Hagen heard that Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne were about to do it on Broadway.
At the audition, Lunt told her to do something simple, not classical and nothing from ''The Seagull.'' She had planned to do the last scene from ''A Doll's House,'' but at the last minute decided to do Nina anyway. ''I played the whole last scene as Nina alone, without a Konstantin present,'' she recalled, ''and I came offstage in a daze.'' As she headed out the stage door, she was called back, and Lunt (who was playing Trigorin) rehearsed with her long into the night, and then told her she had the part. Ms. Hagen's Broadway debut came the next year as Nina in Lunt and Fontanne's ''Seagull.'' In his review in The New York Times, Brooks Atkinson singled her out for praise as ''grace and aspiration incarnate.''
That summer, working in Ridgefield, Conn., she acted in ''The Latitude of Love,'' opposite José Ferrer. In the course of the play, she was required to knock him down. Several months later they were married. During their 10-year marriage, they appeared together in several plays, including ''Angel Street.''
Ms. Hagen is survived by their daughter, Leticia, known as Lettie, of New York City; a granddaughter; and a great-granddaughter.
Ms. Hagen said she considered the period between 1938 and 1947 as ''the transitional years of my career, during which I lost my way and a love of acting until I finally regained it to begin a true life in the theater.'' During that time, she acted in seven Broadway plays, including ''Key Largo'' (with Paul Muni) and ''Othello'' (with Robeson as Othello and Ferrer as Iago). The turning point, she said, was in 1947 when Harold Clurman directed her in ''The Whole World Over.'' The play was forgettable, but she greatly admired Clurman as a director and teacher, and it was in that play that she met Berghof, who replaced another actor in the company.
Having divorced Ferrer, she married Berghof and the two dedicated themselves to teaching actors in their HB Studio, on Bank Street in Greenwich Village. In subsequent years, teaching young actors became as important to her as her own acting. In one of her books, ''A Challenge for the Actor,'' she disagreed with Shaw's pronouncement ''He who can does. He who cannot teaches.'' For her, ''Only he who can should teach.''
In 1948, she led the national company of ''A Streetcar Named Desire'' and then followed Jessica Tandy in the role on Broadway. In 1950 she played the title role in ''The Country Girl.'' For that performance, she won her first Tony.
The next year, she finally played St. Joan, in Margaret Webster's production. Always outspoken about politics and human rights, Ms. Hagen was blacklisted in the 1950's, and, she said, ''that fact kept me pure.'' Unable to work in the movies or on television or to tour plays through the United States, she continued to focus her attentions on New York theater. She was a member of the Phoenix Theater, but her acting became more sporadic.
Then, in 1962, the call came to return to the stage. The producer Richard Barr and his partners were bringing a new play by a new playwright to Broadway, ''Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?'' by Edward Albee, and they were searching for an actress to play the central role. Ms. Hagen read the play between classes and it so gripped her that she taught her final class, she said, ''in a daze.'' Immediately she agreed to do it, and when she met the playwright she told him the play was ''like a great modern Bosch canvas.''
In the play a faculty couple, George and Martha (Arthur Hill and Ms. Hagen) engage in a long night of mutual abuse -- and revelation. Ms. Hagen's performance galvanized the play. ''Virginia Woolf'' was a turning point for the actress and for Mr. Albee. The play received five Tonys, including awards for both Ms. Hagen and Mr. Hill. In 1964, they both did the play in London.
In the years that followed, Ms. Hagen occasionally ventured back into theater. In 1968, she played Mme. Ranevskaya in Le Gallienne's A.P.A. ''Cherry Orchard.'' Later she did Peter Hacks's ''Charlotte'' (in which she played Goethe's mistress), Shaw's ''You Never Can Tell'' and ''Mrs. Warren's Profession,'' Nicholas Wright's ''Mrs. Klein'' and, in 1998, Donald Margulies's ''Collected Stories.''
After playing Martha on Broadway and London and making a recording with the original cast, she did not return to the role -- until 1999.
In a single performance for the benefit of the HB Playwrights Foundation, she played Martha once more in a staged reading on Broadway. Jonathan Pryce played George and Matthew Broderick and Mia Farrow were the couple's two guests.
At 80, she was aware of the pitfalls. ''It's a terrible risk for me,'' she said. ''I'm 28 years too old for the part. I was 42 when I played it. Martha's supposed to be 52. People have such incredible memories of my performance. I don't see how anybody could possibly live up to it, certainly not me, almost 40 years later.''
But once she came onstage, and said Martha's first line: ''Jesus H. Christ,'' followed by her imitation of Bette Davis saying ''What a dump,'' and as she pitched into verbal battle with her husband, the intervening years passed in a cloud.
Correction: January 29, 2004, Thursday An obituary of the Broadway actress and drama teacher Uta Hagen on Jan. 15 misidentified the German city where the cathedral is the site of a statue for which she was named. It is Naumburg, not Nuremberg.
Continue reading the main story

Guide to the Uta Hagen/Herbert Berghof Papers, 1889 – 2004 and undated
*T-Mss 2007-001
Billy Rose Theatre Division
The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts New York, New York
Contact Information
The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts Billy Rose Theatre Division
40 Lincoln Center Plaza
New York, New York 10023-7498
Phone: 212/870-1639
Fax: 212/870-1868
Web address:
Processed by: Camille Croce Dee Date Completed: June 2008
Processed and encoded through a gift from Robert W. Wilson.
© 2008 The New York Public Library. Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations. All rights reserved.
Descriptive Summary
Abstract: The Uta Hagen/Herbert Berghof papers document the lives and careers of actress, master teacher, and author Uta Hagen and her husband--actor, director, and master teacher Herbert Berghof. The papers consist of correspondence, personal and family papers, diaries, scripts and manuscripts, production materials, blueprints, photographs, scrapbooks, posters, clippings, ephemera, and oversized material. There are also a number of papers relating to the HB Studio and HB Playwrights Foundation, the school and developmental theater founded by Berghof.
Administrative Information Access
Collection is open to the public. Library policy on photocopying will apply. Advance notice may be required.
Publication Rights
For permission to publish, contact the Curator, Billy Rose Theatre Division.
Preferred Citation
Uta Hagen/Herbert Berghof Papers, Collection ID *T-Mss 2007-001, Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
The Uta Hagen/Herbert Berghof Papers, bequest of Uta Hagen Berghof, were donated to the Billy Rose Theatre Division in 2007.
Processing Information
The collection was processed and cataloged in 2008.
Uta Hagen/Herbert Berghof Papers
Collection ID:
*T-Mss 2007-001
Hagen, Uta and Berghof, Herbert
49 linear feet ( 99 boxes)
Billy Rose Theatre Division.
The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts 
Biographical Note
Legendary actress, teacher, and author Uta Thyra Hagen was born on June 12, 1919 in Göttingen, Germany the second child of Oskar and Thyra Leisner Hagen. (Her brother Holger, was several years older.) Her father had begun the Handel Opera Festival in Göttingen and her mother was a Danish opera singer and teacher. In 1924, the family moved to Madison, Wisconsin, where Oskar Hagen founded the art history department. However, the Hagens continued to travel to Europe in the summers.
Hagen grew up in Madison and attended public schools there. Determined to be an actress from an early age, she performed in school plays and read the works of playwrights such as Shakespeare, Goethe, and Moliere. After her graduation from Wisconsin High School (of the University of Wisconsin) in 1936, Hagen attended London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art for one semester. Also around this time, Hagen attended the University of Wisconsin (Madison) for one term.
In 1937, Hagen wrote to Eva Le Gallienne requesting an audition, and won her first professional role as Ophelia in Le Gallienne’s production of Hamlet at the Cape Playhouse in Dennis, Massachusetts. In 1938, Hagen played Nina in a Broadway revival of The Sea Gull starring Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne. The same year marked the death of Hagen’s mother, as well as Hagen’s marriage to actor and director José Ferrer on December 8, 1938.
The two were married until 1948 and had one daughter Leticia (“Letty”) in 1940. They appeared in several productions together, most notably the Theatre Guild production of Othello with Paul Robeson, on Broadway and on tour (1942-1945). Although courted by Hollywood studios, the couple declined to appear in films. (Hagen made her film debut in The Other in 1972.) In 1947, Hagen appeared in The Whole World Over, directed by Harold Clurman. During this production, she met Herbert Berghof when he replaced the romantic lead. Hagen also began teaching acting at Berghof’s studio that same year.
The 1948 production of Angel Street with José Ferrer at City Center (their last show together) garnered Hagen her longtime agent, Lucy Kroll; also, after seeing Hagen in this production, Elia Kazan hired her to replace Jessica Tandy in A Streetcar Named Desire on Broadway during Tandy’s summer vacation. Hagen also took the show on tour with Anthony Quinn and then back to Broadway, followed by another tour (1948-1950).
Hagen originated the role of Georgie Elgin in The Country Girl, written and directed by Clifford Odets (also starring Paul Kelly and Steven Hill) (1950), winning her first Tony Award in 1951, although this award is not included in the papers. Later in 1951, Hagen returned to Broadway in the title role of the Theatre Guild’s production of George Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan. Other productions during the 1950s included Tovarich at City Center with Herbert Berghof and Luther Adler (1952), In Any Language, directed by George Abbott and featuring Walter Matthau and Eileen Heckart
Uta Hagen/Herbert Berghof Papers
(1952), The Magic and the Loss with Robert Preston and Lee Bowman (1954), and Island of Goats with Laurence Harvey (1955).
Hagen’s liberal political views and activities caused her to be blacklisted from television for most of the 1950s and subpoenaed by the House Un-American Activities Committee. However, she was spared from having to appear when her accuser was convicted of perjury.
Having begun a personal relationship with Herbert Berghof, the two were married on January 25, 1957 and remained so until Berghof’s death in 1990. They lived in Greenwich Village and had a home in Montauk, Long Island. During the 1950s, their professional activities became increasingly intertwined. The couple adapted, produced, and performed together works such as Cyprienne with Robert Culp (1955), The Daily Life by Rainer Maria Rilke (1955), and The Queen and the Rebels by Ugo Betti (1959). They also toured in stock with productions of The Play’s the Thing (1952), The Lady’s Not for Burning (1953), and The Affairs of Anatol (1957), all the while solidifying their international reputations as master teachers.
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? marked Hagen’s triumphant return to Broadway in 1962, earning her second Tony Award in 1963. She also performed in the London production in 1964. In celebration of her 80th birthday, Hagen recreated the role of Martha in benefit readings at the Majestic Theatre (1999) and at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles (2000). Her subsequent Broadway appearances included APA-Phoenix Repertory’s production of The Cherry Orchard, directed by Eva Le Gallienne (1968), Charlotte by Peter Hacks, translated by Herbert Berghof and Hagen and directed by Berghof (1980), and You Never Can Tell for Circle in the Square Theatre (1986).
Hagen also appeared in the film The Boys from Brazil (1978) for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and in Reversal of Fortune (1990). Her television appearances include One Life to Live (1986) and ABC Afterschool Specials – Seasonal Differences (1987); she received Daytime Emmy Award nominations for both.
Respect for Acting, written with Haskel Frankel, Hagen’s seminal text on acting, was published by Macmillan in 1973. A gourmet cook, she also wrote Love for Cooking (Macmillan, 1976). Hagen’s autobiographical work, Sources (Performing Arts Journal, 1983) was followed in 1991 by her definitive work on acting, A Challenge for the Actor (Scribner).
After Berghof’s death in 1990, Hagen became the head of HB Studio and HB Playwrights Foundation. She continued to perform throughout the 1990s and realized perhaps two of the most memorable roles of her later career in Nicholas Wright’s Mrs. Klein (1995) and in Donald Margulies’ Collected Stories (1998). Hagen won unanimous critical acclaim and awards and took both plays on tour. Hagen’s last stage production was Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks by Richard Alfieri at Los Angeles’ Geffen
Uta Hagen/Herbert Berghof Papers
Playhouse, co-starring David Hyde-Pierce (2001). In October 2001, Hagen suffered a stroke, but continued to teach until her last years.
Among Hagen’s numerous awards was her third Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1999. She also was awarded a 2002 National Medal of Arts from President George Bush in 2003. She died at her home at the age of 84 on January 14, 2004.
Actor, director, and master teacher, Herbert Berghof was born in Vienna, Austria to Paul and Regina (Sternberg) Berghof on September 13, 1909. He attended the University of Vienna and the Vienna State Academy of Dramatic Art where he received a diploma in 1927. For the next eleven years, Berghof played more than 120 roles in the leading theaters in Vienna, Berlin, Zurich, and Paris, including the Salzburg Festival production of Jedermann (Everyman) in 1937. He worked with actors such as Luise Rainer, Helene Thimig, Albert Bassermann, and Oscar Homolka and was directed by Max Reinhardt, Erwin Piscator, and Otto Preminger. Berghof was the founder of the Vienna Kleinkunstbuehne and was their director from 1993 to 1938. Perhaps his most notable production for this group was Kjeld Abel’s The Lost Melody (1938).
After fleeing the Nazis in 1938, Berghof immigrated to the United States in 1939. He found work as a teacher at Erwin Piscator’s Dramatic Workshop at the New School for Social Research, and the Neighborhood Playhouse. In 1940, Berghof staged the musical revues From Vienna at the Music Box Theatre and Reunion in New York (also performing) at the Little Theatre; Lotte Goslar and Lothar Metzl also performed. Sometime after coming to the United States, Berghof married Alice Hermes, but the marriage ended in divorce (date uncertain).
Erwin Piscator cast him as The Fool in King Lear at the New School (1940) and Berghof appeared on Broadway in the title role of Nathan the Wise (Belasco Theatre, 1942). Berghof’s extensive Broadway appearances include The Innocent Voyage with Oscar Homolka (1943), The Man Who Had All the Luck (Arthur Miller’s first play on Broadway) (Forrest Theatre, 1944), Ghosts and Hedda Gabler with Eva Le Gallienne (Cort Theatre, 1948), Miss Liberty (Imperial Theatre, 1949), The Deep Blue Sea with Margaret Sullavan (Morosco Theatre, 1952), The Andersonville Trial (Henry Miller’s Theatre, 1959), and In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer (Vivian Beaumont Theatre, 1969). He also appeared in numerous stock productions such as Design for Living with Kitty Carlisle (1943) and The Guardsman with Jeanette MacDonald and Gene Raymond, directed by Sam Wanamaker (1951).
He performed in many of the “Golden Age of Television” series in the 1950s, such as Goodyear Television Playhouse, Studio OnePhilco Television Playhouse, and Playhouse 90. Berghof also appeared in Kojak: The Belarus File (1985). Movie appearances include Five Fingers (1952), Red Planet Mars (1952), Fraülein (1958), Cleopatra (1963), Harry and Tonto (1974), Those Lips, Those Eyes (1980), and Target (1985). Berghof also worked in radio, appearing in several of the Theatre Guild on the Air broadcasts in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
Uta Hagen/Herbert Berghof Papers
In 1956, Berghof directed the American premiere of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot at the John Golden Theatre, starring Bert Lahr and longtime Berghof associate, E.G. Marshall. He repeated the assignment in 1957 with the first all-black cast, starring Geoffrey Holder, Earle Hyman, Rex Ingram, and Mantan Moreland at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. Berghof’s numerous directing credits include Pavel Kohout’s Poor Murderer with Laurence Luckinbill and Maria Schell (Ethel Barrymore Theatre, 1976), and Charlotte by Peter Hacks, translated and adapted by Berghof, and starring Uta Hagen and Charles Nelson Reilly (Belasco Theatre, 1980).
For almost three decades, Berghof also directed and developed dozens of productions and staged readings at HB Playwrights Foundation. He also translated and adapted numerous scripts for production, such as The Apollo of Bellac by Jean Giraudoux (1954), Rainer Maria Rilke’s Daily Life (ca.1954), Portuguese Letters, (1976), and Do I Know You? (An Improvisation on a Short Story by Robert Louis Stevenson), Berghof’s final project (1990).
Berghof had begun holding his own acting classes at a rented space on West 16th Street in 1945; by 1965, these classes would evolve into the HB Studio and HB Playwrights Foundation, now housed in three buildings on Bank Street, with an international reputation as one of the pre-eminent programs in the field. In 1947, Berghof was named a charter member of the Actors Studio, but broke with the studio because of philosophical differences. His future wife, Uta Hagen, also began teaching with him that year. Their philosophy was always to keep fees as low as possible (often causing financial difficulties) and to remain an experimental laboratory for new techniques.
Productions and play readings were also part of the program, from readings of works by Saul Bellow, Thornton Wilder, Horton Foote, and Bertolt Brecht, to a complete season of full productions and readings by the HB Playwrights Foundation, formed in 1965 and continuing to the present. Both students and seasoned actors performed in works by new and established playwrights.
HB Studio alumni include countless notables in theater, film, and television such as F. Murray Abraham, Anne Bancroft, Matthew Broderick, Billy Crystal, Robert De Niro, Robert Culp, Sandy Dennis, Lee Grant, David Hedison, Harvey Korman, Jack Lemmon, Anne Meara, Liza Minnelli, Geraldine Page, Charles Nelson Reilly, Maureen Stapleton, Jerry Stiller, Edward Villella, and Fritz Weaver, to name but a few. Berghof also taught at Columbia University in 1960 and for the American Theatre Wing in 1949.
He died at his home at the age of 81 of a heart ailment on November 5, 1990.
Scope and Content Note