( b. Jun 12, 1919 Gottingen, GERMANY - d. Jan 14, 2004 New York, New York, USA ) Female
Over seven decades, Uta 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.
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 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. Ms. Hagen's Broadway debut came the next year as Nina in Lunt and Fontanne's Seagull.
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.
Source: New York Times obituary
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