Hagen, Uta, 1919-2004

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1919-06-12
Death 2004-01-14
Americans

Biographical notes:

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 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. Hagen originated the role of Georgie Elgin in "The Country Girl," written and directed by Clifford Odets (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 (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. 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. 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 Playhouse, co-starring David Hyde-Pierce (2001). Around this time, 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 received the National Medal of Arts in 2002. 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 One," "Philco 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. 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.

From the description of Uta Hagen/Herbert Berghof Papers 1889-2004 and undated (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 243473199

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 (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 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 1933 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, directed by José Ferrer with George C. Scott and Albert Dekker, (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 One, Philco 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.

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.

From the guide to the Uta Hagen and Herbert Berghof papers, 1889-2004 and undated, (The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.)

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