Storied stage actress and teacher Uta Hagen has died at 84:
- Hagen, who had been in poor health since suffering a stroke in 2001, died Wednesday at her Manhattan home, said Barnetta Carter, managing director of the HB Studio, a school the actress helped found.
Hagen’s versatility extended not only to such modern playwrights as Albee, Clifford Odets and Tennessee Williams but to the classics, where she was at home with the works of Shakespeare, Shaw, Chekhov and more. She was known for her deep, piercing eyes and dusky, throaty voice that always seemed to command the full attention of audiences.
Hagen also was a dedicated teacher, writing two revered acting books and mentoring generations of aspiring actors at HB Studio, the school named after her late husband Herbert Berghof.
But it was as Martha in Albee’s corrosive 1962 tale of a combative marriage [“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”] that she gained her biggest success. Her portrayal, opposite Arthur Hill as George, was fierce and uncompromising. The play won five Tony Awards, including acting prizes for both Hagen and Hill.
….Broadway theaters planned to dim their lights Thursday before the evening performance in honor of Hagen.
Hagen made few movies, the best known being “The Other” (1972), “The Boys From Brazil” (1978) and “Reversal of Fortune” (1990)
….Hagen also took on such roles as Georgie in Odets’ “The Country Girl,” winning her first best-actress Tony in 1951. She appeared as Blanche DuBois in the national tour of Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire” and when Jessica Tandy left the role on Broadway, she joined the New York cast opposite Marlon Brando.
….Hagen received a third Tony Award, one for lifetime achievement, in 1999 and was awarded the National Medal of the Arts in 2002.
….Hagen met her first husband, Jose Ferrer, while acting opposite him in “The Latitude of Love” in Ridgefield, Conn. She later appeared with him on Broadway in a memorable “Othello,” with Paul Robeson (news) as the title character, Ferrer as Iago and Hagen as Desdemona.
They were married for a decade and had a daughter, Leticia Ferrer. The couple divorced in 1948, and she married Berghof in 1951.
The couple turned HB Studio into a landmark in New York theater, helping thousands of actors get their start over the years. The studio’s alumni include Geraldine Page, Fritz Weaver, Jason Robards, Rod Steiger, Jack Lemmon and dozens of others.
In addition, Hagen’s “A Challenge for the Actor” and “Respect for Acting” have served as textbooks for aspiring actors at both the studio and across the country. [AP]