Uta remains a meaningful guiding force

There is not a day that goes by, in my 34 years as an acting teacher, that I do not feel the palpable presence of Uta Hagen and her influence. Without her example and guidance my life and career would be markedly different.

As a young actor, hired to teach high school and middle school students about acting, I was clueless. Luckily, the school where I work suggested that I could take full advantage of continuing education and go to NY as often as possible to learn more about great teaching. I chose Uta Hagen, and that made all the difference.

Countless classes where I would sit and make my own notes on scenes (as if I was teaching) became a revelation. I would look at my rather complete list of "fixes" to suggest, only to feel my jaw drop when Ms. Hagen would then sit for a moment in silence and then give one single, actable and non-intellectual note that fixed 12 of my little "points." It was always instructive to watch, observe and learn with Uta.

Over these 34 years, I have tried to use her example to find my own way of imparting Uta's process from A Challenge to the Actor. The process is "challenging" but is a very clear path to getting in touch with the best work. Too often I fear that some misunderstand the process as intellectualization - but it is so far from that when practiced properly, that I have found even high school students "Get it."

The greatest gift Uta gave me, was my time watching her teach and also her willingness to work with my students in a Master Class setting during our annual visits to NY. She would see my students present their work and give them the same notes she would give professionals. What a gift and a HUGE honor for us over those years.

Uta is in the room with me every day. Urging standards of work that are always a joy to pursue, and setting the bar for me and my students in the most positive way possible. She lived her life as an example, and her work continues to be passed on by her students. Uta's process is deeply meaningful, and by studying her technique, our work becomes meaningful.

To state it simply, Uta IS our acting program at Lovett. Her work and principals are what guides us and lead us forward. What an honor and what a gift.

Jay Freer Dir. of Fine Arts The Lovett School Atlanta

Born in Germany, Uta Hagen moved to Madison, Wisconsin, at the age of six. With the exception of several interruptions for study in Europe, Ms. Hagen received most of her schooling in Madison, her home until age sixteen. After training briefly at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, she made her professional debut in 1937 in Dennis, Massachusetts, as “Ophelia” in Eva Le Gallienne’s production of Hamlet.

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