Discovering Uta Hagen


It is my goal and mission to share and uphold the quality, integrity, and standards of what Uta Hagen stood for and the principles she lived her life by and so generously and selflessly shared.  I was extremely fortunate to have been nurtured, enlightened, fiercely challenged, and inspired by Uta Hagen.  Whether you agree with Uta Hagen’s approach or not, I feel you HAVE to respect the way she lived her life, which, for better or worse, was on her own terms.


As a high school junior in Pittsburgh, Pa, my older brother, David Brunetti, handed me a book called RESPECT FOR ACTING, by Uta Hagen.  I first pronounced her name, “Utah Haygen”, which David immediately corrected.   I was researching what I would do with my life after high school. David recommended I read her book, and attend Carnegie Mellon’s Summer Conservatory between my junior and senior year.  He advised, “After being immersed in an intense conservatory setting, you will know if the life of an actor would be for you or not.”   The faculty at C.M.U. used RESPECT FOR ACTING as it’s primary source for approaching acting.

For a high school student, RESPECT FOR ACTING was not “an easy read”, but my brother insist I read it, and soon, something in it began to speak very strongly to me.  What I DID understand excited and challenged me, and the many parts I did not understand, I was challenged and determined to figure out.  I wanted more of this. Indeed, it confirmed what I was destined to do with my life.  Little did I know my journey would lead me to work with and know Ms. Hagen personally.

I not only wanted to be an actor, to be accepted into this profession and make a living…but more important to me was to earn the respect from those who really knew what they were doing.  I yearned for the approval from the BEST…to be “an actor’s actor.”  So began my lifelong pursuit of excellence, ignited by my first contact with RESPECT FOR ACTING by Uta Hagen.


After attaining a BFA from The North Carolina School of the Arts and a season of summer stock, I headed to New York City.  I knew it was important to keep my skills sharp and continue learning as I began to pursue my career.  In looking for an acting teacher I decided to pursue the BEST.  Uta Hagen was in New York!  Against great odds, I was accepted through my first attempt,  and much to my surprise, it was the most affordable!  Ms. Hagen did not teach for financial profit, she was more interested in quality, commitment, and dedication.

That first class, Ms. Hagen said two things that stood out and stayed with me,   “There is no ONE way to do this.  This is not about me. No one owns the truth.  You must find what works for YOU. I believe in a very specific goal, which is to engage in authentic, honest human behavior in my work.  Through my career and studies I have found ways of getting me there, which I continue to explore and refine.  I share this journey with you.  If you find another way that gets you there, RUN don’t walk, I’ll hold the door for you.”  Followed by, “Everything you need to play every role you will ever play is inside you, now.  No one can teach this to you.  You possess it by the fact you are a human being.”  I knew I was in the right place for me.  Uta Hagen’s knowledge came from DOING. Her lessons were derived from the challenges SHE encountered when acting.  She shared her failures and her successes and was able to analyze and find remedies, which she could brilliantly articulate with laser precision.  

Besides my immediate family, Uta Hagen has been perhaps the biggest influence in my life.  She not only taught me how to act, she taught me major LIFE lessons.

How did you discover who Uta Hagen was?  Please share at what age, and how you first came to know who Uta Hagen was.

Written by
Ted Brunetti

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.

Learn more