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UW professor remembers Uta Hagen

January 15, 2004 By Barbara Wolff

The death of renowned stage actress Uta Hagen, who studied at the University of Wisconsin and received an honorary degree from UW–Madison in 2000, leaves a tremendous void in the theatrical world, according to a UW–Madison professor who knew Hagen.

Patricia Boyette, professor of theatre and drama, worked with Hagen when she came to Madison almost four years ago for commencement ceremonies. While she was here, she led student workshops and acting clinics.

“She was a major figure in American acting, and in the teaching of acting,” Boyette says. “Her textbooks, ‘Respect for Acting’ and ‘A Challenge for the Actor,’ are very important resources.”

Hagen had been ailing since suffering a stroke in 2001. The daughter of Oskar Hagen, founder of the UW Department of Art History, she made her stage debut in Madison, in the Bascom Hall Theatre on campus in 1935. She appeared in a high school production of Noel Coward’s “Hay Fever.”

She attended UW for a year before continuing her education in New York with Eva Le Gallienne. Hagen debuted on Broadway in a production of “The Sea Gull.” Other performances include “A Streetcar Named Desire,” “Key Largo” and the landmark racially integrated production of “Othello.”

Tony Awards recognized Hagen’s work in Clifford Odet’s “The Country Girl” and Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” In 1947 she began teaching at the Herbert Berghof acting studio, where Jack Lemmon, Jason Robards, Mathew Broderick, Geraldine Page, Fritz Weaver, Whoopi Goldberg and many others perfected their craft.

Tags: arts