The Uta Hagen Technique

Respect for Acting by Uta Hagen


chapter one - concept

  • An actor needs: talent, imagination, a grip on reality, desire to communicate, character and ethics, point of view, understanding of human behavior, total discipline.
  • An actor must: train and perfect the outer instrument; body, voice, speech, AND must have a thorough education in other studies.
  • Stan says: love the art in yourself not yourself in the art.

chapter two - identity

  • Know WHO you are and find your own sense of identity SO you can bring about a genuine life for a character.
  • Your inner image of yourself may not match your outer; find awareness of TOTAL self in ALL situations.
  • Get to know and accept yourself.
  • Be able to connect feeling to behavior; learn to pinpoint your responses and resulting behaviors.
  • Fill a warehouse with sources upon which to draw for construction of character. Object exercises (C11 – 20) help build self-awareness.
  • Aim for a cat’s spontaneity; unanticipated involvement in the moment.
  • Your own identity and self knowledge are the main sources for the characters you play.
  • You experience most human emotions by age 18.
  • Read, visit, look at paintings, etc, to put self into situation.
  • Be self aware not self conscious; don’t be regular.

chapter three - substitution

  • Find yourself in a part vs. losing yourself in a part.
  • Substitution: transference from your own experiences and remembrances; put them in place of the fiction of the play.
  • Mostly done intuitively.
  • Sub is not an end in itself; it’s a way of bringing about justified, personal, character actions.
  • Particularization vs. generalization.

chapter four - emotional memory

  • Sub in order to release that big burst of tears, shriek of terror, etc.
  • Uta uses a RELEASE OBJECT to bring about emotion; trigger objects; a verbal or physical action (fist) can also be used.
  • There’s no time to wander through past adventures; one should not be forced to deal with something buried.

chapter five - sense memory

  • A recalling of physical sensations; easier to recall than emotions.
  • Concentrate on a body part. EX. don’t think “hot”, focus on underarms: perspiration, sweaty, stickiness; attempt to overcome heat; adjust blouse; whole body will feel hot. For “cold”, focus on chill on back of neck; adjust to get warm; overcome sensation.
  • Stimulate the Remembrance; fight against the sensation in one focused area (drunk - fight to be sober)
  • Strengthen with the magic “if”.

chapter six - five senses

  • Don’t take senses for granted.
  • Cologne could make you remember old boyfriend; use it.
  • Alert taste buds for taste of liquor.
  • Heighten and sharpen the five senses.

chapter seven - thinking

  • Real thinking precedes, is accompanied by, and follows action.
  • Real thinking is active.
  • Get out of the habit of verbally analyzing your thought process.
  • Ask not what you’re thinking but what are your inner objects.
  • To act is to do; not think.
  • Actor’s thinking depends on the subjective process of weighing the course of action by a contact with inner and outer objects; give and take with the other.

chapter eight - walking and talking

  • The reason for walking is destination.
  • Total animation of the body is about correctly incorporating the surrounding circumstances.
  • Action of words: how you send them, for what purpose and to whom, under what circumstances- what do you want or need at the moment.
  • Physical and verbal must balance.

chapter nine - improvisation

  • Used for a better understanding of the reality of the character, circumstances, time and place, emotions, and varied action.

chapter 10 - reality

  • Truth in life is not truth on stage; Ex. you can’t really hurt someone.
  • You must adjust to tell the story.

Sample Acting Exercises by Uta Hagen

  • Three Entrances: the preparation for, and the making of, an entrance utilizing: What did I just do?  What am I doing right now?  What’s the first thing I want?
  • Three Objects: Place 3 objects in a room.  Decide on time, place, surroundings, given circumstances (past, present, future), relationship, main objective, immediate objectives, obstacles, actions.  Enter the room, using Three Entrances.  Make the 3 objects a part of the “story” and deal with them individually as the story unfolds.