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Theoretically, the actor ought to be more sound in mind and body than other people, since he learns to understand the psychological problems of human beings when putting his own passions, his loves, fears, and rages to work in the service of the characters he plays. He will learn to face himself, to hide nothing from himself -- and to do so takes an insatiable curiosity ab Theoretically, the actor ought to be more sound in mind and body than other people, since he learns to understand the psychological problems of human beings when putting his own passions, his loves, fears, and rages to work in the service of the characters he plays. He will learn to face himself, to hide nothing from himself -- and to do so takes an insatiable curiosity about the human condition. from the Prologue Uta Hagen, one of the world's most renowned stage actresses, has also taught acting for more than forty years at the HB Studio in New York. Her first book, Respect for Acting, published in 1973, is still in print and has sold more than 150,000 copies. In her new book, A Challenge for the Actor, she greatly expands her thinking about acting in a work that brings the full flowering of her artistry, both as an actor and as a teacher. She raises the issue of the actor's goals and examines the specifics of the actor's techniques. She goes on to consider the actor's relationship to the physical and psychological senses. There is a brilliantly conceived section on the animation of the body and mind, of listening and talking, and the concept of expectation. But perhaps the most useful sections in this book are the exercises that Uta Hagen has created and elaborated to help the actor learn his craft. The exercises deal with developing the actor's physical destination in a role; making changes in the self serviceable in the creation of a character; recreating physical sensations; bringing the outdoors on stage; finding occupation while waiting; talking to oneself and the audience; and employing historical imagination. The scope and range of Uta Hagen here is extraordinary. Her years of acting and teaching have made her as finely seasoned an artist as the theatre has produced.


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Theoretically, the actor ought to be more sound in mind and body than other people, since he learns to understand the psychological problems of human beings when putting his own passions, his loves, fears, and rages to work in the service of the characters he plays. He will learn to face himself, to hide nothing from himself -- and to do so takes an insatiable curiosity ab Theoretically, the actor ought to be more sound in mind and body than other people, since he learns to understand the psychological problems of human beings when putting his own passions, his loves, fears, and rages to work in the service of the characters he plays. He will learn to face himself, to hide nothing from himself -- and to do so takes an insatiable curiosity about the human condition. from the Prologue Uta Hagen, one of the world's most renowned stage actresses, has also taught acting for more than forty years at the HB Studio in New York. Her first book, Respect for Acting, published in 1973, is still in print and has sold more than 150,000 copies. In her new book, A Challenge for the Actor, she greatly expands her thinking about acting in a work that brings the full flowering of her artistry, both as an actor and as a teacher. She raises the issue of the actor's goals and examines the specifics of the actor's techniques. She goes on to consider the actor's relationship to the physical and psychological senses. There is a brilliantly conceived section on the animation of the body and mind, of listening and talking, and the concept of expectation. But perhaps the most useful sections in this book are the exercises that Uta Hagen has created and elaborated to help the actor learn his craft. The exercises deal with developing the actor's physical destination in a role; making changes in the self serviceable in the creation of a character; recreating physical sensations; bringing the outdoors on stage; finding occupation while waiting; talking to oneself and the audience; and employing historical imagination. The scope and range of Uta Hagen here is extraordinary. Her years of acting and teaching have made her as finely seasoned an artist as the theatre has produced.

30 review for A Challenge For The Actor

  1. 5 out of 5

    B

    I wish Uta Hagen was still alive. I want to go to her house and watch her sit in her favorite seat and smoke ciggarettes with her and ask her a million questions about how the hell she can be the most self aware actor ever without also being the most self concious actor ever. This book is a bit more helpful than her previous acting book, but it still begs many questions. I would be her most annoying student contstantly poking my hand up into the air, “But Mistress Uta!” Hm. I wonder what student I wish Uta Hagen was still alive. I want to go to her house and watch her sit in her favorite seat and smoke ciggarettes with her and ask her a million questions about how the hell she can be the most self aware actor ever without also being the most self concious actor ever. This book is a bit more helpful than her previous acting book, but it still begs many questions. I would be her most annoying student contstantly poking my hand up into the air, “But Mistress Uta!” Hm. I wonder what students DID call her. Surely not just Uta. Countess Hagen? Your Magesty? Your Honor? My Leige? “I understand that we have so much about being human inside us and that self observation is extremely important, but what if you’re working on a CHARACTER that is such a CHARACTER and outside of yourself that you have to make them inside of yourself without commenting on them? Is there a backwards way for your technique to work?” You know what? I can already hear her retort. She’d say that we all have a bit of Caliban in us, or fairies or monsters or dwarves or robots or horses or pigs or whatever and that we need to find their essence in us in order to make them alive. Argh. She’s so frustrating. And wonderful. She really makes acting seem like so much WORK though. And I’m grateful for that; I’m grateful that she points out actor tricks and short cuts that we should not get away with and know we shouldn’t get away with, but Christ. After creating detail on my fourth wall and implanting real smells and object history and weather and time of day and time of year and relationships to my fellow actors, to the history of my clothing, remembering to listen, remembering where I’ve been from, allowing myself to be surprised, not anticipating, using emotional transfers at key moments, but keeping them in the world of the play, never just waiting, standing around, always DOING DOING DOING, having the thought process of the character, not thinking “the character”, only thinking “Me” “I”, not making eye contact with the audience, not joking around with other actors back stage or in the dressing room, I just start to wonder, Uta. Where is the Play in all that? It has got to be there somewhere. Though I guess between the Play and the Work is the Craft which seems like a good place to be. So I better get back to work. Playing. Get back to work on playing. And this is why I don’t write books on how to act.

  2. 4 out of 5

    J

    I think what Uta Hagen had to say here could have been said in an essay rather than a 300-page book. And from what other actors have told me, Hagen already said much of this in Respect for Acting anyway, but better. Regardless, I do not think I will be reading Hagen's other work, because I'm pretty sure I already understand her gist. I'm sure Hagen is a great actress, and a great person. The respect she has for the theatre is admirable, and I appreciate that she tries to get actors to push themse I think what Uta Hagen had to say here could have been said in an essay rather than a 300-page book. And from what other actors have told me, Hagen already said much of this in Respect for Acting anyway, but better. Regardless, I do not think I will be reading Hagen's other work, because I'm pretty sure I already understand her gist. I'm sure Hagen is a great actress, and a great person. The respect she has for the theatre is admirable, and I appreciate that she tries to get actors to push themselves beyond rote, formulaic actions and representations of emotion. However, I take issue with this book for a few reasons. First, Hagen is a serious snob. She bitches and moans continuously about 'sell-outs', people who do television or film work or even commercial theatre, because they are in it for the money and not the oh-so-important CRAFT. Well, Uta, not everyone can make a living without doing commercial work. Along the same lines, I dislike Uta's view that an actor must dedicate his ENTIRE LIFE and every waking moment to the art; is it to be assumed then, that those acting recreationally can never excel? The exercises in this, too, seem like common sense to me - "If a cup needs to be hot, you should pretend that it is hot!" Well, Uta, thanks for blowing my mind on that front. I also appreciate your 5,000 examples of "ENDOWING OBJECTS" with characteristics, because the concept was REALLY tough for me to understand the first time. I think, ultimately, that Hagen turns the art of acting into too much of a thinking game. She claims that acting does not come naturally to anyone, but I disagree - I think those with strong powers of perception and the ability to imitate have no need for many of her exercises, since accurate and specific imitations come to them without extra effort. Maybe this book would be helpful with truly atrocious actors, people that never pay attention to other people, but I think for anyone with a real shot at becoming a great actor, this stuff should inherently be a part of what they do, since it's incredibly BASIC. I don't mean to rag on Uta so hard, but I feel like I read 300 pages thinking, "Tell me something I don't know."

  3. 4 out of 5

    Alison

    Even though I haven't been acting for years sometimes I'll do some of these exercises when I'm bored and I'm waiting for someone. They're all about going inside yourself and observing your behavior and then naturally replicating in in front of an audience. Even though I haven't been acting for years sometimes I'll do some of these exercises when I'm bored and I'm waiting for someone. They're all about going inside yourself and observing your behavior and then naturally replicating in in front of an audience.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Moshe

    I’ve taken many notes, and I know I’ll be popping back to it for reference. It is a real challenge, but the exercises are doable, thoughtful and specific.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Cassidy

    This is by far one of the best books on acting out there. Uta Hagen's writing is so marvelously human, and reveals her work (and herself!) with such humor and specificity. Will be rereading and revisiting frequently. Having read the book once, the advice I would give myself on the next read would be to go slower through it, and actually do the exercises as she suggests. But if you decide not to, it's still a very worthwhile read! This is by far one of the best books on acting out there. Uta Hagen's writing is so marvelously human, and reveals her work (and herself!) with such humor and specificity. Will be rereading and revisiting frequently. Having read the book once, the advice I would give myself on the next read would be to go slower through it, and actually do the exercises as she suggests. But if you decide not to, it's still a very worthwhile read!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Benaboo

    Uta Hagen clarified and revised the ideas presented in "Respect for Acting". If you had to choose between them, get this book. She teaches people to act by using their own life experiences. This book contains plenty of acting exercises that can be done alone. Uta Hagen clarified and revised the ideas presented in "Respect for Acting". If you had to choose between them, get this book. She teaches people to act by using their own life experiences. This book contains plenty of acting exercises that can be done alone.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Alex Murphy

    Uta Hagen is a genius. Every actor should be required to read this text.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Cassidy Liston

    This book could be condensed down to a couple points that are easy to explain. It's about two hundred pages too long. Also it's very dense and poorly written. This book could be condensed down to a couple points that are easy to explain. It's about two hundred pages too long. Also it's very dense and poorly written.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Anurag Anand

    It's very genuine book. No bullshit. And a must read. All acting teachings in this book are very useful. It's very genuine book. No bullshit. And a must read. All acting teachings in this book are very useful.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn Page

    The follow up to "Respect for Acting", which I read last year. This is a denser book--not difficult to read by any means, but just that there is more text per page. She goes a lot deeper into exercises and the theory of acting. I'm not sure I agree with her negative opinion of "updated" classics--transposing Chekhov into modern times for example--but this books fills me with such an awe for the amount of work that goes into a convincing acting portrayal. I'm hit hard with a case of "the more you The follow up to "Respect for Acting", which I read last year. This is a denser book--not difficult to read by any means, but just that there is more text per page. She goes a lot deeper into exercises and the theory of acting. I'm not sure I agree with her negative opinion of "updated" classics--transposing Chekhov into modern times for example--but this books fills me with such an awe for the amount of work that goes into a convincing acting portrayal. I'm hit hard with a case of "the more you know the more you know how much you don't know". This book would be best utilized by someone to whom theatre is their life--someone who will put the time and effort into doing the exercises and incorporating this way of thinking into their life. I'd like to be a better actor, but right now I have too many distractions going on. At least now I can better appreciate this book, as opposed to the first time I read it over five years ago.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lila

    This book is a good introduction to Uta Hagen’s techniques. I like how she explains her methods with rich examples in the front half of the book, and offers exercises to apply in the back of the book! Some of the information at the beginning can be turned into tools for your acting- transferences, for example. However, the series of exercises at the end requires time and solitude— something we’ve all had a bit extra of in the pandemic! It’s nice to have exercises I can practice all on my own, bu This book is a good introduction to Uta Hagen’s techniques. I like how she explains her methods with rich examples in the front half of the book, and offers exercises to apply in the back of the book! Some of the information at the beginning can be turned into tools for your acting- transferences, for example. However, the series of exercises at the end requires time and solitude— something we’ve all had a bit extra of in the pandemic! It’s nice to have exercises I can practice all on my own, but this book is probably best paired with a Hagen-focused class. Even still, I have to thank Uta Hagen for making me observe my daily life with scrutiny and my relationships with curiosity— after every argument, bizarre encounter, or heart-to heart, I sit down and deconstruct the moment to try to understand my own motivations and those of my partner. I have a newfound curiosity about why humans act the way they do! :)

  12. 5 out of 5

    Alyssa

    Interesting book about acting. It seems to me that the author constantly shifts from the main topic to loads of other topics and for this reason it was a bit hard to stay focused and I had to skip a few parts.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Very verbose. There is some good advice in here, but you have to dig under a lot of extraneous info to pull it out.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Tim Smits

    Much of what miss Hagen elaborated upon, heaved towards moderately interesting drivel. However, many of her anecdotes and stories are very engaging.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Leon Acord

    Must reading for actors. An amazing, inspiring book!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Linda Duan

    Nice refresh on the craft of acting.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Riley T

    dnf, hated the tone of voice the whole time. it felt very 14yo self exploration-y.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Hayley Abramowitz

    five stars for the class that required it

  19. 4 out of 5

    Chad McIntyre

    Second book I read. Required reading in my conservatory at Humber.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Castor

    Better than her first book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Inman

    Incredibly helpful performance tips and insight. The writing is sometimes daft and is not always that engaging. Hagen's ego and personal judgments also read through. Both of those things do detract from the reading experience. But taking it piece by piece, it's an excellent acting manual, especially in its simple observations of meaningful 'human'-ness. Incredibly helpful performance tips and insight. The writing is sometimes daft and is not always that engaging. Hagen's ego and personal judgments also read through. Both of those things do detract from the reading experience. But taking it piece by piece, it's an excellent acting manual, especially in its simple observations of meaningful 'human'-ness.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Yisrael Dubov

    So much better than "respect for Acting"!! Very clear and concise. I almost never felt that the book dragged on for no purpose. Exercises are easy to understand and gives the actor means to do them anywhere for a short period of time. So much better than "respect for Acting"!! Very clear and concise. I almost never felt that the book dragged on for no purpose. Exercises are easy to understand and gives the actor means to do them anywhere for a short period of time.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Patrick

    Little in this book that I hadn't learned elsewhere... and while it's possible that the other authors were only recycling her main points, I think they did it better, without overly dramatic language and periodic complaints about the present state of acting. Guh. I agree, it should have just been an essay. Little in this book that I hadn't learned elsewhere... and while it's possible that the other authors were only recycling her main points, I think they did it better, without overly dramatic language and periodic complaints about the present state of acting. Guh. I agree, it should have just been an essay.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lorraine McCann

    Very well-known and respected book among actors and directors. Uta Hagen's school was quite influential in the 20th century. Her main focus is on building specific, granular characters who respond realistically to situations on stage. Well worth reading as background to a lot of acting teaching that goes on nowadays. Very well-known and respected book among actors and directors. Uta Hagen's school was quite influential in the 20th century. Her main focus is on building specific, granular characters who respond realistically to situations on stage. Well worth reading as background to a lot of acting teaching that goes on nowadays.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ming

    It does clarify some of her concepts in her previous book, but it's rather repetitive and wordy. The ideas are remarkably intuitive, but it's tough to unearth them from beneath all the rambling sentences. It does clarify some of her concepts in her previous book, but it's rather repetitive and wordy. The ideas are remarkably intuitive, but it's tough to unearth them from beneath all the rambling sentences.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jacob Anderson

    I ended up skimming a lot towards the end because the advice gets very repetitive (the book could be much more concise), but Uta provides lots of examples from experience and well-known plays to feast on upon future revisits.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jordan

    Excellent! Very inspiring with plenty of excersises. Though it has a different title it is basically a revision/update of the book Respect for Acting.

  28. 5 out of 5

    K.

    A rehash of Respect for Acting. I prefer the earlier book, but both are helpful.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Antonia Marrero

    Just Wonderful!! Very informative, helpful and smart. I will certainly be able to apply my new found knowledge to my own work.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Mark Woodland

    Follow-up to Respect for Acting, and lives up well to its title. Again, not a technique, style, or training guide, but a way to view the art.

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