Uta Hagen: A Vicious Sport

Anthony Quinn and Uta Hagen in A Streetcar Named Desire

When I was eight years old ... . On my way home from school one dark, 
bitter winter afternoon, I found myself suddenly pursued by a group of 
neighborhood children who, using me for a vicious sport, pelted me with 
snowballs frozen hard as rocks. As I tried to flee from them, the snowballs' 
impact on my back and shoulders almost knocked the breath out of me. 
One that hit the side of my face drew blood. But even more terrifying was 
the epithet the children yowled at me like snarling wolves—"Atheist! 
Atheist! Atheist"—because they knew we did not go to church. As they 
caught up with me, among the leering faces in the dim light I noticed one 
with frost-spotted spectacles that made him appear blind. The recall of 
those spectacles brings back a flood of terror, of senseless shame, of being 
hounded, of never reaching safety. And yet this is only a story about 
children who bullied a patsy one winter afternoon. Those frosty eyeglasses 
served me for Blanche at the end of the ninth scene of A Streetcar Named 
Desire, when Mitch's accusations and attempted assault catapult her into 
the screams of "Fire! Fire! Fire!" They were equally useful for the role of 
lo in Prometheus Bound, in which she is eternally pursued by the stinging 
flies that Zeus has set on her.

Uta Hagen
From A Challenge for the Actor
Charles Scribner's Sons


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