Tennessee Williams on Uta Hagen: Olympian
Interview with Tennessee Williams
Conducted by James Grissom
What I loved about Uta [Hagen] was her refusal to recede from a challenge, no matter where it might arise. Uta would decimate a play that wasn't working, a fellow player who wasn't rising to her standards, or a chair that didn't feel right for her character's backside. Her energy in the pursuit of a character was Olympian and exhausting--for everyone. Even if she was not always right in the execution of a role--and she was not right in certain scenes as Blanche--she was always right in the fights she chose, and she was always right about her own faults. I say she wasn't right in certain scenes as Blanche--and she wasn't--but where she was right, where she was true, she was extraordinary and heartrending. At the conclusion of her evening as Blanche, after the rape and as the purveyors of mental health begin to carry her away, she let us all know that the performance of that character was over, the muscles went slack, the body limp. Only as she was being escorted out did you see a new step, a new posture, a new smile: A new performance had begun, and I think everyone--myself included--wanted the play to continue so we could see where she went with it.
© 2014 James Grissom