Monday, February 25, 2019
Tim Sweeney: A Student's Memory of Uta Hagen
Tim Sweeney, an HB Studio alumnus, recently told his friends that he had "dusted off his acting chops after what seems like centuries...", and had already gone before the cameras on HBO's Crashing, and Netflix's Orange is the New Black, 7th season, the final episode. "It's never too late to do what you love doing," he said.
On a wonderfully freezing (red nose cold) winter night about six years ago we'd gone to the White Horse Tavern where Tim told me an anecdote about Uta that very few HB alumni or even her students would've had the privilege to experience. I'd meant to share it here long ago, considering the deep positive influence she had on so many of us, whether or not we pursued the work, so that exactly what she'd said or demonstrated in our presence remains imprinted in us and can be summoned, brought sharply into focus, at a moment's notice.
Here's an excerpt, edited by me, of the message Tim sent me when I asked him to please write what he told me he'd experienced of Uta's work:
"Back in the early 80s, I believe it was 1984, I had the opportunity to work on The Silver Fox by Donna DeMateo, produced at the HB Playwrights Foundation starring Uta Hagen and Kelly Wolf. I was in charge of running the sound effect equipment. In my lifetime being both a working actor or a backstage tech, I have never seen so much organic behind the scenes preparation with which Uta Hagen encircled herself.
Ms. Hagen was very particular about place. What is my relationship to where I am? Is it an unknown place? Is it my home? Is it someone else's home? What does the rest of the place that is offstage look like in relation to what is onstage? If it's a living room, where is the kitchen, the bathroom, the bedroom? Is it raining outside or is it sunny? What time of day is it? Is it hot, cold; snowing?
Watching her offstage preparations was like watching a performance in itself. The Silver Fox took place in a living room, and I witnessed her making several entrances from various areas of the set during the play, and she would literally walk in place before she entered the set. She knew how many steps it took to get from the offstage bedroom to the onstage living room. Just looking at her, you could see what she saw."
Break a leg, Tim!