How Uta Hagen's 9 Questions Can Help with Standardization
Struggling to standardize your SPs? Here’s a theater technique you can use during your character development for simulation. Uta Hagen was a German- American actor of the Mid 20th Century. She performed in several iconic roles on Broadway such as Blanche DeBoise in A Streetcar Named Desire. However, she is best remembered for her 40 years dedicated to teaching the younger generation the art of theatre. Her nine questions have famously been taught to theatre practitioners for years. Now Avkin encourages you to utilize them to help standardize your standardized patients in simulation.
The answers to Uta Hagen’s 9 questions should be able to be found in every character description that you write to go along with your simulation. This sheet can be given to your SPs to fill out once they receive the character description. This will be part of their prep work to fill out this document to have a better understanding of the patient and their backstory.
Uta Hagen's 9 Questions
Question 2: What time is it? You will need to make this clear to the SP in the character description. Their answers greatly affect how a person reacts. Having a simulation time starting at 2:00am in the morning is very different from 1:00pm. This will naturally affect how aggravated/ tired/ forgiving the SP will be.
Question 3: Where am I? Where are they during this simulation? This should be specified in the location of the simulation. Being in their home vs a hospital room is a very different experience for the patient.
Question 4: What surrounds me? Are they at home and everything is chaotic? Are they in a hospital room with a loud neighbor? Are they hearing constant beeps from a machine? All of these factors play a role in how the patient feels.
Question 5: What are my circumstances? What has brought the patient to this moment in time? What are their circumstances that have caused this to happen?
Question 6: What are my relationships? This should be found in the family section of the character description. This will be a moment for them to explain the relationship in their own words.
Question 7: What do I want? This may be interpreted differently by SPs playing the role. For example, if you have 3 people playing Dolly Trainer, you will have 3 different ideas about what Dolly wants. Some may say she wants “To get out of the hospital”, “To make my dad proud of me”, or “To continue on in my lifestyle uninhibited”. And these can all be drawn from the same character description.
Question 8: What is in my way? This will be room for interpretation on this answer and can be up to the standardized patient to fill out.
Question 9: How do I get what I want? If the agreed on objective (thing the character wants most) is to get out of the hospital as soon as possible, now the question is: how do they do that? If one SP says “I will be really nice and try to pretend nothing is wrong” and another says “I am going to intimidate them till I get what I want”. It will be two very different simulations. Having a clear tactic, or method to get what the character wants, will allow for all your SPs to be on the same page for how they are going to achieve their goals. This is something you will want to review to ensure that team standardization is maintained throughout all SPs playing the role.
Uta Hagen’s main theory surrounds living as the character. The SP should know the characters favorite ice cream flavor, their feelings about their mom, brother, husband/wife. This is the basis of reality and what makes humans the highest fidelity possible. That level of depth is what adds the humanity behind performances. As Konstantin Stanislavski said “Generality is the enemy of all art”. We are all unique individuals with our own upbringing, challenges, and changes that shaped and molded us. This should be reflected in the character description and preparation for the role that the standardized patient does. Having a clear image amongst all your SPs playing the same role is one of the keys to standardization in your simulations. Utilizing Uta Hagen’s 9 questions exercise allows you to get the team standardized results in your simulation experiences.