A German-Jewish-American ‘Alien’
10/16/2013
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Growing up in Hamburg, Germany, in the 1980s, Lucie Pohl heard the term “Heil, Hitler” long before she knew what it meant; she thought it was a cheery, casual greeting. Her first solo show, “Hi, Hitler” is a comedic account of her chaotic upbringing as the daughter of two famous German theater artists, and her own subsequent journey to America. The hour-long show is being produced this month at a series of women’s theater festivals, with the remaining performances on Oct. 23 and 25.

Directed by Jessi D. Hill, “Hi, Hitler” traces Pohl’s family history beginning in pre-Holocaust Germany. Pohl’s Romanian-Jewish mother, a celebrated singer named Sanda Weigl, is the niece of Helene Weigl, the second wife of playwright Bertolt Brecht. Pohl’s father, Klaus Pohl, is a non-Jewish actor and playwright from Bavaria. When Lucie was 8, they moved from Germany to New York, where her father’s political dramas about Germany were gaining renown.

Pohl told The Jewish Week that life in her family was “totally unpredictable, and always filled with drama.” Her father once left a bloody napkin on the kitchen table to demonstrate that his wife had injured him after she found a young costume designer in his lap. Lucie relieved her anxieties by drawing pictures of Hitler holding up two fingers as a peace sign.

After graduating from high school in New York, Pohl moved back to Germany to study acting. But she “didn’t fit into a neat box. My agent said that I was too short, dark and exotic looking to get cast as a typical German.” She was able to return to New York only after securing an immigration visa for “aliens of extraordinary ability,” given to high-achieving artists, scientists and athletes. “Now I had the title of ‘alien,’ which was what I’d run away from in trying to find a place to feel at home.”

Pohl emphasizes that her show is a comedy — in the second act, she details a wild love affair with her aunt’s much younger boyfriend — but notes that it has a serious undertone. “You can feel lost even if you have a passport, a nationality, and have lived in one country for your entire life.”

A friend’s mother came to a performance and recalled that, even as a teen, Lucie “always seemed to be peering through a window at something that you wanted to be part of,” and told her that she was “so glad that you found a way to tell your story.”

“Hi, Hitler” runs at the EstroGenius Sola Voce Festival (214 W. 30th St.) at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 23 and the Dixon Place Mainstage Series at 10 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 25. For tickets to either show, $18 and $12, respectively, call OvationTix at (866) 811-4111.

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