"Call Me Adam" chats with actress, comedian, and playwright Lucie Pohl about her one-woman show Hi, Hitler, which returns to NYC after a sold out Edinburgh Fringe Festival run, a sold out debut on London’s West End and a sold-out off-Broadway preview run at 59E59. Hi, Hitler plays from October 22-November 2 at IRT Theater in NYC (154 Christopher Street, #3B). Click here for tickets!
Hi, Hitler is about a German-Jew, who grows up in a wild family of artists, is fascinated by der Fuhrer from age four and uprooted from Hamburg to NYC at eight. As Bertolt Brecht’s real-life niece, Lucie yearns for normalcy, but being different seems to run in her bloodline and escaping her inherited high-drama-destiny might just be impossible. A pinch of Hitler, a cup of hip hop and a dash of Hasselhoff.
1. From October 22-November 2, your show, Hi, Hitler is returning to NYC after a sold out Edinburgh Fringe Festival run, a sold out debut on London’s West End and a sold-out off-Broadway preview run at 59E59. What excites you about this return? What does it mean to you to have so many runs of the show? I am excited to bring the show back to NY because to me it is a New York show. People here connect to it unlike anywhere else. It's time to have a longer run of the show so a broader audience can see it. There are 8 million people in New York and only around 300 have seen my show! This doesn't seem fair, don't you think?
I am excited about this return because I feel like the show is ready now. After 28 back to back shows in Edinburgh with completely different kinds of audiences every night, I have learned a lot. I can't wait to share that with my people in New York. Also, I think the show has potential to go further and I'd like to have some people come and see it that might have a thought or two about that. So far, I am not tired of doing the show yet. Having so many runs is thrilling because each run is different and has me searching for something new. I am growing with the show.
2. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing Hi, Hitler? The answer to the meaning of life. Note: If that happens then I'd like them to please come backstage and share that with me. But if it doesn't, I will settle for a huge smile on their face, a night that they won't soon forget and the desire to secretly listen to some David Hasselhoff music when they get home.
3. You are a German-Jew who grew up fascinated by Hitler. What was it about him that intrigued you so much? As someone who was so interested in Hitler, how did your uprooting from Hamburg, Germany to NYC affect you? Let's be honest, we're all a bit fascinated by Hitler aren't we? The most evil man of all time! And the silliest too! I grew up in a family of artists who argued and discussed and argued and discussed until the sun came up and there was no more cigarettes to burn. My father is German, my mother a Romanian Jew. They are post-war kids and the war was a big topic. But not only for my parents. So, as a little girl I picked up on the fact that this man, that so many people were talking about constantly, was important and I started to doodle him all the time holding up a peace sign, because that's what I thought he was doing. I was too young to understand what evil meant. I think it was my way of digesting the mysticism that was created through hearing the name but not understanding what all the fuss was about. At the same time, I'd like to think that I was already a comedian back then and recognized how comical of a figure he was. I remember coming home from the dentist after a painful cavity filling when I was around 6 years old and my mother popping in a VHS of The Great Dictator to make me feel better.
When we moved to New York the kids at school started saying things like, "Oh you're German! So you're a Nazi, right?" At that the point I was 8 years old and I think I understood more about Word War II, Hitler, and the concept of evil. I remember being embarrassed of being German and always saying, "Yes, I'm German but I'm Jewish too." We had a little figurine that made fun of Hitler that I had brought my parents from Portugal when I was 6 years old. It's Hitler doing the Nazi salute but his hat is pulled over his eyes and his pants are falling down so his butt is hanging out in the back. It was a joke, obviously, but when we moved to the States I was petrified that my American friends wouldn't get it and think we were Nazis so I made my parents hide it.
4. What, if any, has been the reaction to your show's title Hi, Hitler? Generally I have had really great reactions to the title. People laugh most of the time, which is what I want! When I first workshoped the show in NY, I wrote a very naive email to the German Consulate asking if they would like to list my show in their event calendar since I am a German born performer. They answered back: "Absolutely not. The title is too close to the original, if you know what we mean." I fell off my chair laughing and considered printing postcards that say: "Hi, Hitler - Better Than The Original." Two days later The Jewish Week, North America's biggest Jewish publication requested an interview with me.
5. What has writing and performing this show done for you? What have you learned about yourself through this process? Writing this show has given me my vocation back. I was struggling with myself. It has been the most liberating experience of my life so far. My director Jessi D. Hill and I also very consciously kept the show extremely simple in terms of set, sound and lights. Not only because it doesn't need much but also because this means I can basically do it anywhere, anytime. As an actor this is an incredible experience, because you are so dependent on so many things. Through the show I learned to trust myself to never say never and that anything is possible. We make up the rules.
6. What was the most fascinating thing you learned putting this show together? What was the hardest/most painful thing you learned? The biggest eye opener for me doing this show was how many people can connect and identify with my story. In its essence, the show is a fish out of water story. When I first started writing it, I thought no one will be able to connect to this, no one will care. At the beginning of John Leguizamo's Freak he comes out on stage and says, "All my Latinos bark" and I thought, God, I don't have a community at all, what am I going to say, "All my German-Jewish-Romanian-American-People-Who-Don't-Know-Who-The-Hell-They-Are-Or-Where-They-Belong yodel?" But I was wrong, I learned that most of us have felt that sense of not belonging in one way or another - whether it is because of nationality, the people we want to love, or how we want to live or life. It was a beautiful experience to learn that.
The hardest thing I had to learn was that not everyone will get it. Some people will hate the show, some people won't connect, not everyone will love it and that's a good thing. That was hard to learn, but important.
7. What is it like being the niece of Bertolt Brecht? Do you feel this artistry has influenced yours? Do you feel like you have to live up to some sort of expectation? Being related to someone who gave the world so much is an honor and inspiration! Imagine if I was related to Hitler, that would blow. Everyone would hate me for no reason. And my show wouldn't work.
I grew up with Brecht stories. One of my favorites is this: Brecht's wife Helene Weigl hated The Threepenny Opera so much she threw the manuscript away because she thought it was absolute garbage. Brecht , of course, rescued the piece from the trash bin and...the rest is history! Crazy to think that it could have disappeared into a black hole!
I am very much influenced by Brecht's work, this would be the case even if I wasn't related to him. The theater I feel most passionate about always has elements of alienation in it, for example. But more than that I think I am drawn to his humor. He had a very humorous way of looking at life and art.
As far as expectations go, yes there is definitely a level of that in my family. But to be honest the toughest expectation to live up to, is my own!
8. Who or what inspired you to become a playwright/performer? I'm gonna get a little cheesy here, but sometimes the truth hurts: Every single day something inspires me to write and perform. A bird on my window sill, a siren in the distance, a smelly bum singing Doo-Wop on a train, a Chinese lady digging through garbage in between Wall Street millionaires stumbling out of douchey bars, a song, a book, a great film, a moment ---- in short --- Life!
I grew up in a family of writers and actors, so it's been passed down to me but I had to struggle to make it my own. To have the ability to make a room full of people dream, laugh, think and be moved is the greatest gift of all. So every time I do a show I am inspired to wake up the next day and become a writer and performer all over again.
9. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? John Cleese, Eddie Murphy, Peter Brooke, Whoopi Goldberg, Pedro Almadovar, Dave Chappelle, Steve Martin, Quentin Tarantino, Ana Deavere Smith, Lorne Michaels and El Cigala to name a few.
10. What's the best advice you've ever received? S**t in all four corners of the stage.
11. How do you want to be remembered? Preferably alive.
12. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? The power to be invisible. I'd sit on people's laps on the train, listen to every word in their conversations and pee in politician's coffee cups in the morning.
13. If you could be any original Life Saver flavor, which one would you be? Lemon.
14. Favorite skin care product? Sex.
Lucie Pohl is a German born NYC raised actor, comedian, writer and solo show performer. Her solo shows Hi, Hitler and Cry Me A Liver have been performed all over the East Coast, the West End in London and the Edinburg Fringe Festival to great critical acclaim. Film: Magi (J-Plan), Not Fade Away (Paramount Vantage), El Cielo Es Azul (Vox3 Films) a.o.. Theatre: Three Graces (Immigrant’s Theater Project/3-LD), Alma Mahler: Widow of the 4 Arts (The Los Angeles Theatre), Vocal Migrations (LaMaMa). MFA in Acting from the University of the Arts in Berlin.