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Larry Hagman was a lot like the character he made famous, Belcamp woman says

Mary MartinMusicWilliam ShakespeareLarry HagmanWashington College (Maryland)

In real life, Larry Hagman was a lot like his most famous television character, J.R. Ewing.

"He was flirtatious, with a younger than reality attitude," Belcamp resident Mary Pohlig said. "It was interesting to see; he was similar to characters he played."

Fifteen years ago, Pohlig, who lives in Belcamp, spent the good portion of a day and evening with Mr. Hagman, who died Nov. 23 at age 81, when she was presented with the first Mary Martin Drama Scholarship at Washington College. Mary Martin, the actress known for playing Peter Pan and Maria von Trapp in the original Broadway production of "The Sound of Music," was Mr. Hagman's mother.

Mr. Hagman's sister, Heller Halliday, lives in Chestertown, which is home to Washington College, and his niece and two nephews attended the school. With the help of Mr. Hagman, his nephew, Matthew Weir, established a drama scholarship, in honor of his grandmother, at the school.

Pohlig, who graduated in 1998, was the first recipient of the scholarship, which she received at the beginning of her senior year, at the school's 1997 convocation.

Because it was the first scholarship presentation, most of Weir's family, including his uncle, Mr. Hagman, attended. As the recipient, Pohlig was Mr. Hagman's guide around campus for the day.

"I got to spend the entire evening with him," Pohlig said. Pohlig, who was then a senior, said she grew up watching "I Dream of Jeannie," and remembers "Dallas," particularly the drama and build up to the famous "Who Shot JR?" episode.

Pohlig recalled that Mr. Hagman kept making comments about how young his liver was, referring to the recent liver transplant he had received.

"It was interesting. He was funny. He definitely had a lot of fun hanging out with younger kids," Pohlig said.

Mr. Hagman was also very supportive of her desire to go into acting and had lots of questions for her about studying the art.

"He had never studied it, so he was very interested in what you study, what does it mean to study theater, things like that," Pohlig said.

They talked about stage acting as well, from his mother's days, and he recalled details about the sets and stages his mother played.

"It was exciting," she said, adding that she was also thrilled to be talking to Mary Martin's son.

"I never realized growing up he was Mary Martin's son. I knew who she was, and was always interested in theater, musical theater, so I was very interested. I was star struck, 'Your mom was Peter Pan, this great stage actress!' It was neat to talk to someone who lived that life with her."

After introducing Pohlig at the convocation, Mr. Hagman asked her if she wanted to speak, which caught her off-guard.

"He put me on the spot and said 'let's hear something from the scholarship winner,'" she said. "It seemed very much an intentional thing to see what I could do."

Pohlig, who moved to Belcamp with her husband, Chris, about 10 years ago, grew up in Philadelphia. The couple first lived in Perry Hall, but moved to Belcamp to be closer to their families in Pennsylvania. They have two children, Ian, 9, and Guinevere, 6.

Pohlig, 36, is still active in theater. She works part-time for Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, which is based in Ellicott City, but will be moving to Baltimore in 2014.

She is a resident technical artist for the company, doing mostly backstage work, including stage management, house management and production management.

"I help with things like striking the sets and other technical things, all the things in theater that you don't necessarily think of," Pohlig said.

She has done some directing, though not for Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, and some acting – she just finished three days of filming on the Netflix series "House of Cards" being shot in Baltimore and Harford County.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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Mary MartinMusicWilliam ShakespeareLarry HagmanWashington College (Maryland)
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