Thursday, April 12, 2018

Born to Today In 1939, 'As Is' Playwright William Hoffman

William M. Hoffman was born today, April 12, in 1939.  He was a playwright, editor and educator.

Hoffman was born in New York City. His earliest works were mounted in small, experimental off-off-Broadway theaters in New York.

It was not until 1985 that he achieved critical acclaim and public recognition when the Broadway theatre production of his play, As Is, one of the first plays to focus on AIDS, opened at the Lyceum Theatre in New York, where it ran for 285 performances. 

Hoffman won a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play (1985) and an Obie Award (1984-85 for Playwriting) and nominations for a Tony Award for Best Play (1985). The following year, he adapted the work for a television production directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg.

In 1991, Hoffman was commissioned by The Metropolitan Opera Company to write the libretto for The Ghosts of Versailles first produced in celebration of the company's centennial. A 1993-televised production starred Teresa Stratas, Renée Fleming, and Graham Clark. Hoffman earned an Primetime Emmy Award nomination.

As an editor at Hill and Wang, Hoffman promoted the careers of Lanford Wilson, Tom Eyen, and Joe Orton, among others, by including their plays in either his New American Plays series or his anthology, Gay Plays: A First Collection.

In addition to his stage work, Hoffman wrote for the ABC soap opera One Life to Live, for which he received a Daytime Emmy Award nomination in 1992.

Until the time of his death, he was an Associate Professor of Theatre at Lehman College at The City University of New York.

From his obituary in the Washington Post:

William M. Hoffman, a playwright who forced theatergoers to confront the stigma and agony of AIDS with his pathbreaking work “As Is,” died April 29 at a rehabilitation facility in the Bronx. He was 78.

Mr. Hoffman, who cultivated gay authors as an editor and anthologist, was also celebrated as the librettist of composer John Corigliano’s opera “The Ghosts of Versailles.” His death was confirmed by his husband, William Russell Taylor II, who said the apparent cause was cardiac arrest.

When “As Is” premiered in New York City in 1985, scientific knowledge of AIDS was in its infancy. Few treatments existed to halt its deadly course. In the cultural realm, there were few literary works to guide patients, their loved ones and the public to understand the epidemic erroneously known at the time as the “gay cancer.”

See full obituary here

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