Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Tales of Hoffman

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Tales of Hoffman

Article excerpt

William Hoffman talks about the road from his AIDS drama As Is to his new play, Riga with a quick stop at One Life to Live

In January William Hoffman unveiled his newest work, Riga, 14 years after the debut of his Tony award-nominated As Is, one of the first and most important AIDS drams. Premiering at Los Angeles's John Anson Ford Amphitheatre Complex, Riga is wryly advertised as "just your normal, gay, interracial Holocaust play." It focuses on two gay men, one white and Jewish and the other African-American, who are struggling to rekindle a relationship.

The prolific Hoffman may not have written a play since As Is, but he has kept busy with operas, translations, teaching, and editing four drama anthologies--not to mention a rocky period as a staff writer on TV's One Life to Live. The native New Yorker, who will turn 60 in April, took some time off from rehearsals to talk about his life and work.

How come it took you so long to write another play?

I hate writing. I really hate writing! That's partially the truth. I only write when I feel strongly about something. The Ghosts of Versailles, the opera that I wrote with musician John Corigliano, took me about 12 years to complete.

Is Riga autobiographical?

Yes, although a lot of my work is not. As Is was less autobiographical than people might think.

Was it hard writing about hate?

Riga was intensely personal to me. It reflects the murder of my family during the Holocaust. Between 50 and 150 people in my family were killed.

It's also not just about your family.

It combines the themes of hatred against gays and black people.

Your plays move people to action.

Riga is incendiary. It's also funny and subversive. I thought the best way to memorialize my family was to try to say something that makes people take action in the real world against radical evil.

Where did you develop the work?

I started at the old Circle Rep in New York. I start with a scene or two, and I play with it forever.

What was it like to collaborate again with director Marshall Mason, who directed As Is 14 years ago?

Working with him was just like coming home. Marshall taught at Arizona State University, and I had the chance to work on the play there as well as at the Arizona Theatre Company. …

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