William M. Hoffman, who died at age 78 on April 29, was an important and beloved figure in at least three communities: artistic, gay, and Jewish. In each, he left an indelible mark.
A pioneer of the precious gems of gay street theater that came together in an anthology he edited, “Gay Plays,” Hoffman, a native New Yorker, was a leading light of Greenwich Village’s legendary Caffe Cino.
As a playwright, he is best known as the author of “As Is.” In 1985, it became the first Broadway play about AIDS, following Robert Chesley’s Off-Off-Broadway “Stray Dog Story” and preceding the premiere of Larry Kramer’s “The Normal Heart.” “As Is” was a hit and is widely credited, together with “The Normal Heart,” for creating greater public awareness of AIDS and its impact on our lives and times.
Like many artists, Bill left much undone. But just as there aren’t yet words to say how much he touched our lives, there aren’t yet measures to assess his impact. Because so much of what he had to show and tell us foretold of the future as it recreated the past, it’s certain that the story of William M. Hoffman, like few other artists of our communities and times, awaits a sequel, a “Ghosts” of his life and times.